As a reward for all this good behavior, Helen apologizes for the choices she forced Noah to make, for her secret glee that his first book failed, and for her inability to see how important writing really was to him. “I never in a million years thought you would be this, this guy,” she tells him. “And now you’re here, and I’m very proud of you.” She means it. That this is coming from Helen’s perspective indicates she wants and needs to be seen as forgiving, supportive, and honest about her ex-husband’s character. But it also means she thinks he deserves it.
And on Noah’s side of the equation? He’s a drunken dickhead, ranting about how hard it is for white men to get ahead in literature (“It’s impossible to be a man in 2015!” he says, unleashing a laughing fit from his ex), picking fights with student-newspaper book critics, barely resisting the temptation to pick up admiring undergrads, and coming an unzipped fly away from cheating on his pregnant fiancée with his publicist. Yet even here Helen is affirming the better angels of his nature: “You’re not a dick! You’ve made some questionable choices, and you don’t like yourself very much for reasons I don’t understand, but you’re fundamentally a decent human being.” As we’ve been saying for a while, that’s the thesis statement for The Affair’s take on masculine martyrdom: Sure, we men make mistakes, we fuck up, but at heart we’re Good Guys—why can’t everyone see this? In Noah’s case, Helen can. He’s the one whose descent has blinded him.
Meghan O’Keefe and I reviewed last night’s episode of The Affair for Decider. The dialogue basically quoted my long-standing read of how Noah wants to be seen verbatim, which was nice!