We found unexpected answers in this finale but were left with some questions. Of course.
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.)
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
We come back into Alison’s memory of the same day. We see how happy she is haggling with a local fisherman and how she is now back to being a local girl while Noah is just the d-bag in a fancy car.
Her dress and hair are completely different in her memory (she’s so much dowdier in her own mind!), and her little apartment is nicer. She and Noah start to fight when she tells him she wants to stay on in Montauk and keep working. In this memory, Noah has already booked his France trip. Noah stomps off.
Alison finds Cole sort of freaking out, and in an echo of Helen and Noah, the exes sit on the beach and are rather adorable together. Cole is nervous and starts rattling off things that are worrying him, including Luisa’s tendency to freak out during full moons (it’s called PMS, but if you are a man and reading this, let me tell you that you are never allowed to ever say this or tell anyone I told you). He then tells Alison how Luisa can’t have kids and we watch her absorb that and all those conflicting emotions. (Of course, again this show drives me insane because even though Cole says they’ve talked about adopting, he mentions how he thought he’d be a father again, which, hi, if you adopt, you are a father. That said, I understand where the show is going with the whole biological father angle. Rant over.)
Alison gives Cole great advice about being in love and taking a chance on happiness. This is Alison being selfless, too — she knows she’d blow up Cole and Luisa’s life if she told him that Joanie was his. She tells him to take his chance. When she sees Cole and Luisa laughing and the whole new world Cole is being brought into, she looks a little sad.
Back at the restaurant Scott arrives, presumably from rehab, and Alison looks concerned. Noah pulls her aside to tell her that he’s not into their present arrangement: He wants them to raise Joanie together, and he wants to get married. Even Alison is like, “Really? Do you?” Noah is like, “Hey, we love each other and have a kid together, and let’s do this.” (This flies in the face of what we’ve seen in Noah’s memory over the last season, which really makes me not trust Alison’s memory at all.)
At the actual wedding ceremony, Cole has his own vows written, and they are awesome (“I will give you freedom to have your dreams”), and Alison is moved by it as she quietly freaks out but doesn’t run off. In the kitchen, she goes for some booze but thinks better of it when she sees old boozebag Scott Lockhart. Scott is all, “Hey, I’m sober! Everything is great.” He gives her what seems to be a nice and sincere apology, which she accepts (eight step!) and tells her that knowing he was going to be a partner in this great restaurant is what helped pull him through. She’s all, “Um, ooooh, yeah”
Cole shows up, though, and things go dark pretty quickly as Cole tries to deflect but then finally is like, “Bro, are you insane? We’re not cutting you in after just a few months of rehab. Let’s go for six months or a year.” Cole stomps off, and Scott’s eyes do that scary going black thing as he reaches for a glass of booze and downs it.
Alison follows him to the room that we saw way back when on that surveillance tape. She tells Scott that Cole hates seeing Scott like this because it reminds him of their father. Scott is like, “Hey, less psychoanalyzing and more me blackmailing you!” He brings up Joanie and starts grabbing her and saying the old “That’s our baby” line we’ve seen before. It’s pretty terrible, and he’s really scary, and Alison is desperate to leave.
Of course, Oscar is right there smoking and lurking. Classic Oscar.
A drunk Scott takes the stage to give a best man’s speech that’s terrifying because at least two people in the crowd know that he could say, literally, just about anything. Instead, he surprises me with a song about family (his words): “The House of the Rising Sun”. I know the point of this scene is not this, but man, Scott Lockhart has a beautiful singing voice! Alison’s mind breaks apart about ten different ways while this is happening, and suddenly she just whispers, “Joanie’s not your daughter.” This seems like a very weird way to do this and stranger still that Noah wouldn’t react, but it’s a really amazing scene. And Scott really goes for it.
Alison walks down that fateful foggy lane we’ve seen so many times, and there’s Scott Lockhart chilling in the rowboat. How on earth did he get down there before her? He starts friendly and goes full throttle into threatening: He wants her to cut him in, and he’ll forget he ever saw Joanie. He wonders why it is that Alison gets to make mistakes and get away with things and not him. As he gets angrier, he decides that maybe what he wants is to sleep with her. He gets very grabby and reminds her that she’s slept with everyone else in town, and they start to wrestle, and she shoves him right into Noah’s car. But here in this memory, it seems clear that Noah saw her, saw her mouth the words “I pushed him, I pushed him” before getting back into the car.
She goes back to the restaurant and acts like she’s been there the whole the time. Noah finds her there, and they go out on the dance floor. (This confused me because if they were together this whole time, why weren’t she and everyone else at the party Noah’s alibi?) Noah starts to cry as he tells her the mechanic will fix the car, and they move slowly to the music, and they tell each other they love each other. I feel it should be noted that the song they dance to is a cover of “April Come She Will” — repeated in the credits for good measure — and that song is about people’s hearts changing with the seasons, and it ends with the words, “A love once new / Has now grown old.”
Back in the future at the trial, Noah tells Alison they have to let the detective get on the stand. She argues that’s bad for her and that he should tell the truth that Helen was driving. Noah says he can’t: She’s the mother of his children (burrrrrn, that one is for Joanie!). She tells him he has to choose. And even though there’s a heart-stopping moment where it seems like Noah is going to just straight up protect Helen over Alison, he ends up standing up and yelling that he did it himself.
Annnnd that’s a wrap! Thanks so much for reading and watching with me. God, we have to wait how long till season 3?