Whose story do you believe? Her glossy look at the handsome stranger? Or his taken on the beautiful seaside resident?
In “The Affair,” a new series on Showtime, you’re never quite sure what is true. Did he come on to her? Or did she come on to him?
Adopting a “Rashomon” format, creator Sarah Treem never tips her hand, siding with Noah (played by Dominic West) or Alison (Ruth Wilson). Both are in seemingly good marriages. He has a wife (Maura Tierney) and family. She has a doting husband (Joshua Jackson) and a beautiful home.
They meet when Noah’s family arrives at the summer retreat where Alison is a waitress. She saves his daughter from choking. He tries to express his gratitude. Both go their separate ways and, then, their paths cross once more and it’s anyone’s guess who’s zooming who.
Director Jeffrey Reiner paints scenes in romantic Nicholas Sparks hues. Even when someone is seen in a negative light, the background looks good.
West’s character has some psychological baggage (and kids who are more than a handful); Wilson’s is grieving her son’s death. It’s easy to see where the cracks might exist. But Treem doesn’t quite justify the dalliance, considering Tierney and Jackson have their strengths. (Should this go longer than a season, it wouldn’t surprise if the spouses carried on.)
The two jump fairly quickly and, even in the retelling, don’t quite explain why it all happened. In her version – which is truncated – there’s abuse.
In both, the spouses don’t seem cheat-worthy.
Is Noah afraid he’s trapped? Is Ruth worried she has no reason to live? Again, you’ll ask many more questions than “The Affair” initially answers.
West and Wilson are fine but there’s a disconnect when they come together. They don’t seem like a natural couple. They don’t even look like they’re in the same demographic. Still, an outdoor shower proves mighty tempting and, given the second take, Jackson doesn’t seem like the best guy to help his wife over the emotional hurdles she faces.
Reiner keeps the interest level high but “The Affair” requires much more buy-in than the pilot cares to offer. Would you really spend 10 weeks following this couple when other shows (like “Scandal”) offer random hookups on a regular basis?
It has all those cable hallmarks (yup, there’s nudity and profanity) but they might not be enough. Somehow, other people’s problems are often best left with those people.
“The Affair” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.