Monday, October 17, 2016

The End of 'The Affair' (a review post)

My wife and I don't watch a lot of TV. In fact, we don't actually watch "TV" at all. Everything we watch is after the fact on DVD. This allows us to vet the shows we're going to watch, at least to some extent. The Affair was one of those shows that was getting a lot of buzz, and my wife wanted to check it out, so we spent a few weeks and watched season one.

I never really took a liking to the show (Well, actually, I just didn't like any of the characters. Any of them.), but I can't say it wasn't interesting. If you don't know anything about it, the first season is told by viewing the same incidents from each of the main two characters points of view. So you would watch everything through Noah's eyes and, then, watch the same events through Alison's eyes. The differences were intriguing and, from a psychological standpoint, I found it interesting enough to engage in.

Plus, there was a murder.

There's no resolution to the murder plot at the end of season one, so we decided to move on to season two. Now, here's where it gets tricky. The characters are pretty well established by the end of season one, but we don't get exactly those characters in season two. In season one, the plot flows out of the characters and their motivations; in season two, the characters are made to flow out of the "needs" of the plot, and that always makes characters behave in unbelievable ways.

It's actually one of the biggest failings of episodic television; at some point some writer will want to do a particular story that requires a character (or characters) to act out-of-character. When it causes the audience to say, "Wait, that character would never do that," you have a problem, because, the truth is, people tend to act in very predictable ways. Which is not to say that there aren't times when people don't act "out of character," but, when they do, it's not sporadic and generally has a pattern all of its own. However, when you are busy bending characters to cause plot points to happen whether those things are appropriate to the characters or not, you end up with an unbelievable show.

So we spent season two feeling out of sorts with the characters and the things they were doing. It's not that I don't understand, especially as a writer, wanting specific things to happen, but, if you can't figure out a way to have those things happen from the character's motivations, you need to find another way around.

Or, you know, be writing a horror story. Because, in a horror story, if you want to make one of your characters start eating spiders, you can totally do that, even if that character had been the most arachnophobic person on the planet. There's always a way to explain erratic behavior in a horror story!

Not that it's not kind of a horror story when your characters start getting all unbelievable on you. Creepy, I would say. And, well, actually, Noah is kind of creepy. But, then, he's a writer, and writers were rated in the top 10 creepiest professions for men. Oh, wait, I'm a writer...





Yeah, okay, I don't recommend The Affair. It's obviously one of those shows that was went with the initial idea before they'd thought it all the way through, and, now, they're just making it up as they go along. Plus, it's full of horrible people.
Did I say horrible? I mean horrible.


  1. We don't have Showtime, so I won't be watching it anyway.
    Trying to bend the characters to fit the plot never works.

  2. Never heard of this and I'll be unlikely to see this. Just doesn't sound like my cup of tea. I've been watching more TV programs of late, but I haven't been particularly knocked over by any of them. Nearly all television shows eventually jump the shark as they start running out of steam. If they make it that far. Most of the shows I've really gotten into usually get taken off the air before they have any real resolution. That's what pisses me off most about episodic TV shows.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Lee: Justified neither jumped the shark nor failed to have a resolution. Watch that one.

  3. I do have Showtime, but I'm more of a Shameless/Penny Dreadful (minus the ending, UGH) kind of guy. This never grabbed me as something I wanted to see. Glad to hear my intuitions were right. Now then, did you just call us both creepy?

    1. ABftS: Well, not me. I was just pointing out that other people think we're creepy.

  4. Ugh, I'm really tired of shows revolving around horrible people. I might be able to stomach it if it's interesting, and you do make the first season sound intriguing since I like character driven stories. But I think I'll avoid this one.

  5. Another blog I read sorta liked the first season but could not understand the second season and dropped it.
    I haven't watched it.

    cheers, parsnip

  6. Never saw it, and won't now.

    The horror thing is an interesting idea; I think it might be easier to explain, a bit? But I find the best horror is when people act in ways that are consistent with how they might really act if confronted by such a situation. That's one of the things I actually watch for in horror movies, now: Do the people behave in realistic ways, or if they do not, does the plot explain it?

    For example: Paranormal Activity was groundbreaking in ways people don't realize. It was, to my recollection, the first (or maybe the second, more in a moment) horror movie to explain (in a believable way) why the characters don't just leave: The demon follows Katie, rather than being located in a specific place. That's been the trope since then as horror movies adopted that.

    The first one I can think of that did that was "Poltergeist," where after things got REALLY bad, the family had to stay because Carol Ann had been sucked into the tv, and it was rational to think "well we'd better stay by the TV in the house where this happened," as scary as that was.

    It detracts from a movie or book in the same way if things don't make sense. In a similar vein, when I saw "Cloverfield," which was supposedly found footage, using a camera a guy had used to record a date with his girlfriend on the day a monster attacked or whatever, I was annoyed because there would be monster footage, and then date footage, which means the video-taker had to literally film the monster, then stop filming the monster, then advance the film so as not to tape over the date part, and then start taping the monster again. Lame. "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity" did found footage much better.

    The horrible people comment I'll save for another day. I've got to go get some work done.

    1. Briane: I was specifically thinking of the character of Renfield with the eating of the spiders. So, yes, characters acting within ways they might really act... unless they have a reason to act in some bizarre way.

      I don't remember much about Cloverfield other than how much I didn't like it.