Part One: Noah
Noah's perspective kicks off with a dream sequence. He's speeding towards an unidentified figure on a tree-lined road in a fog. Significant, no?
We see him battling with an old-timey toilet, sipping coffee and going about his morning routine in his cottage on the water.
He has significantly better hair this season, I might add.
He takes a train into the city where he does battle with his publisher over the ending of his novel.
"It's much subtler," he says. It's two people sitting down to dinner, "with an unimaginable secret between them," he says, arguing that it's so much better than the murder in his previous draft.
Noah's book is, of course, based on his fateful summer in Montauk, complete with an affair and feuding families.
And murder, originally.
He's fighting for a new ending now, and reminds his publisher that this is all made up. "It's fiction, Harry," he says. Naturally.
"You have something very powerful to say. I just want you to say it," Harry tells him.
Noah runs into a friend on the street. He tells him that he's been "upstate, uh, at a writers retreat," recently, explaining why he hasn't been around. Noah goes to his old house to get his things and meets Helen's mother there.
He angrily starts retrieving his things against Margaret's protests, and threatens to push her down some stairs if she tries to stop him. Martin overhears him, causing one of the quickest about-faces in television history.
"Hey buddy. I thought you weren't here," Noah says. "Oops," says Margaret.
When this show does humor, it does it well.
"How the f--- do you face yourself in the mirror each morning?" Noah asks Margaret. "How the f--- do you?" she retorts.
Noah runs into Trevor on the street. Trevor thinks his parents will work things out, but Noah tells him that they're going to divorce.
"I fell in love with somebody else," Noah tells his son. "But how? You're married to mom," Trevor says.
Trevor doesn't take the explanation well, bloodies his dad's nose with an overhand right and runs off.
Noah jets off to a mediation meeting with Helen. "You're just putting it humanely to sleep," the mediator tells Helen and Noah about their marriage.
This guy is a riot.
"I want nothing from him," Helen says. "But would you take half of nothing?" the mediator asks. "Sorry, it's a little mediation humor."
Line this guy up to guest host for Stephen Colbert.
Noah only cares about getting a visitation schedule in writing. "I want this to be as fast an painless as possible," Helen says.
"Are you still seeing her? I don't want her anywhere near my kids," Helen says after the meeting.
"Well, you might not get to have everything you want, Helen," he replies.
"You're so selfish. How did I not see that all these years?" Helen asks, rhetorically.
"So you're happy here?" Noah asks Allison at dinner at the cottage that night. "Yeah, I am," she says.
Noah steps out onto the dock outside the house, enjoying a beer, but storm clouds are rolling in on the horizon.
We cut to a detention facility, where we see Noah in a cell.
This throws the timeline of everything that we've seen so far into question.
Detective Jeffries pays him a visit, advising him to take a plea deal. He says that given the lack of evidence, the lack of proof that he was drunk or speeding or that he even killed Scotty, and because he's facing a judge whose wife was killed in a hit and run he should take a deal, which would likely mean a heavy fine and probation.
"You've got a young baby at home. You're not crazy," Jeffries says. "I want a f---ing lawyer," Noah says.
Part Two: Helen
We see Helen in bed with Max, Noah's best buddy, as we begin seeing a fresh perspective on this story.
Max is really into sleeping with Helen. Helen seems less enthused about his vocal nature and penchant for walking around their hotel room naked. We see Helen crying in the shower.
Later, Helen enjoys a kind of herbal cigarette in the park before she heads off to the mediation. In Helen's memory of the event, Noah waltzes into the meeting late wearing a leather jacket, and the mediator sits on the same side of the table as her husband.
Helen tells the mediator that she wants her kids to have a good relationship with their father and suggests joint custody. Noah can't commit to that, and his financial troubles are explained much differently here.
Helen suggests that her parents pay for Noah to have an apartment close to her, so that he can be close to the kids, but he balks at that.
"Are you living with her?" Helen asks. "No, Helen, I'm not," he says.
That is not the truth.
Helen goes to Stacey's ballet class. Some of the mothers there are gossiping about her. "He always had this dead look in his eyes," Sandra, one of the moms says.
Sandra stops Helen after the class and apologizes, but also wants to interrogate her. "Why are you asking me this?" Helen asks.
Helen doesn't have time for this. Maura Tierney for life.
Helen gets home and has to deal with the aftermath of Trevor's dad telling him that his parents are divorcing and walks into the middle of a tiff between her mom and Whitney over Whitney's college essay.
"Are you ready to give up this little humanitarian project so we can litigate?" her mom asks later.
"We've been together for 25 years, I'm sure we can work something out," Helen says.
"Fine. What do I know? I'm just 70," Margaret says.
Helen struggles to spark some conversation with her kids over an inedible dinner that Margaret made before having another smoke and heading out to attend a gala. The gala is a benefit, and her mom is also attending. Helen had planned to go with Noah, but, you know.
Much to her surprise, when she arrives at her table Max is there. She had casually mentioned how she was dreading attending the event by herself while Max was doing naked gyrations earlier, but she did not expect him to show up in her estranged husband's place.
Margaret is thrilled at this development. "The three of them were thick as thieves in college," she says. "You couldn't tell who was dating who."
I like how this groundwork was laid in Season 1. You knew there was more to Helen and Max, but the writers didn't beat you over the head with it. Subtlety and trusting your audience and letting things play out slowly are a lot of what this show does best.
Max slips Helen a pot lozenge under the table. "For later," he says. Well, that wasn't so subtle.
"Thank you for being there," Helen tells Max before kissing him goodnight. Back home, Helen glances at the spot on the wall where a painting that Noah had taken with him once hung.
We cut back to the holding cell and we see Noah's lawyer and Helen arrive. Noah's lawyer lies and tells the clerk at the facility that Helen is his associate, not Noah's wife, before ordering Noah to stop talking to Jeffries.
"I can't afford you, John," Noah says to the lawyer. "I'm paying," Helen says.
John tells Noah that they'll meet Noah at the courthouse for his arraignment.
"Thank you," Noah says.
I imagine that these recaps will mostly consist of relaying exactly what it is that you've just seen on your television. There isn't a lot of room for interpretation or nuance here. We're just watching this serialized story unfold together.
I'll do my best to compare and contrast the different points of view, but the most exciting thing about this show, to me, is that it's all right there in front you, as a viewer. Here it is. Be entertained.
I'm happy to have Helen's perspective this season, and I'm curious to see how things are looking from Cole's point of view, down the road. Am I crazy in thinking that Joshua Jackson is often the best actor in this series?
The Fiona Apple opening credits always scare me a little bit, but they do such an excellent job of setting the tone for what's about to unfold. I'm glad they're still here.