'The Affair' series finale turns an expected happy ending into a discourse on forgiveness, filled with surprises
When it comes to 'The Affair', forgiveness has always been a difficult thing to offer, but apparently not in the case of the finale
This article contains spoilers for 'The Affair' Season 5 Episode 11
Showtime's intense, emotional drama 'The Affair' finally wrapped its five-year-long journey with an hour-and-a-half-long finale.
Luckily, even though at times the almost feature-length episode's narrative turned into an all-wise commentary on pain, trauma, loss, forgiveness, and love, in a league of open-ended series finales and extremely predictable ones, this managed to stand out purely because of the connections it tied and the open wounds it healed.
When it comes to 'The Affair', forgiveness has always been a difficult thing to offer, but apparently not in the case of the finale.
Navigating between the time jumps of Whitney's wedding, and Joanie's visit to Montauk some 30 years into the future, the finale managed to weave a complex take on the father-daughter relationship and the many facets of it: be it Bruce's perception helping Whitney realize how much she wants Noah in her life, or Noah himself helping Joanie understand that her mother wasn't at fault.
We start off with Noah's narrative of course. It is Whitney's wedding day and after being banned from attending it at the very last minute, Noah tries his hardest to make sure he can still supervise and manage everything up till the very last moment before the ceremony begins.
The pain he feels can only be imagined, but like a man who has learned to graciously accept his falls, he bears it all unflinchingly. From orchestrating the flash mob to making sure Bruce doesn't wander off from the venue — Noah manages it all brilliantly, but somehow him not being allowed to be at the actual ceremony is only just.
In the wake of his many mistakes from the past coming to light, this justice was rendered poetically. He did fly Colin's mother out to the wedding from Ireland in a last minute notice!
But there is something about Noah that makes him an easier prospect to forgive, and much like Helen throughout this culminating episode, we too have a hard time wondering if we are caving in for the charming Solloway and his stoicism too easily.
In Helen's narrative, we see her in a verbal duel with Whitney again, the mother-daughter duo struggling to not end up like Helen and her mother, and ironically all it takes is Helen's mother barging in on the two of them bickering to realize how much they don't want to incorporate a third party in their relationship.
Hell, Whitney might not even know if she is in love with Colin or not, but she does allow Helen to walk her down the aisle.
Once again, like the previous episode, it is Noah and Helen's joint narrative that becomes the highlight of the series finale. We all knew the two would find their way back to each other for more than just a nod of "we did good" at their firstborn's wedding.
No, everything has always been dramatic with 'The Affair' and Noah and Helen's reunion was no less. Watching Whitney stand along the sidelines during the father-daughter dance helped Helen decide that Whitney wasn't the only one feeling left out.
She secretly heads to the motel where Noah had accepted recluse as the wedding ceremony had begun earlier. What we see next is pure, raw, unfiltered Helen Solloway in all her resilient glory, deconstructing what it means to be "good for each other."
When Helen finally blurts out she still loves Noah in the middle of her self-proclaimed nervous breakdown, it is Noah's response that keeps us hooked. For a split second there, his subtle (if not entirely forced) hesitation makes us think maybe the two don't end up together.
Luckily, we have Whitney's conscience to thank for that. When she begins missing Noah and finds out he had been in Montauk all this time, it is only a matter of time before she puts her ego aside and thanks to her siblings, the newlyweds are able to seek Noah out at his motel.
And even though she catches her parents having sex through the room's window, it is obvious there couldn't have been a better wedding gift that her parents could have given her.
It's odd considering just days ago he was hurling expletives at her mother for being so codependent on the man who left her for another woman. But kids are kids and some scars can only be healed by forgiveness.
Whiney's healing matches Joanie's too when we see her three decades later. We meet Joanie where we had last left her off: fresh from having just realized that her mother was murdered, and later, being ambushed by the murderer, Ben.
Joanie's next step is to visit Lobster Roll, which Noah owns at the current timeline. The two don't get off to a good start, with Noah's slightly intrusive fatherly nature being unwelcome to Joanie's current mental state.
She storms out to go to her father's place, and plants on shooting Ben with a shotgun when EJ drops by. As the two learn more about each other, we find out EJ is actually Vik and Sierra's baby Eddy, and it is the fact that Sierra and Helen could build and sustain a friendship that offers Joanie some hope.
When she goes back to the Lobster Roll, Noah is her beacon of light. He not only helps her find out the details of her mother Alison's mental health but also lets her in on the reality of things.
Joanie learns for the first time that Alison didn't want to leave her behind. It's a little off how just one sermon from Noah is able to change her entire perspective on Alison that she has clung on to for 30 years now, but maybe that's what Joanie wanted secretly?
It's obvious how she had been aching to let go of the hurt, the pain, and resentment she felt from being told that her mother had abandoned them.
As Joanie comments on the futility of her running around to save the planet from drowning, it is she who is saved. She goes back to her family and Noah — in a world post the death of Helen — seemingly making it a point to regularly read out Stacey's book to Helen's grave.
He also hikes up the trail they did on that fateful wildfire day. He can barely walk, but he dances to the steps of the same flash mob performance he had choreographed for Whitney's wedding. The Solloways did well. Amidst all the brokenness, reconciliation finally bloomed.