Critical Condition: The Affair

Can season two of The Affair (SoHo, 8.30 Sunday) rekindle the fervour of the first?

Can season two of The Affair (SoHo, 8.30 Sunday) rekindle the fervour of the first?

“During its Golden Globe-winning first season, The Affair told the engrossing story of an extramarital tryst between Noah (Dominic West) and Alison (Ruth Wilson) by shifting between their sometimes conflicting perspectives. This season, the points of view also include those of their exe, Helen (Maura Tierney) and Cole (Joshua Jackson), as the show tracks the fallout from the two breakups and a murder that Noah allegedly committed. Now that Noah and Alison are openly together, the writers can grapple with bigger issues beyond infidelity, like what it really means to get what you want.”

“Where the show initially asked viewers to simply puzzle over what actually happened between its two adulterers (Dominic West and Ruth Wilson), The Affair is now engaged in a deeper and more philosophical question: What is truth? Does truth exist? The result is a show unlike anything else at the moment — it can be enjoyed for its surface details (and its steamy and contextually appropriate sex scenes) and also for the troubling ambiguities that linger with a viewer long after an episode airs.”

“The new season returns to the languid pace of the early part of Season 1. That’s an invitation to revisit the show’s biggest weakness, which is its glossy idle-rich view of affairs. Characters rarely have to punch a clock in this series. They’re prone to overly literate speechifying. Waterfront views are the norm, even Cole’s financially troubled extended family seems to live comfortably, children magically disappear whenever sexual urges need to be indulged, and there’s always a friend’s empty house available. True, the consequences of the affair that set the series in motion are substantial and never-ending, but it’s all coated in an idyllic sheen, like a promotional video for the Ashley Madison website.”

“Although the writers putty in gaps with each new episode – especially in the closing moments, an obvious means of building suspense for what comes next – based on season one’s conclusion and the way this flight begins, those yearning for greater clarity should fasten their seatbelts for a long, rather bumpy ride … On the plus side, The Affair is ambitious and meticulously executed, a grown-up series that allows its characters to be flawed and unhappy in a very real, sometime profound way. Even so … this opening salvo [doesn’t] elicit quite the same level of passion that the show initially provoked – making the viewing experience more than a casual fling, perhaps, but falling somewhere in the middle of that nether realm between mere fondness and true love.”

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