How does a person cope when when they’ve been betrayed after years of marriage? This is one of the questions that comes to the fore in the first episode of series two of The Affair as we see Helen’s (Maura Tierney) perspective on the aftermath of her husband Noah’s (Dominic West) adultery.
Last series of the Sky Atlantic show was all about Noah and Alison (Ruth Wilson) meeting, falling in love and then navigating their way through the deception and destruction they created. And while you hated Noah for cheating on his wife and lying to his four children, you couldn’t help but root for this strange, dangerous new romance he was having.
With the whole series set up from their perspectives, it was impossible not to be seduced by their reality, too.
Yet as the show progressed, Helen, Noah’s wife, became someone we really wanted to know more about. What was she thinking about all of this? How was she coping? We saw only moments of her pain, all through Noah’s eyes, but she was always deeply human and never clichéd, reacting in the messy, confused way that real people often do. Sometimes she was calm and controlled, sometimes furious and at other points sad and desperate for him to return. A beautifully acted character, she deserved her own point of view.
And in the first episode of series two, that’s what we get. A whole thirty minutes of Helen numbing her pain by getting high, sleeping with Noah’s friend Max (who she doesn’t really fancy) and dealing with gossiping mothers at school who, in morbid fascination, want to know whether there were ever “any signs” that Noah was cheating on her.
All the sadness, kindness and frustration we see from Helen may make you want to throttle Noah, but that’s what’s so great about The Affair —that none of the characters is even remotely perfect or entirely likeable. They’re all awful, selfish, caring and fascinating in their own ways. Just like in real life.