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From the moment in the first episode when a very married Noah Solloway steps into Alison Lockhart’s outdoor shower to, well, shower her with his passion, this Showtime series has had viewers hooked.

Now midway through its third season, “The Affair” continues to bring on the drama. Even though the man in the shower remains the lead character, Noah Solloway wouldn’t be as significant without the ladies in his life.  Here’s what makes these unique female characters so special.

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1 Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson)

Alison is recovering from a mental breakdown triggered by the traumatic loss of her first born son. She has the most complex past of all the women in this series, having been abandoned by her own mother as a child. Ruth Wilson rightly won a Golden Globe for her exceptional work portraying this heartbroken character.

This season, Alison’s anxiety escalates as she tries to earn back the custody rights of her daughter, Joanie. When Joanie falls off the pony at her birthday party, Alison is overcome by a panic attack and unable to run to her daughter’s rescue. She breaks into tears, completely paralyzed in fear. The incident throws salt in an old wound, reminding Alison of her inability to save her son before his death. Her greatest fear is making the same mistake, being unable to save her daughter and then losing the only thing she has left to live for.

Even though Alison has hit rock bottom, her character has gained more independence then ever. With Noah out of the picture, she focuses her energy on Joanie, painting her bedroom, baking her a homemade birthday cake and building her a dollhouse. She’s slowly and surely gaining back her confidence, growing into a self-sufficient single mother.

2 Helen Solloway (Maura Tierney)

Helen could be reaching a turning point this season after continuously hiding the show’s biggest secret —that she killed Scott Lockhart.

Even though ex-husband Noah takes the blame for her mistake, we do see her struggling for redemption, like the moments when she visits him in jail to report on their children (although he wants nothing to do with her at this point). She also jumps to his side at the hospital as “his wife” after his attack. 

This could be the moment we see a big change in Helen, especially after letting Noah spend four years locked up for a crime that she committed. Might she  even  step forward to confess the one secret that could ultimately destroy her seemingly perfect life?

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3 Juliette (Irene Jacob)

Irene Jacob The Women of The Affair

The newest character on the show is also one of the most interesting, largely because she doesn’t shy away from controversy.

While hosting a dinner party with Noah and her college students, she argues against having verbal-sexual consent regulations on campus. “The articulate is the enemy of the erotic,” she says. “Isn’t the whole point that you don’t know what your lover will do next, that you give yourself over to a sensory experience that you don’t understand and can’t control?”

Her opinion serves two purposes: first, to express her own desires (she yearns for a physical relationship that her husband cannot fulfill due to his deteriorating health) and second, to portray that she is a female voicing an alternative perspective on sexual consent. As a result, Juliette fuels an ongoing discourse that explores all the viewpoints surrounding this touchy-topic.

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4 Nina Solloway (Jennifer Eposito)

Jennifer Eposito The Woman of The Affair

Nina, a mother of twins, continues to stay loyal to her very flawed brother, Noah Solloway, as she has done throughout the show.

In this season, Nina plays a more active role in Noah’s life by acting as his sounding board and the person who is quick to jump to his defense at their father’s funeral and after her husband blows up after finding out Noah’s father left the house under his name in the will.

Nina is a strong and positive influence in Noah’s life, and she might just be the only woman on the show who has his best interests at heart.

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