And when Helen isn’t busy arguing with Vik’s viciously protective parents over his final wishes, she expresses a bitter wish of her own: that Noah had been the one to die instead of the man who did. After all, the “resilience” Noah says he admires in her began developing as a response to his destroying their marriage with an affair. She has been forced to be resilient ever since, and frankly, she’s sick of it.
Resilience is a trait “The Affair” shares with its leading lady. The show spent four seasons chronicling the tumultous lives of Noah (Dominic West), Helen (Maura Tierney) and the other couple drawn into and destroyed by the series’s central affair, Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) and Cole Lockhart (Joshua Jackson). Then it weathered the departures of two of its four leads, first Wilson (her character was killed off) and then Jackson (his character’s fate is unclear), under circumstances about which the involved parties have been … less than forthcoming.
Other series might not be up to the task of continuing after so severe an alteration to their basic make-up. But it’s a challenge to which “The Affair” is uniquely well suited. The series’s co-creator and showrunner, Sarah Treem, who wrote this season’s premiere, has never been interested in the neatly plotted arcs many viewers demand of their TV dramas. (Try talking to an angry “Game of Thrones” fan about Daenerys Targaryen or Jaime Lannister if you don’t believe me.)
Rather, the messiness of “The Affair” has always been its greatest strength. Its defining theme is the messiness of adult life, and all the forces — including love, lust, money, class, race, gender, parenthood and divorce — capable of laying waste to our best-laid plans. Birth and death rank right up there, too, and it is with these topics that the premiere concerns itself, using the shifting, sometimes contradictory point-of-view structure that has always set the show apart.
After an interlude segment (more on that later), the episode switches from Noah’s perspective to Helen’s. It also jumps backward in time to Vik’s last day on earth. This happens also to be the first day on earth for Eddie, Vik’s son from a one-night stand with his and Helen’s rich hippie-dippie neighbor, Sierra (Emily Browning). Don’t worry, Helen had a one-night stand with Sierra, too, so it’s water under the bridge.