THE SERIES "The Affair"

WHEN | WHERE Second-season premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Noah (Dominic West) and Helen (Maura Tierney) begin divorce proceedings, and the kids aren't all right. Watch to the end of each segment (it begins with Noah's) to find out a little more about Noah's collar for the murder of Scotty Lockhart (Colin Donnell) in last season's finale.

MY SAY The best part of this he-said-she-said stemwinder takes place in the lawyer's office, during divorce proceedings. The attorney -- played flawlessly by Broadway veteran Jeremy Shamos -- is, of course, remembered differently by Helen and Noah. There is high comedy in their memory shards for a change.

As Noah recalls, the lawyer is a glib, foolish bore who is delighted with the hearing's speedy pace -- because he can get home in time for "an afternoon quickie."

In Helen's recollection, the lawyer is an embittered seen-it-all misanthrope who looks like he'd just as soon jump out his office window as look out of it . . . (who can blame him, with this pair?) As usual, viewers are left to figure out the truth, and also wonder whether Helen and Noah are projecting their psychic baggage onto the poor guy, or unloading it?

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Both probably, but figuring out that kind of puzzle remains the fun of "The Affair" -- and the challenge, too.

After the first season's packed finale, Sunday's episode settles down, takes a breath, and slowwwwws down.

That's absolutely an auspicious and necessary development. You won't find out whether Noah killed Scotty Lockhart. But you will empathize with divorce lawyers.

GRADE B+