Mark Schafer/Showtime

We found unexpected answers in this finale but were left with some questions. Of course.

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December 21, 2015 at 04:42 PM EST

Well! I gotta give credit where credit is due: the brains behind this show really figured out a pretty satisfying outcome to this season and mystery, right? I say this even though my murderer pick, Whitney, never even put in appearance! (How mad would Whitney be if she knew she was just a red herring?)

So, we end how we really began: with Noah having to choose between the two women he loves most. Who should he hurt? Who should he protect? And just like Noah Solloway, he picks himself — just kidding, he chooses to protect them both in perhaps the first true act of selflessness we’ve seen from him in maybe ever. Does this answer his lingering questions about what makes a “good” man? Is choosing to sacrifice yourself the ultimate way to say I love you? Because it’s hard to say who is most at fault when it comes to Scotty’s death: Noah, for making Helen drive drunk when she really didn’t want to? Helen for actually being behind the wheel? Alison for pushing Scott in front of a car? Or Scott for being an addict-addled wannabe blackmailer and rapist?

Let us begin in Noah’s memory of the fateful wedding day. He and Alison are decidedly a little weird with each other — they’re doing that friendly chit-chat thing that makes you think they are just pals in line at the grocery store. He mentions casually he wants to go to France. Alison is all, “Sure; no problemo.” They’re definitely not connected partners, though Noah is trying his hardest. Alison seems awfully remote and uninterested in parenting or living in New York. In Noah’s memory, it should be noted that Alison is wearing a cute little yellow dress that apparently was hiding in Cherry’s closet. (Cherry has a closet? I thought she couldn’t afford one! Also, she is noticeably absent at this wedding.)

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We get a nice shot of the fateful rock seating chart at The Lobster Roll (I like this touch) and Margaret Butler supplying Noah with a Xanax. (This lady really does think of everything!) Noah happily shows baby pictures to Margaret and Helen — Margaret’s date — when Alison comes over and Noah forces her to sit down. She starts apologizing about leaving Joanie with Noah (Him: “She’s my kid, too!” Ooof), and Noah tells her how much he and Joanie want her back.

The wedding take place out on the beach, and Noah listens to the vows — to honor, to be faithful, in good times and bad, etc. — and he sighs a little, perhaps thinking about how far he and Alison are from this place. Alison straight up bursts into tears and runs off.

Noah chases her down and Alison finally (finally!) fesses up: She’s not sure who Joanie’s father is; she slept with Cole, and yeah, it’s all out there. Man, all this time, and it just comes right out like this! Noah darkens and gets super mad — which it’s hard to blame him. However, I take issue with his whole self-righteous speech about how he never cheated on Alison. I mean, I think he would have if things like Eden’s “professionalism” didn’t get in the way. But, you know, rage is rage. He begins to question whether all of this — life with all its choices and decisions — could all be for nothing. Could it be that in order to not feel guilty about blowing up his life he needed this life with Alison to work so that it could mean something in the end? “I wanted to be brave and make a choice and be happy,” he says, with shades of Omar Bradley. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I never want to see you again.” Hmm, hard to take that the right way. 

Noah goes straight to the bar and downs a giant glass of vodka. Helen is there and is like, “Uh, you can’t have the keys you giant booze guzzler.” She instead sees the storm cloud over his head and takes him to the beach, where they pass a bottle of wine back and forth while the sun sets. Noah admits that he never wanted Joanie. He thought Alison was trying to trap him so he couldn’t go back to Helen. Helen is like, “The hell you say?” “I always think about that, Helen.” He waxes on a bit about how the last few years sometimes don’t seem real. Helen tells him that Vic has a job offer in L.A. and how he might be waiting for Helen to tell him not to take it. She admits she has no clue what she’s doing, and they bond over the fact that they are technically older and wiser and still don’t know squat. Helen jumps up, strips down, and jumps in the ocean in her underwear. (There’s that wild girl he once fell in love with again!) He follows her. And you know The Affair rules: Get in water and things are about to change.

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The two of them, drunk and wet, get in the car. They squabble over who should drive, and Helen reminds him she has a DUI and he should drive. So they get in, and Helen finds Chris Isaak’s San Francisco Days and sings along while Noah has a bit of a nervous breakdown as, basically, the last two seasons flash through his mind. He pulls over and tells Helen to drive, and so she does. He watches her — this woman he’s loved for so long, who is so capable. He’s moved by the weirdness of the day and this night and the lyrics, “I still want you, I still need you” and reaches over to take her hand. She turns to look him. And ka-blammo! It’s Scott Lockhart, of course (poor Helen trying desperately to believe it’s a deer) and Noah is crying over Scott’s body when he sees something in the trees. Knowing what we know from Alison’s memory, I watched this scene three times, and it seems like Noah didn’t see anything — though maybe his memory is compromised now, too. Who can say?

He takes Helen home and tells her to just go inside and not think about this. “Forget this ever happened,” he tells her. She is shaky and looks at him and tells him she loves him.

In the future, lawyer Jon tells Noah that Alison’s stupid name rock was found at the scene. He also tries to blow Noah’s mind with the idea that Noah isn’t Joanie’s father and Noah is like, duh. Lawyer Jon comes up with what ends up being the very right theory: Scott was trying to blackmail Alison, and they had some sort of altercation, and she pushed him into a car. Ta-da! But the point is he can get reasonable doubt going…by turning the doubt on Alison. Jon tells him that he has a bad feeling about the way the jury is leaning and that he thinks he needs to do this in order to keep Noah from jail.

NEXT: Different dress but same death for Scott Lockhart

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Two marriages collide when a tragedy brings an affair to light; the Showtime original series stars Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney.
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