Saturday, February 16, 2013

In Treatment: Week Five (2.21 - 2.25)

There was a simplicity to last week's episodes, events aligning just right in order to allow Paul's patients to open up, or alternatively to allow Paul in. It was a real breakthrough week, but Paul himself had to step over the line more than once to get there, becoming so intimate and personal with his patients that there were few boundaries left anymore. This week was all about the emotional fallout, characters reacting mostly negatively to his sudden need to retreat. Couple that with a weeks' worth of canceled sessions due to his father's death, and bitterness naturally hung over the encounters.

Mia - Monday 7:00am

Mia's episode opened up a week of emotional back-and-forths, veering from one extreme to another. Soon into the session, Mia announces that she's pregnant, the father being one of the two men she slept with several weekends ago. What initially creates dissent between patient and therapist is Mia's almost romantic analysis of her unborn child, treating Paul like the expectant father, asking him for advice and acting as if it were the child that they could have had all those years ago. It was a return to the frightening version of Mia, the one still resentful and angry at the past. We also saw her discussing pregnancy as a physical event, asking Paul if he'd still find her attractive post-baby. Unusually, it wasn't a flirtatious question. It was more about her own inner panic, her questioning whether she wants a baby at all.

But the emotions wound up swinging the other way towards the end, Mia recognizing that she can be a good mother, and that it's something that she can have control over. This is a woman who has always sought acceptance and guidance from others, motivated by a sense of self-doubt. But here she was actually acknowledging that she doesn't need to have an abortion, and that she can actually go through with the pregnancy. It allowed the episode to end on an emotional high, Mia once again hitting a kind of breakthrough.

April - Tuesday 12:00pm

Like Mia, this was all about the emotional trajectory. There's a lovely tone to April and Paul's initial reunion, talking and joking with each other like old friends. But once she realizes that he's not planning on accompanying her to chemotherapy once again, she becomes hysterical. Again it's about the boundaries Paul crossed and how certain people aren't ready for that. April now sees him both as a father figure, but also as somebody romantic, like a knight in shining armor with ocean-deep blue eyes that she can't help but dream about. Nothing's ever that simple, though, April now having to find her own way in life, removed from Paul.

It's dependency, for sure, but there's also so much strength there, just not related to herself and her problems. She's all about giving, and feels ashamed to take every once in a while. This episode was a lot more shrieky than usual, but I'm assuming it's related to April's condition, all the drugs she's on affecting not only the amount of pain she's in, but also her emotional fluctuation.

Oliver - Wednesday 4:00pm

It was here that Paul's personal life began to parallel with Oliver and Luke, all three experiencing fear when it comes to potentially turning into their fathers. Oliver has similarly become dependent on Paul's presence, fleeing school to come and see him without his parents' knowledge. At the same time, Luke began to explain where he's coming from as a dad, so determined to not be like his own father that he makes allowances for Oliver and remains at ease on discipline and rules. There seems to be progress at the end of the episode, too, Luke making strides to build a foundation with his son, even if its still rooted in sort of vacuous activities.

It's also neat seeing Luke recognizing his own failings, something that has eluded Bess, who has been on the defensive for a while. It's necessary shading, and the closest thing to a character breakthrough in this particular story.

Walter - Thursday 6:30pm

This was a heartbreaking episode. It was one of those stories in which you're led to believe that you know a character, only for it all to be a sham. In the last week, Walter has tried to kill himself, and unsurprisingly tries to keep it a secret from those who don't necessarily need to know. He's back to keeping Paul at arm's length as well, Paul straining to get any information out of him. But it's a story that feeds into Walter's long-term depression, a man who feels he has lost so much in his life that he may as well end it all-together. Paul reminds him that his wife and daughter would never forgive themselves if Walter were to take his own life, but there still seems to be an emotional block there, Walter getting all litigious and hostile instead of addressing his actual problems.

But then there's that final revelation, Walter's daughter revealing that her mother has been in and out of rehab for years. It's another sucker-punch, suddenly making Walter appear even more troubled than he was already. This is a man with so many secrets lurking beneath the surface, repressing not only his own feelings but also the truth about those around him. He's such a wreck, somebody who finds no joy in anything. Like he says at one point, everything is just "going through the motions". John Mahoney was spectacular this week, combative and aggressive but with this consistently sad streak. You wonder if Walter is truly a lost cause.

Gina - Friday 6:00pm

Paul is seeking something from everybody. His patients are rapidly becoming the closest thing he has to family, he's desperate to get back together with his wife, and he's eager for easy discussion with Gina. But Gina is still trying to get to the root of all of Paul's neuroses, buried in his subconscious and in the shape of his father. Here we saw Paul trying to understand his dad and come to terms with the various revelations he's discovered about him in the wake of his funeral, revelations that seem to shape a vastly different man to the one he thought he knew.

I loved Gina's hypothesis, Paul having used his hatred of the man as a kind of protection against potential rejection. It makes sense, primarily because it's so much easier to hate than to actually try and understand. Echoing both Mia's epiphany last week about her father and Luke's revelations this week, Paul experienced a breakthrough of his own, realizing how much his dad tried to make things good for him, and how every one of his actions were inspired by his love for his children. Even when his attitude wasn't perfect, he was always working to ensure a brighter future for his kids. And that's growth for Paul, pushed to develop feelings that aren't filled with animosity.

There's also Alex's father, promising to drop the lawsuit if Paul write something of a confession just for him. Again it's about personal failings, and the way we beat others up to deflect our own responsibilities, and how feelings of the past are incapable of being forgotten. But most of the ensemble are moving forward in a way, even if some of them keep backtracking when their personal lives get particularly rough. This wasn't as strong as last week, but remains an absorbing drama. B+

Mia Teleplay Jacquelyn Reingold Director Paris Barclay
April Teleplay Sarah Treem Director Jim McKay
Oliver Teleplay Keith Bunin Director Ryan Fleck
Walter Teleplay Warren Leight Director Jean de Segonzac
Gina Teleplay Marsha Norman Director Terry George

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