The Affair explores the emotional effects of an extramarital relationship between Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) after they casually meet at the diner where Alison works. The series begins with the Solloway family traveling to the resort town of Montauk, New York. Noah is happily married to Helen (Maura Tierney) with four children–Whitney (Julia Goldani Telles), Martin (Jake Siciliano), Trevor (Jadon Sand) and Stacey (Leya Catlett and Abigail Dylan Harrison) but he resents their dependence on his wealthy father-in-law. Alison is a local waitress trying to piece her life and marriage to Cole (Joshua Jackson) back together after the death of their four-year-old son. The story of the affair is depicted from Noah’s and Alison’s perspectives respectively, complete with memory bias which often results in vastly different scenarios. Each episode has two parts, one as remembered by Noah, the other by Alison.
In the second season, the narrative is expanded to include the perspectives of Noah and Alison’s original spouses, Helen and Cole, as they all move forward with the dissolution of their marriages and deal with the ramifications. The subsequent death of Alison’s brother-in-law, Scott (Colin Donnell), and the ensuing police investigation and criminal trial, are explored in flashforward scenes at the end of most episodes. Alison gives birth to her second child, Joanie.
The third season is set three years later, following the culmination of the flashforward trial scenes, after Noah is released from prison. Season 3 introduces an occasional perspective, Juliette Le Gall (Irène Jacob), a professor and Noah’s love interest.
In the fourth season, Noah has moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his younger children Trevor and Stacey, as Helen and Vik (Omar Metwally) have moved there. Noah is also an English teacher at a charter school where he gets romantically involved with its principal, Janelle Wilson (Sanaa Lathan). Cole and Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) are living together in Montauk, while Alison is working as a grief counselor. Season 4 features opening flashforward sequences, featuring Noah and Cole, in its first four episodes, which ultimately lead to the discovery of Alison’s death.
The fifth and final season takes place in two different time frames: a present-day storyline including Noah, Helen, and their four children and the other decades later featuring a now-adult Joanie Lockhart (Anna Paquin) returning to Montauk and discovering the truth about her mother’s death. The season introduces the perspectives of Joanie, Janelle, Whitney and Sierra (Emily Browning).