Pilot Perception: The Affair

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: The Affair, Showtime in the U.S. and The Movie Network in Canada, Sundays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The Affair was created by Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi (In Treatment), who executive produce with Mark Mylod (Shameless). Mylod directed the first episode, which was written by Treem.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Dominic West (The Wire, The Hour), Ruth Wilson (Luther, Anna Karenina), Joshua Jackson (Fringe, Dawson’s Creek), and Maura Tierney (The Good Wife, ER).

The Premise: The Affair explores the effects of an extramarital affair on the people and relationships involved after it leads to some sort of as-yet-unnamed tragedy.

A Taste:


What Works: The Affair is an intriguing puzzle from the start, with characters relating very different points of view of the same events, and I was completely absorbed in trying to pick up on all the differences and figure out whose version was the closest to the “truth” and what it all meant. The framework of later interrogations — without spelling out why anyone is being interrogated — makes this into an unusual sort of crime drama in which not only don’t we know who is responsible for the crime, but we also don’t know the details of the crime itself. And a few revelations toward the end of the episode, especially, made me eager to see more and figure out what’s going on. This is also just an extremely well-made show: the cinematography is gorgeous, the writing strong, and the cast outstanding.

What Doesn’t: None of the main characters were particularly sympathetic in the first episode; whether this will actually be a problem remains to be seen. I don’t need to like characters as long as the show doesn’t depend on me liking them. Similarly, I have a really hard time buying into infidelity plots, regardless of the characters’ reasons or motivations. We’ll see whether these issues cut into enjoyment of the show or whether the puzzle of figuring out what happened is enough to keep the audience engaged even without liking any of the characters.

Our Favorite Line: “Martin, your grandpa has a swimming pool, two tennis courts, and a sauna on his property. Categorically it does not suck.” “You suck.” “That’s a more defendable hypothesis.”

You Might Like This if you like slow, complex interpersonal dramas. It’s not a traditional murder mystery, but the tone reminded me of season-long mystery shows like The Red Road, The Killing, and Broadchurch.

If You’re Interested: The Affair premieres on Showtime and The Movie Network tonight at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of Showtime.)

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