Saturday, February 16, 2013

In Treatment: Week Four (2.16 - 2.20)

I feel like I'm reiterating it every week, but season two is about letting people in, to an extent that is potentially damaging. There was at least one instance every episode this week in which a patient took that additional step into Paul's consciousness. This occurred literally, with Mia invading his kitchen and Oliver asking about doorways and Paul's own son, as well as in a less physical movement -- Paul so desperate to help that he's almost clinging onto April and Walter as they walk out the door, intent on keeping them intact and becoming so emotionally involved in their stories that they seem to be the most important people in his life. This was the strongest week so far, breakthroughs occurring in every single session.

Mia - Monday 7:00am

I had initially pegged Paul's behavior here as a reveal that he simply doesn't like Mia very much. As she sits there giving graphic descriptions of her recent one night stands and the kind of sex she's been missing out on for so long, Paul just listened with this glazed expression on his face, seemingly realizing that he doesn't feel any emotional attachment to her. But his last session of the week with Gina saw him talking about how much he likes her, and that there's an attraction there. That further illuminated by interpretation of this episode itself, in that Mia just isn't hugely dynamic as a patient. Her attempts to rattle Paul and invade his personal space are generic and obvious, and Paul sees right through them. It's not disgust or being tired of her, it's just a sense of sadness: that this is what she's come to.

Once Paul got her off the same repetitive path of skeeziness and weak attempts at sexual manipulation that she resorts to constantly, Mia finally opened up on an emotional level and hit a sudden epiphany. It naturally concerned her father, but their relationship wasn't exposed as something dangerous or sinister, it was revealed as being almost too strong. So strong that every additional male relationship in Mia's life falters in comparison, and that their almost secret bond has given her this mental desire to seek out further secret relationships. But while she and her dad were secret out of compassion and vulnerability, Mia's adult life and the secrets she seeks out all involve infidelity and motel hook-ups.

It's Mia finally being more than surface level sexuality, and exploring why she does the things she does, and how those encounters will only harm her even more than they are already.

April - Tuesday 12:00pm

Having a ton of responsibility is a circumstance that's hard to navigate around, particularly when it's handed to you by other people. It's at the crux of April's character, somebody who's had all of this negativity dumped on her by parents who take her for granted, and she's left terrified to upset the apple-cart when she herself needs guidance and support. Her autistic brother tried to kill himself again, and her mind is currently distracted by the knowledge that she'll inevitably have to take care of him when their parents die. She's disgusted with herself for not wanting to do that, and it's awkwardly juxtaposed with how much she has had to give to others in the past. April is a tragic case, somebody so adrift that it's literally killing her.

And then Paul takes that next step, where he ignores the rules and the training and actively makes an attempt to save her life, effectively dragging her to chemo and supporting her as a friend. Because its that realization that he's pretty much her only friend, the only person she's ever been totally honest to. And it's so wrong for him to break that boundary, but something that we've all hoped he would do, if only to stop her demise.

Oliver - Wednesday 4:00pm

This took a page from last season's Jake and Amy episodes, with the first half being all about Bess, her husband running late. It allowed her some greater depth, even if I still don't particularly like her. You're completely allowed to be scared and fearful and eager for some kind of escape, Bess terrified of living alone and finding work, but having a child involved in that changes everything. As a parent, you need to put your child's welfare above your own angst, particularly when it's so obvious that your child is reacting badly to it all. She's still in crazy amounts of denial about that, though, so you can't blame her for being so reactionary and volatile.

Oliver has also developed an eating disorder, spurred on by asshole kids at school poking fun at his weight. But, again, Paul adopts a fatherly role and feeds him a sandwich. It's another boundary that's broken, but again something beneficial for Oliver. But it struck me as something existing within the moment only, since there will be a time when Paul is no longer around to help him the way he has.

Walter - Thursday 5:00pm

The first thing that strikes you this week, in relation to Walter's dismissal from his company, is how strangely calm he is. Previous sessions have been all about movement and a lack of time. Here Walter sat and listened and corresponded. It's a marked improvement. Like most of his sessions, this opened with a dissection of his work existence, followed by discussion of his personal life. Talking about work always seemed to revolve around how it used to be, Walter remembering with fondness how much easier it was back in the 1980's, before everything became micro-managed and lawyers ruled over every decision. It's a sign of his age, and his personal wounds when it comes to how he was forced out by people he used to admire so greatly.

And it's still about winding up becoming something you feel you should become. Walter's life has long been guided by the expectations of others. Everything as a result seems hollow, as he's always fallen into the roles that those around him can no longer occupy. And now, without anything to distract himself with, he's been forced to think things over. And what he sees is a life that's so empty. This is still horrible, but you can see him at last opening up and being set on a path to improvement.

Friday - 10:00am / Tammy - Friday 3:45pm / Gina - Friday 6:15pm / Monday - 8:00pm

This felt like a more traditional episode of television, bouncing between scenes and locations as Paul spent several days getting to the crux of his problems. The episode opens with his deposition in the Alex lawsuit, followed by a lunch date with Tammy that spirals into misery (Paul angry that he's still being asked questions and being solicited for advice), before a session with Gina. It's in that session that he begins to open up about his own loneliness: "I hate my life. It's broken. Every day it hurts." And from that loneliness, he's decided to create a surrogate family with his patients. His time with April at the hospital reminds him of a similar experience with an injured Rosie years ago, before he lost touch with her. Oliver is the son he's no longer attached to, and Mia represents what could be a wife. Walter, with his reluctance to stop and see how his life has become, is his father.

It's also the first time in which Paul begins to recognize his own similarities with his dad, and that it's futile to remain angry and reactionary when his dad is dying in a hospital room somewhere. So, spurred on by Gina, he visits him and sits by his bedside, reading him the paper while he sleeps. It's true vulnerability, and another emotional breakthrough this week.

This was the strongest collection of episodes so far this season, with revelations and horrible, crushing epiphanies, performed by actors who are completely embodying these characters. A

Mia Teleplay Jacquelyn Reingold Director Joshua Marston
April Teleplay Sarah Treem Director Jim McKay
Oliver Teleplay Keith Bunin Director Ryan Fleck
Walter Teleplay Warren Leight Director Alan Taylor
Gina Teleplay Marsha Norman Director Paris Barclay

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