Monday, April 19, 2010

In Treatment: Week One (1.1 - 1.5)

Before I began watching In Treatment, I was fully aware that patience was the key ingredient to actually enjoying it. The show is literally characters sitting around talking. And, I may add, the first season is 43 episodes long. Now, that's a lot of talking. But with the DVDs in my hand, I think I have that patience, and with the promise of a collection of big-name stars and, of course, the fact that this is HBO, I'm sure it'll be pretty great.

Because of the nature of the show, I'll be reviewing the show in "weeks", so five episodes per post.

Laura - Monday 9:00am
On the surface, Laura is the most obviously screwed-up of Paul's patients. She's clearly self-destructive, as evidenced by her desire to cheat on her boyfriend Andrew, as well as her erotic sojourn with a stranger in a public bathroom. Presumably at the center of her storyline will be her attraction to Paul and her claims that she is in love with him. The most revealing moment for me was Laura's admission of her two "visions" of Paul's reaction to the news that she loves him. In the first, Paul tells Laura that he loves her and the two of them have sex. In the second, Paul tells Laura that he loves her, but there is no sex. I thought it was unusual that neither of these "visions" were negative. Surely one of them would be negative? If you were really imagining what could possibly happen? For a viewer watching this one session, it could be presumed that Laura is simply delusional, but she is pretty insistent that their previous sessions have had a romantic atmosphere with an obvious attraction between the two of them, and I guess we'll only ever find out if this is true as the season goes on.

Alex - Tuesday 10:00am
When Alex entered, I assumed he was a celebrity. Both his demeanor and his arrogance projected fame, and when he actually began asking Paul if he knew he was, I was sure he was an actor or a sports star. Color me surprised when it turns out his "celebrity" is due to his killing of sixteen children while serving as a Navy fighter pilot in Afghanistan. While Alex is all about appearance and being part of an "elite", there is a clear feeling of almost self-hatred, despite his masculine, secure demeanor. He's also incredibly angry at first, berating Paul for (in his opinion) constantly changing the subject and talking about things he believes to be irrelevant, and almost interrogative when revealing his own "investigation" into Paul's background. But toward the end of the episode, Alex's sadness shone through, and it's clear to see that his desire to return to the sight of the bombing is connected to his need for some kind of redemption for what he has done.

Sophie - Wednesday 4:00pm
Sophie is your typical snarky, inquisitive teenager. She's abrasive and potentially annoying, but I'm pretty intrigued in her back story and the reasons for her visiting therapy in the first place. Sophie probably had the least character development this week, but I'm interested by both her squicky-sounding relationship with her coach Si, and her potential self-abuse, which has manifested in two near-fatal accidents in her short life. Of the show's patients, I got the most destructive vibe from Sophie, like she has the potential to really fly off the deep end if somebody can't get through to her in time. Especially with her mother sounding like a complete drag.

Jake and Amy - Thursday 5:00pm
It was unsettling to watch these two, since there was just so much hatred and resentment resonating from them. There's no love there. Jake is just projecting anger, while Amy seems to be almost destroying her own marriage with her intentional evasiveness. The most shocking moment was, unsurprisingly, Amy's fake "confession" about the abortion, all some kind of elaborate game in manipulation. I still don't understand it. Maybe she's just really, really bitchy? Heh. The couple also rattled Paul, as he got angry himself and broke his ethics in telling them what to do. Jake and Amy were probably the least interesting so far, but I'm still intrigued by just how bitter they both are, and what made them this way.

Gina - Friday 7:00pm
One of the most interesting aspects this week was the characters treatment of therapy itself, and the way separate people interpret it. Jake expected immediate results and answers, asking Paul to simply fix problems that he can't fix by himself. Sophie was similar, in that she just wanted one legal problem resolved, but it's more understandable considering her age. What is further interesting is that this same treatment of therapy itself is furthered by Paul in the final of the week's episodes. His visit to Gina is pretty vague, and even Gina doesn't understand why he's decided to see her. Paul insists that his problem is that he is "losing patience with [his] patients", but Gina eventually deducts that he is merely using a work-related problem as a cover for his real issues: the crumbling state of his marriage, and a possible latent attraction to Laura. There was also a great underlying thread of tension between Paul and Gina, in response to a mysterious event ten years earlier involving Gina's (I'm assuming) husband David, who was close enough to Paul to be a surprise absentee at his eventual funeral. What I love about this show so far is that there is so much unsaid, despite the entire premise of the series being about dialogue between therapist and patient.

A surprisingly intriguing first bunch of episodes. Each character is pretty well-rounded, despite the fact that we're just being dropped into so many pre-existing relationships. It's also pretty amazing that the show is so captivating, all through dialogue and performances. I'm sure that it's a polarizing format, but it's already won me over. Great acting too, especially Gabriel Byrne (of course), Melissa George and Blair Underwood, the latter two far better here compared to their work on lesser series.

All episodes Teleplay Rodrigo Garcia Director Rodrigo Garcia

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