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Good Afternoon

'The Affair' review: Montauk-centric series finale is the ending fans deserve

Dominic West as Noah in the series finale

Dominic West as Noah in the series finale of Showtime's "The Affair." Credit: SHOWTIME/David Giesbrecht

SERIES "The Affair"

WHEN|WHERE Series finale Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT For the series finale, "The Affair" decamps back to Montauk — all 90 minutes of it. Callbacks abound, from the Lobster Roll to the Memory Motel to the Lighthouse to — well — everything, so get your Montauk landmark scorecards ready. Meanwhile, there will be a wedding (Whitney's) and closure (Joanie's). 

MY SAY Devoted TV fans always talk about the finale their beloved show "deserves."But what sort of finale does this show deserve? That's a tough one because some of the disaffected abandoned "The Affair" seasons ago, weary of wash-rinse-repeat cycle of Noah, and Helen, and Cole and Alison. The bathos, the suds, the Rich White People problems. Enough already.

This finale is hardly for them, but it is for the faithful who need to tap the wellspring of that devotion, and to come full circle as "The Affair" must also. They need to know why they cared and hung on. Well?

 This final season at least offered reassurance. The entire cast brought its A game. Julia Goldani Telles (Whitney), Emily Browning (Sierra), Claes Bang (Sasha Mann), Sanaa Lathan (Janelle) were just a few who turned in gems. Classics like John Doman (Bruce) and Kathleen Chalfant (Margaret) reminded everyone why they were so great to begin with. Final season addition Anna Paquin was stunning as the self-loathing, self-lacerating Joanie Lockhart. And in the steepest climb of them all, Dominic West made us finally like Noah. Imagine that.

But the soul of "The Affair" belongs to Maura Tierney (Helen) and always has. To feel her pain, her sense of loss and bewilderment, was to feel what "The Affair" was really about. After a moving and nuanced performance in the 5th, she doubles down for the finale. Fans can check off that box too.

 The finale is indeed a full-on Montauk bearhug. "The Affair" began at the End, and at the End it must end, with all the symbolism implied. In many scenes, the winter landscape is sere, vacant, keening. The wind rattles dead stalks of pepperbush and loosestrife. The flat, gray sea stretches to a vanishing point. This isn't the Montauk for tourists but is, however, the one for poets — melancholy, mopey poets, mostly.  

Sunday is melancholy too, but also about making peace with the past, and by so doing, the present. A circle will be closed, but of greater importance, also broken. Meanwhile, this wrap has something to say about fathers and daughters, especially about mothers and daughters. Its parting, resonant message is almost whispered: What will survive of them all is love.

BOTTOM LINE The finale fans deserve.

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