The Affair was going to be very different for the fifth and final season thanks to the departure of two characters, particularly Ruth Wilson's Alison. The end of Season 4 revealed -- or "revealed," since there are still big questions -- that Alison had committed suicide. Or maybe she was murdered! Either way, she's no longer among the living. The biggest mystery of all, however, might be what drove Ruth Wilson to leave the series.
Maura Tierney, who co-starred with Ruth Wilson for Wilson's entire four-season run on The Affair, recently shared her thoughts about the mysterious exit, saying this:
People have different tolerances for different things, you know? I’m not surprised by much. . . . The work was certainly very demanding for her. Like, that character was just suffering all the time. I mean, I can’t speculate as to what happened…
The actors on The Affair may not have to go through everything their characters have gone through in their own real lives, but portraying all the suffering and pain isn't easy. Maura Tierney is certainly on the money that Alison suffered a lot during her time on the show. In fact, even her end was tragic, as Alison didn't get the much more hopeful exit that Ruth Wilson wanted.
Still, Maura Tierney was careful to point out that she can't speculate as to what ultimately drove Ruth Wilson to leave the series. Wilson hinted that there were some big and even dramatic reasons behind her exit, although she ruled out a conflict over pay parity. Unfortunately, she never revealed the details other than that she did want to leave, but saying that she was "not allowed to talk about why."
Maura Tierney certainly does have the experience to know what it's like to play emotionally demanding roles. Prior to joining The Affair, Tierney was best-known for her long-running role as Abby Lockhart on ER. Poor Abby had a rough ride thanks to her family, addiction, romance, violence, and more before finally taking her leave. Tierney didn't specifically mention ER when she went on in her comments to Vanity Fair to say this:
I’ve been on other shows where other people...No, you know, this show is very specific. And it’s very demanding. And sometimes people have a shelf life for it. I think that’s what I would say.
If Ruth Wilson felt that the time was right for her to leave (plus those mysterious circumstances that she couldn't talk about), then perhaps it's for the best that The Affair finds a way to wrap things up without Alison. The show did also lose Joshua Jackson for Season 5 and brought in some new characters, including a new love interest for Helen. Will fans respond as well to the fifth and final season without these two major characters? Only time will tell.
The Affair returned for its fifth season premiere on August 25, and new episodes will continue to air on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. It's only one of many shows getting into gear as the weather turns cooler and fall approaches, so be sure to swing by our 2019 fall TV premiere schedule for some upcoming viewing options.