Monday, July 5, 2010

In Treatment: Week Nine (1.41 - 1.43)

For the final three episodes, we were given some resolution, but not so much that it clashed with the naturalistic feel of the show in general. While the fact that pretty much the entire cast have either quit therapy or died is a little contrived, In Treatment has successfully crafted an absorbing closer to the year. Along the way, a lot of the show's patients developed new sides to their personalities, while fittingly other patients remained stagnant. It's the realist approach to such deep, damaged characters that has made the series so powerful.

Sophie - Wednesday 4:00pm
This was a satisfying end for Sophie, if a little too neat. There hasn't been too much of a journey for her over the last nine weeks. A lot of her time on the couch has consisted of whining and interrogating Paul, and it only felt like she experienced any real growth in this finale. I'm still unsure about her as a person, and I don't know if it's the greatest thing for her to abandon therapy and attend a gymnastics training camp, especially with all of her baggage. She's only just begun to get to the root of her problems, and her antagonistic attitude was still present only last week. The other problem is her sexual abuse. While it could be argued that she has recovered or came to terms with such a traumatic experience, there appears to be no kind of recrimination for Sy. I was always interested in what Paul would do as a result of discovering something as major as sexual abuse, and his responsibilities in reporting it. But I guess his silence only came as a result of his belief that Sophie will recover from it.

The episode itself featured a convenient deus ex machina in the form of Sophie's father Zack, played with passive aggressive arrogance by Peter Horton. The character was unsurprisingly awful, accusing Paul of "brainwashing" his daughter and crying for sympathy with his claims that he was really the injured party. I found his entire character a little contrived, but I understood that his appearance was necessary to bring closure to Sophie as well as to reflect her growing sense of self-awareness. I was also happy that Paul saw the session as an opportunity for both father and daughter to grow together, and the last shot of Sophie and her dad sitting on the lawn was sweet.

As an aside to Sophie, there still seemed to be a disconnect between Paul and Rosie. In their final conversation, Rosie was almost pleading for some kind of reassurance, but Paul was still emotionally invested in Sophie. It's unfortunate that he crafted such a bond with Sophie, but has failed to do that with his own daughter. The split between Paul's professional talent and his personal failings is still ever present.

Jake and Amy - Thursday 5:00pm
It was interesting to see how both Jake and Amy have such different opinions of therapy now that they've experienced nine weeks of it. Jake has come through it with a new sense of clarity and understanding of both his own behavior, Amy's treatment of him, and what he wants from life. Amy, on the other hand, has imploded. What she argued in this episode was that she felt a lot safer in an atmosphere of denial. I liked that there wasn't complete resolution to her character. We still don't know what exactly it is that she wants from both her life and her marriage, a feeling Amy herself undoubtedly shares. She's tragic, having gone out of her way to disrupt her marriage by cheating on Jake, intentionally playing games with his head, and ultimately losing everything in the process. She has no job, a husband who has become enlightened when he's away from her, and a complete lack of happiness. The final moments, where the weight of everything she has done just came crashing down on her, were painful to watch.

It's unclear where they go from here as a couple. Jake seemingly wants out of their marriage, but the last scene (with his urgency to leave) implied that part of him still wants to be with her. Both of them suddenly became more animated and couple-y when talking about Lenny, the one thing they both seem to agree on. They laugh about him, reflect on their parenting. But when the attention is brought back to their marriage, things once again spiral downward. I don't know if there's hope for these two, but I'm sure that things would be better if they went their separate ways. Amy needs to find whatever she's looking for by herself. It's not fair on Jake to drag him into her self-hatred.

With the season now over, I definitely see Jake and Amy as my favorite patients. They were obviously self-contained (free of the incestuous baggage of the Paul/Laura/Alex/Gina sessions), and I found their attitudes actually fascinating, rather than repulsive (see Sophie). Both Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles captured that difficult balance of making potentially alienating characters intriguing and surprising. They weren't likeable people, but we understood them, and I was sad to see them exit at the end of the episode. Of everybody on the show, I really wished I could follow them out that door.

Friday 4:00pm
The familiar feeling of awkwardness between Paul and Laura continued into the season finale. While my opinion of their relationship hasn't changed, it was disturbing to have the inequality of it so clearly defined. Paul is still Laura's therapist, and it was uncomfortable to watch as she asked him "Is this a test?", still unaware of his true motives.

I don't know if I ever believed in their relationship, and I would like to know if the show actually intended us to believe in it. For me, Paul is in the throes of a mid-life crisis (just look at that embarrassing twenty-something get-up he's wearing in this very episode), and he sees in Laura a young hottie who appears to be interested in him. His own arrogance has blinded him to the fact that she's incredibly damaged and vulnerable, and he's open to letting everybody in his life slide in an effort to be with her. On the other hand, Laura is somebody who considers her sexuality the one positive thing about herself, and believes that the only way she can connect with members of the opposite sex is through her sexuality. I also believe that she was shocked by Paul's declarations of love. It was uneasy to watch as she began to realize just exactly what she has done, and Paul stupidly baring his soul.

The resolution to it all, though, was pretty funny. In the end, he couldn't perform and ran out on Laura. Heh. I actually disagreed with Gina's assessment of what happened, however. While it could have been Paul's subconscious making him do "the right thing", it was merely the luck of the draw that Laura didn't seem to flip out over his rejection of her. For such a fragile character, I didn't like that the feeling of yet another male abandoning her was glossed over. She deserved better than that, even if she was a pain in the ass at times.

When it comes to Paul's family, the episode got me sad. In the opening scene, Kate woke up looking hopeful, believing that Paul had been watching her sleep. The sucker punch feeling that crossed her face when he told her what he was doing was heartbreaking. Even more disappointing was Paul letting Rosie's phone call go unanswered. Kate could have been going crazy at home, and Rosie could have been desperate for help and support, but he put his own feelings before the feelings of his wife and daughter. He's a true coward. Ugh. A

Before watching In Treatment, I was initially apprehensive due to the show's length and the sheer volume of television that made up its first season. In the end, it was relatively easy to watch. I don't know if I could have done it five-nights-a-week (I watched it on DVD), but the strength of the characters and the staggered approach to revelations and breakthroughs made the series addictive.

I've mentioned it before but the show is amazing at creating complex characters that aren't particularly likeable as people. For me, Paul was the worst person the show has depicted so far, but his motives still fascinated me. The cast of characters are frequently perplexing and frustrating, but the beauty of the show keeps you coming back for more, to discover what exactly makes them do the things they do. Gold stars all round to the cast and crew, who have made a potentially restrictive format so affecting. I'm definitely tuning in next season.

Sophie Teleplay Sarah Treem Director Melanie Mayron
Jake and Amy Teleplay William Merritt Johnson, Sarah Treem Director Melanie Mayron
Friday Teleplay Amy Lippman Directors Paris Barclay, Rodrigo Garcia

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