With its Season 3 premiere, “The Affair” gives us a different perspective of Noah Solloway (Dominic West) — a man who’s become a pitiful shadow of his former self — and for more than a second, we kind of felt sorry for the guy. Sunday’s (Nov. 20) episode picked up three years after Solloway went away to prison, Alison (Ruth Wilson) is nowhere to be seen, and hopes for any relationship with Helen (Maura Tierney) feels long since dashed.
So here we are, three years after Noah decided to cheat on his wife, and those actions have reaped some epic consequences. Detached from his children, excommunicated from Alison and still reeling from his time behind bars — for a crime his ex-wife accidentally committed — the episode opens on one man who’s struggled with fatherhood while he does his best to grieve the loss of his own dad.
But being an empty shell of the man comes with confusion, depression and an overall feeling of being lost. And, as we see his son Martin’s (Jake Siciliano) disapproval for Noah, it feels like a mirror to what the shamed writer has struggled with throughout his own relationship with his dad. But what happened?
A brief conversation with his sister Nina (Jennifer Esposito) alludes to a bigger issue from their childhood. Could this incident — the one he forgave her for so long ago — be the event that drove a rift between father and son? Just one episode in and it feels that this season will be full of present-day Noah reflecting on past transgressions. Ah, the ever-tragic life of a writer…
Doing his best to move forward, Noah eventually moves out of his sister’s house into his own apartment — refusing to accept his father’s home as his own, even though the last will and testament stipulated otherwise — and while it seems that he’s just begun to pick up the pieces and move forward, he becomes haunted by visions of a mysterious man who seems to be following him. Originally, we thought this was his own guilt manifesting itself as his father. But it turned out to be much worse.
After meeting Juliette (Irene Jacob), a professor at the same school he’s teaching at, Noah finds a small glimmer of hope as she awakens a certain sense of passion in his life he has been lacking. The concept of sexual assault and consent dominate the dinner party he’s invited to as he’s brought face-to-face with his student Audrey (Sarah Ramos), whose writing he eviscerated in class earlier that day.
And while the kids at the table question his morality — as they question their own gender roles and the safety of female students on campus — Juliette takes Noah on a tour of her house and, typical Noah, they end up spending way too much time in the bedroom. The timing of this whole interlude felt way off, and very inappropriate, but before they could fully establish their relationship standing, Noah abruptly left.
Visions — and prison flashbacks — becoming more frequent, it’s evident that Noah believed he was being followed. And that man we thought was his father turned out to be someone way more mysterious: An imposing prison guard played by Brendan Fraser. We’re unsure what transpired during his time in lock-up, but it’s catching up with him quickly.
Back at Noah’s apartment, we never see the face of his assailant but it sure looks like he was stabbed. Falling to the floor, gasping for air as the blood spills to the linoleum, could this be the end of Noah’s life? That’d be pretty ballsy of a series to kill off its lead, especially in a season premiere.
If you recall, we previously saw Noah popping muscle relaxants for a pain in his left shoulder — the exact same area the blood is coming from now. What is real here? Is he the victim of a vengeful murder? Or is this another jarring vision from his recent past?
“The Affair” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.