I am as obsessed with hit US drama The Affair as its characters Alison and Noah are obsessed with each other. I think about it when I go to sleep, I consider calling in sick just so I can watch another episode, and I don’t discuss it with anyone in case they spoil it for me.
Just like the illicit lovers’ relationship, my viewing sessions of the Sky Atlantic drama began innocently enough — some light enjoyment, no big deal, just to see if I liked it — but became all-consuming, addictive and a little bit dangerous.
How can watching TV be dangerous, you ask? Well, because the show is making me, and lots of other people who are in love with The Affair, feel slightly paranoid about our relationships. After all, Ruth Wilson and Dominic West’s characters — both happily married to other people — meet each other in a diner and BAM! They’re obsessed. There’s no going back. It’s the kind of serious chemistry you never got taught at GCSE science.
They begin their affair so carefully, subtly and without cliche that it feels very, very real. Alison and Noah may not have perfect lives, but they’re fairly ordinary. They don’t seem to be stuck in a rut or looking for something new, yet they both betray their spouses.
What makes the story even more powerful is that we see each scene from both Alison and Noah’s perspective, revealing just how differently they both experience and remember the crucial moments. As a viewer you’re left wondering what the truth is, wondering which character to believe. And before you know it, you’re also wondering whether your real-life boyfriend is on the bus to work, or in fact scuttling off into the woods with a Ruth Wilson lookalike.
Of course, I don’t really think I’m a cuckolded character from The Affair, and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend really is buying bread at the corner shop rather than “buying bread at the corner shop”. But it’s certainly the kind of drama that makes you think more about human attraction and deception.
And that’s the sign of compelling drama, isn’t it? When you think about it long after it’s over. Just as The Fall made women double-lock their doors, and We Need to Talk About Kevin probably lowered the birth rate for a year or so, The Affair makes you wonder what secrets your friends, family and partners are hiding.