THE SERIES "The Affair," Season 4
WHERE | WHEN Showtime, 9 p.m. Sunday
WHAT IT'S ABOUT In the season 4 opener, Noah (Dominic West) has followed ex-wife Helen (Maura Tierney) and her husband, Dr. Vic Ullah (Omar Metwally) to Los Angeles, where he lands a job as an English teacher at a charter school. There he meets a steely principal (Sanaa Lathan) and rebellious student, Anton (Christopher Meyer). Next week, Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) get an offer they might not be able to refuse for the Lobster Roll — which he co-owns with Alison (Ruth Wilson), who is working as a peer-to-peer counselor at a local clinic.
And yes, "The Affair" has returned, at least in part, to Long Island.
MY SAY By adding "The Fosters' " Meyer this season in what appears to be a key role, "The Affair" has made another move to address — or is the word redress? — something that didn't draw nearly enough attention over the first three seasons: This hasn't exactly been the most diverse show in prime time.
It's hard to blame "The Affair" which, after all, is mostly about the problems of the privileged (who happen to be white) but it's hard to see why this should have taken so long. As the once-sclerotic TV industry has finally learned, diversity isn't just the right thing to do, it's also vital for storytelling.
An obvious example in the new season is Moreno, who joined back in the second, but whose importance kicks up a gear this year. In next week's episode, she's stopped by a cop on a long open road outside Montauk. The sun is shining. The fields are green. Cole is in the seat next to her. Nevertheless, there's a cold, enveloping menace to the whole scene. Her hands shake uncontrollably as the officer approaches the window. But why? This is the Hamptons. Nothing to worry about.
In fact, Luisa has neither a green card nor driver's license. An infraction, however minor, could lead to deportation. She knows that. Cole finally does, too. Scion of an old East End family, Cole isn't about to get deported, after all.
"The Affair" has long needed a real-world kick to the seat of its pants. As (admittedly) entertaining as it can be to watch Helen and Noah circle each other, it also tends to get a little old sometimes. There are other lives out there, other people with different perspectives and different problems. And because "The Affair" is all about perspective and point of view, why not incorporate some of those? This season does.
Without giving too much away, there's another scene in the opener where Noah is confronted with an ineradicable example of casual and blatant racism — his own. When he first realizes this he's shocked, then a smile flickers across his face, as if to say, "Oh, I'm one of those people too." Albeit rare, these moments of self-awareness do wonders for Noah.
The first episode — written by Broadway playwright Sharr White ("The Other Place"), who's also a co-producer of "The Affair" — revolves in part around 14-year-old Trevor's (Jadon Sand) possible decision to tell his mother, Helen, he's gay. That may be Trevor's intention or not, but the episode still pivots between her reaction to this possible news and Noah's. The result is an amusing "Seinfeld"-esque not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that setup that reveals their latent homophobia — her shrink interprets the earthquakes she's been imagining as a psychosomatic reaction to this — and opens up a whole new storyline.
New stories, new perspectives and new vistas might just do wonders for "The Affair." At least they beat the alternative.
BOTTOM LINE Still entertaining, "The Affair" makes an attempt to get better by adding some diversity to the mix.