The Affair

A Brand New Affair

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

When you’re someone who watches as much television as I do, every evening presents you with a question – namely – ‘why am I still watching this?’ I’ve found that the more I watch, the less patience I have for television that doesn’t compel me, or simply doesn’t make me feel good at the end of the episode. The Affair, belongs to the first category. The series traces the life of a struggling, married writer, Noah Solloway (Dominic West), who jumps headfirst into an affair with a waitress, Alison (Ruth Wilson), jeopardizing not only his own life, but also the lives of those around him.

The third season of The Affair premiered last week, jumping three years from where the last season finished. Noah has just completed his term in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit, and is back in the city, trying to put his previous life back together. He’s living with his sister, who’s the only person who believes his innocence, and has a part time job teaching writing at a reputed university. His wife, Helen (Maura Tierney) seems to be hopeful of reviving their relationship, although Alison doesn’t want to hear from him again. His children and his new students aren’t very fond of him either. He does, however, meet a very attractive, very French professor at the university, and in typical Noah Solloway fashion, makes his love life more complicated than it actually is. Noah also seems to be plagued with disturbing dreams and visions of his time in prison (which includes Brendan “The Mummy” Fraser as a scary looking prison guard), so even though the third season has done the time hop, we can be sure that it’ll explore Noah’s stint in prison, and how it changed him.

The reason the obviously unoriginal premise of an affair works as well as it does is because the story is woven through the perspectives of each of the characters, and takes into account their memory biases. As a viewer, you’ve to bring your own objectivity, and you never really know who ‘the good guy’ is, or even who to root for. The first episode of this season is all Noah, but the show’s creators have announced that the story will move through five characters (as opposed to the previous season’s count of four), so this is a season where you’ll be required to pay more attention than ever.

I’m quite old fashioned when it comes to viewing order, but strangely, I’ve found that watching the current episodes, and then going back to the previous ones makes you appreciate The Affair more as a show than you would if you went in order. So, if you’re new to the series, I’d recommend that you begin with the third season which is barely two episodes old, before you start catching up on the previous seasons. Each episode begins with a rather comprehensive recap, so you’re not going to feel like you’ve missed anything massive, either. I must warn you, however, that The Affair is not some kind of commentary on modern marriage. It’s dark, it’s dramatic, and drives home the point that nothing is ever what it seems.

{The Affair is presently telecast on Star World Premiere HD}

2015 in Television

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

It’s time for us to welcome the new year with family, friends, celebrations, and of course, somewhat pointless lists. So without further ado, here are my TV favourites from 2015 (in no particular order):

  • Empire – Empire is a musical soap opera about a Hip Hop mogul, and the lengths he’ll go to stay on top. It’s the television equivalent of the pizzas that have cheese stuffed in the crusts, the kind which oozes yellow, processed glory, on to your fingers. Yes it’s disgustingly over the top, and you can’t really tell people how much you enjoy it, although you know that they’d enjoy it just as much as you do when they eat it, I mean, watch it. {FX India}

cookie lyon, cookie lyon gif

  • Better Call Saul – Better Call Saul was my favourite show this year. Yes, it’s a spin off of Breaking Bad, and there are plenty of recurring characters, but surprisingly, it has an entirely unique tone, and while one is occasionally reminded of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul stands on its own. {Colors Infinity}

better call saul, better call saul gifs

  • Wolf Hall – Wolf Hall is a literary mini series which was produced by the BBC. The cast and screenplay is splendid, and Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece comes alive over the course of 6, hour long episodes. I do hope that more show makers take the hint from Wolf Hall and make more mini series from literary classics – that way I don’t have to pretend like I’ve read them anymore.

wolf hall gifs, wolf hall

  • Game of Thrones – Dragons! Kings! Betrayals! Dragons! Death! Snow! Did I mention Dragons? The fifth season of the epic fantasy story came to an end this year, with a finale that shook the world, or at least, broke the internet. Game of Thrones is the show whose return I’m most looking forward to in 2016. {HBO}

jon snow, jon snow gifs

  • Daredevil – While I enjoyed both The Flash and Arrow, Daredevil takes the super hero genre of television to a whole new level, the way Nolan’s The Dark Knight changed the game for films. Netflix has come out with a winner, yet again, and there is no doubt that Daredevil is the benchmark for super hero television shows to come.

daredevil gifs

  • Master of None – If you’re not socialising with your family, and have plenty of time in your hands this weekend, why not cosy up with the entire first season of Aziz Ansari’s comedy for all seasons? It’s one the most relatable shows I’ve watched on international television (and not just because Ansari hails from Tamil Nadu), and the perfect candidate for marathon viewing.

accent

  • Quantico – This is right on top of my list of unexpected favourites. I didn’t want to like it, I watched it with great prejudice but eventually gave in to the racy screenplay and exaggerated drama. The show is addictive, and Priyanka Chopra has made an assured debut into American television and proved that she is a bonafide star. The penultimate episode before the season finale, and the season finale itself were a tad frustrating and I’m hoping (against hope) that it sorts itself out when it comes back next year. {Star World}

quantico gifs

  • The Affair – One often talks about “mindless television” – The Affair is the opposite. It demands your attention in a manner that is unforgiving, and if you blink, you miss. The Affair follows a story of infidelity narrated through different perspectives, none of which are objective, and leaves it to the viewer to be the judge. I’m a chronic multi-tasker, but The Affair ensured that my attention only belonged to the screen. {FX India}

giphy (3)

  • Mr. Robot – A terrific and well researched show that goes into the psyche and life of hackers. Given the rising coverage with respect to the hacking group “Anonymous” in the mainstream news, Mr. Robot is an excellent way to better understand hacking, and how the right information in the wrong hands could potentially break the world as we know it. {Colors Infinity}

mr robot

  • Modern Family – It’s not from 2015, technically, but I have been watching it religiously, all year. I could never tire of this show, or it’s characters, and I am yet to find an episode I haven’t guffawed out loud in. A perennial favourite to end the list! {Star World}

modern family

Lies & Prejudice

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

A few weeks ago, I had been talking a friend, Nandita, when the topic of this column came up. You should watch The Affair, she told me. It’s the only show I watch, and I love it. Now Nandita, is someone who works close to 14 hours a day and has a really active preschooler at home as well, so if she was making time for a show, I knew that it was going to be a good one.

The Affair, as the name suggests deals with the murky aftermath of an extramarital affair between a teacher (and writer), and a diner waitress. Noah Halloway (Dominic West), to the rest of the world, has a perfect life – he has been married for the last twenty years to his college sweetheart, Helen, has four children and lives in a beautiful mansion in an upmarket area in New York City (so what if it’s been paid for by his wealthy father-in-law?). Unfortunately, Noah is unhappy. Something about his life feels incomplete, and fate introduces him to Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson), a beautiful waitress with a mysterious past. What happens next, of course, is all too predictable.
What isn’t predictable, is the way the story has been translated on screen.

The story shifts between the past and the present. In the Emmy Award winning first season, the past storyline was about how Noah and Alison met, and how the affair sparked off, and the present, showed an ongoing police investigation for a crime which we don’t know the details of yet, and a crime for which Noah is a prime suspect. The season ends with Noah’s arrest, and the second season (which is presently on air) picks up from where the first left off. We see the Halloway couple going through divorce proceedings in the past, as well as Noah’s trial in the present. All evidence for the crime, a hit-and-run murder, points to Noah, while he claims to be innocent.

What makes the screenplay really interesting, enigmatic even, is the fact that each episode, has “parts”, where events unfold from one character’s perspective, complete with their own memory biases. It’s what they remember from that day, and those events. As a viewer, you really have no idea of what is true, and what is not, because there is no objectivity anywhere. In the parts where it’s Noah’s recollection of events, Alison seems cold while he comes across as a struggling writer, dripping with love, who’s trying to get his life together. In Alison’s, he’s mostly a selfish idiot. Similarly, Helen comes across as an Upper East side brat from Noah’s perspective, but when the story takes a different turn when you see hers.

There is bias everywhere, and the characters are much more than what meets the eye – one minute you think you’ve figured them out, and the next, you’re proven wrong about them. It’s completely engrossing, and at times, consuming. The Affair is one show you’re going to want to be in a relationship with.

{Season 2 of The Affair is presently being telecast on FX India}