When season 2 of The Affair ended, we learned that Noah had killed Cole's brother, Scotty — an unresolved mystery that the show had slowly been revealing for both of the previous seasons — but that it was not entirely his fault. Alison, Cole's ex-wife and Noah's former mistress for whom he left his first wife, Helen, and family of four behind, had pushed the man in front of his car. Noah was protecting her and didn't admit her involvement, accepting jail time, instead. To top it all off, it turned out that the child Noah was under the impression he conceived with Alison actually belonged to Cole. Obviously, the writers of this show subscribe to the "nothing is as it seems" school of shocking viewers, so buckle in for a lot of that in season 3.
In the third-season opener, every relationship is completely broken. Alison and Noah aren't together anymore. Helen is helping Noah in some of the time jumps back to when he was in prison and trying to get him to spend time with his kids in his present life (as well as trying to reconcile their marriage). Cole is entirely absent. This season, we're adding one new point of view, with professor Juliette Le Gall (a new character, played by French-Swiss actress Irène Jacob), but more on her later. This episode is all about Noah (a bold choice, considering he's easily the most hatable character on the show) and the reckoning with himself that has become his everyday existence since jail. The time jumps are backwards in this episode — I hesitate to say that will be the case for the whole season — and we find Noah getting ready for his father's funeral. The affair that blew up his life is over, he's served his time, his book detailing the killing was a morbid success, and, now, he's taken a job at some less than top-tier university as a professor. Everyone he meets thinks he's an asshole; he is, in fact, an asshole — but he's coming to terms with it. Noah has become a guy who thinks things are happening to him, rather than an egoist who expects the world to bend to his will. His family won't let him be a pallbearer at the funeral. His father leaves him a house, causing a huge fight with his brother in-law and sister, the latter of whom takes his side against her husband — the sort of thing women often won't to do for Noah. He is sort of the Blanche DuBois: depending on the kindness of strangers and crashing at his sister's house. But shortly after that, he thoughtlessly eviscerates a student in one of his courses for, as he puts it, being very dull, shockingly unoriginal, and bringing her diary in to read to the class. He has no idea why what he's done caused her to cry until another student calls him out on it, also pointing out that his suggestion that she observe real people is ironic, considering that his novels are all about rich white-people problems. Noah swings from his new role as a victim to his old one as an egomaniac without even thinking. Not thinking seems to be his new, distracted default. To all appearances, the ray of light in his life comes when he meets Juliette Le Gall. After a very unlikely moment when he literally pops up in her class, Noah hears Juliette's lecture on the shadow-self of a fictional character. It mirrors what's going on in Noah's life closely enough to infatuate him with her.
That night, at a dinner party with several students at Juliette's house that includes the girl he destroyed, the students turn on Noah, attacking his treatment of women. This has been a long time coming — misogyny has easily been the biggest problem this entitled character has unknowingly faced since the beginning of the series. It will be interesting if Juliette becomes not only a sexual interest for Noah, but a catalyst forcing him to face who he has been, forcing some change towards enlightenment. When pressed, he gives an explanation of the rape scene in his book (which mirrors his real-life experience with Alison) and it's hard to watch. Hearing Audrey, the student, explain to him that his criticism won't push her out of a comfort zone, because women don't have a comfort zone since they are afraid all of the time, along with his realization that he lives in a world of privilege, is a vindicating moment for everyone who has loathed Noah Solloway. At times, it's hard to think Noah's reality isn't just a fever dream, like when the preacher at the funeral announces that the deceased requested everyone sing his favorite song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," or the unexplained, baseball cap-wearing prison guard (played by Brendan Fraser) who keeps appearing both in his dreams and on the outer parameter of his waking life. As that relationship unveils itself, it will be nice to see Noah face being in a submissive position. Just when you think this season might be a redemptive arc for Noah, since all signs are pointing to him gaining some humility and becoming less of a jackass, this show pulls the rug out from under us all. In the final scene of the episode, we find Noah washing the dishes in his kitchen as someone sneaks up on him and stabs him in the neck. This season's mystery and time jumps are obviously going to revolve around his brutal killing now, which means there's a lot of Noah coming our way. Brace yourselves. As for guesses on who done it? Don't bother. At this point, everyone's a suspect. The show is trying to point us to suspecting the prison guard who is stalking him, but it could easily be Helen, whose advances Noah constantly rejects. Or Cole, who is clearly going to discover that Noah killed his brother at some point this season. Or Allison, for something as simple as a lover's quarrel. Or his sister, who he has apparently been taking money out of the hands of. Or his daughter Whitney, who hates him for killing her lover, Scotty. Or even Juliette, who might not like that he's declining her sexual advances. Everyone has some reason to want Noah dead.