Going into The Affair’s finale season, fans were ready to learn whether anyone would ever investigate the dubious death of Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson, who famously fled the series). All reports say Alison died through a drowning death by suicide. However, we know she was more than likely murdered.
Yet, the Showtime’s series’ final episodes seem far less interested in Alison than her on-again, off-again ex, Cole Lockhart (Joshua Jackson, who also fled the series). It’s the tragic fate of Cole that the premiere teases when it introduces his and Alison’s daughter Joanie, now all grown up and played by True Blood’s Anna Paquin. Initially, The Affair wants us to wonder if Cole is dead. Or maybe he is estranged from Joanie. Considering the manipulative twists of shows like This Is Us, it’s possible Cole has simply been put in a senior care facility in his old age and is suffering though dementia.
Sunday night’s “504” reveals the truth is none of those optimistic theories. Cole is really dead — and Joanie’s grief over his loss will likely color the rest of the season.
Joanie’s section of the latest Affair episode closes with a bike ride. Quickly, we realize she is heading to the cemetery. In this moment, it seems plausible Joanie is going to visit her mother’s grave. Yes, Cole did spend the season 4 finale battling with Alison’s mother Athena (Deirdre O'Connell) over her decision not to bury Alison in the cemetery next to their late son Gabriel. But who knows what happened in the ensuing years since? What would have stopped Cole from ordering Alison a headstone to stand next to their child’s own resting place?
Heck, Joanie could have even been biking to visit Gabriel, the brother who died before she could meet him.
Neither of those possibilities comes to pass. Rather, Joanie hops off her bike and walks towards a gravestone. She crouches down and sadly says, “Hi dad.” When the camera moves from Joanie’s face to the gravestone, we see that it reads “Cole Lockhart 1979-2053.” Considering Joanie’s 2010s birth and the fact she is likely now hovering around 40, these flash-forwards can’t be happening much past 2053. That means Joanie’s grief is extraordinarily fresh.
Now we can understand why Joanie responded to her husband’s (Lyriq Bent) sexual advances with the saddest pillow talk ever, muttering in the premiere, “I miss my dad.” Not only is Joanie dealing with the anxiety of nearing the age her mother supposedly took her own life, but she is also struggling through the loss of the only parents who raised her.
Joanie’s behavior earlier in “504” also makes a lot of sense. Before the engineer jumps on her bike, she cleans out the Lockhart home of all sentimental leftovers. She throws family photos into the garbage, including a rare image of baby Joanie and Alison on the beach. When you consider just how few photos Joanie must have of herself and her mother together, you realize how extreme her actions really are. Joanie appears to see no difference between the precious pictures and old newspapers or her dead dad’s medications.
Still, nothing Joanie throws away feels more revealing than the mementos of Gabriel, her late brother. Upstairs, she finds his box of letters and postcards along with his toy chest (one train has “Gabriel” inscribed on it). These last vestiges of her long-dead brother go in the trash bag with the photos of their mom. Joanie is a woman bent on exorcising herself from every physical connection to her family.
These final episodes of The Affair will tell us what happens when she is finally free.