Julia Goldani Telles (“The Affair”) really centers the season – I believe she’s in every scene of the five episodes sent to the press – as Iris, a major in neuroscience who works at a high-tech company called NGM. The season opens with a virtual reality encounter between Iris and an interviewer for The V, a high-priced escort service. From the start, connection is defined in a different way than usual – an interview taking place between two people who don’t actually share the same space. Her resume and confidence got her the job, but she still has to pass a real client’s test that night. The connection cannot be just virtual.
Iris gets the job and immediately begins trying to distinguish her day life from her night life, taking a new name in the latter as Cassie, though the line starts to fade (doesn’t it always? ) when she realizes that her experiences as a “Girlfriend” could be invaluable for the technology she is developing at NGM. She thinks to herself that she is trying to become a better partner for her valued customers, but she also uses what she learns there, sometimes surreptitiously, to advance her technology and give her a head start with her CTO. . She’s a user, but in a very specific, unique, and modern way that gives the season a new narrative boost. Escorts eventually learn things about their clients that clients cannot tell anyone else. What do these things tell us about human nature? And how could a tech company use that knowledge for the next big breakthrough in AI or even predictive technology?
If that sounds a lot for a half hour drama, sometimes it feels like it is. It’s a show that works more at the macro level – when you come back to consider the image as a whole – than on a microphone, where it’s often a blank effect and where sterile environments can seem a bit too scripted. I’m not sure if I’ve just gotten used to it, or if the writing has relaxed a bit, but the early dialogues have a habit of emphasizing Marquardt’s themes in a way that doesn’t seem organic. Too many of these people, including Iris / Cassie, already sound like AI helpers, talking about the theme instead of developing a character. And it doesn’t help that Marquardt relies too much on a dreamy synth score that often sounds like something that would play in the expensive spas Cassie’s clients visit.