Saturday, February 2, 2013

In Treatment: Week Three (2.11 - 2.15)

And the intimacy continues. Whether its Oliver's turtle or April's project, or Mia's general presence, Paul is still allowing his patients to linger long after they've left his practice. It was a theme that ran through most of this week's episodes, that constant blurring between appropriate conduct and personal friendship. Like last season, it's never just a patient who anchors their own episode. Every action somehow bounces back at Paul, and I don't know if it's a personal weakness of his that he winds up so rattled by every movement they make. More than ever, this season seems to be about Paul's faults as a therapist as well as a man, and the unearthing of where that comes from.

Mia - Monday 7:12am

This is really the point where you begin to realize that Mia's story isn't actually about Paul. While so much of her own neuroses seems to be about Paul, his slow-burning prodding leads to a ton of introspection. Mia gets off on manipulating boundaries, both as a patient and as a lawyer, but here we discovered that it doesn't have a whole lot to do with Paul himself. She discusses the perception others have of her, a TV show about sex dolls, and Laura's own affair with Paul last season -- but through all of this, particularly the latter, it's clearly about her. She may describe Paul as the one who got away, the one who wronged her, but he's just one representation of what she believes is a repetitive motion of people running from her. It's always about what she's not. But when Paul played that recording, and she realized that somebody actually kept a token of her for so long, instead of just tossing her aside, that was a real breakthrough.

Hope Davis is one of those theatre-trained actors who every once in a while become especially mannered, their performance style built for the stage. In Treatment, being so much like a play, falls somewhere in between dueling sensibilities. But Davis has been wonderful so far, her range this week spectacular, particularly in that great moment where Mia sort of drifted off into a monologue about her past, and director Paris Barclay did nothing but slowly pull in on her pained visage. She just reeled you in.

April - Tuesday 7:50am

It's funny how much In Treatment's second season is paralleling its first, from Mia's intimate involvement with Paul (just like Laura), to Paul's fatherly bond with Oliver (similar to Sophie). Watching this episode, I began to see how April and Oliver are both fulfilling Sophie's role, Oliver being the wounded child part of her, and April the volatile adolescent. When Paul was watching April sleep, you couldn't help but see the father/daughter parallel. There he was watching this girl sleep, but also thinking about her being at peace, not only as a little respite from her personal life, but also because of what will inevitably come if she keeps killing herself by not embracing chemotherapy.

Allison Pill was marvelous here. I wasn't as quick to become absorbed by her as so many other fans, but she really won me over this week. There was so much disgust there, both at herself, but also at her mother's lack of emotional investment in her and the feelings she's always had about her family. This is a story about betrayal, April so used to being quiet and reliable as a daughter that she can only see her cancer as a burden upon her family. As a result, she doesn't want their sympathy or compassion. And the fact that it's killing her works both literally and figuratively.

Oliver - Wednesday 4:00pm

There was finally some movement with Oliver's parents this week, both being confronted by the fact that their self-involvement is actually harming Oliver. Sure, nothing too surprising happened here, but I actually began to feel for Bess. She's angry and aggressive and ignorant of her son's needs, but she's also a woman flailing around at the end of a marriage, and that's this huge, crushing development that she just wasn't expecting. So I can understand her. I also get why Luke is so secretive, since everything he does is instantly jumped on by Bess. I understand him, too. But then there's Oliver, this weapon.

Oliver constantly feels like he needs to express happiness, even when deep down he knows it's only to make his father look good. At the same time, that happiness is repeatedly undermined by Bess' interrogation of their activities. Every action has to have some weakness to it, or involve jeopardizing Oliver in some way. It's horrible, though, since Bess is crafting the illusion of care, when really it's all about herself. I feel for her, but it doesn't disguise how awful she's acting.

What continues to work is Paul's role as something of a surrogate father. The teaser, in which he communicates with his son via Skype, is pained and awkward, Paul unable to offer any tangible help because he's so far away. But Oliver is adopting that role in his New York life, and Paul is trying his best to appropriately fill in the gap of a parent. He listens, and supports, and that's just about the most important thing.

Walter - Thursday 8:00pm

Walter is all about motion. He rarely sits down and unwinds, it's all about moving forward. But it's not at all positive, it's combative and based on fear. His business is wrapped up in a baby formula scandal that he's constantly distracted by, a scandal that his daughter has been using against him. What I liked this week was that the work issues were again something of a cover for his personal trauma. It's only when Paul digs around that he discovers the stress and internal crisis Walter is experiencing was recently exacerbated by his impulsive visit to Rwanda to 'rescue' his daughter, believing her to be in trouble.

His relationship with Natalie is fascinating. He idolizes her and puts her on this enormous pedestal, but also seems to resent her for escaping and becoming her own person, so much that he believes she needs to be saved from it. Yes, Natalie was casually cruel to her dad in various emails, but he comes off as so suppressive and irrational. At least we saw Paul manage to actually get through to him this week. Walter is still about money and being forceful, but we saw brief glimmers of humanity there, and the beginnings of some kind of progress. Again, spectacular acting from John Mahoney.

Gina - Friday 6:00pm

What really leaped out at me this episode was how you never really know someone. Not only do we see Paul at his very worst in these sessions, being argumentative and all about the attack, but we also see our sometimes warped interpretations of other people. There's this great moment here in which Gina talks about 'sense memories', where we think back on an experience and allow our present-day feelings to influence how we remember something. So while Tammy Kent is able to see the good in Paul's father and remember his kindness at a certain point in time, Paul only remembers him as an emotional abuser, somebody alienating and suppressive.

He also discusses the very feelings I raised up top, too, the fear that patients are getting too close. It probably hurts him more that Gina is so detached as a therapist. She's able to get these incredible results while remaining frustratingly calm. It gets to him, but this episode was a real breakthrough when it came to Paul's insecurities, and his realization that not everything in his life is a product of his mother's eventual suicide. B+

Mia Teleplay Jacquelyn Reingold Director Paris Barclay
April Teleplay Sarah Treem Director Paris Barclay
Oliver Teleplay Keith Bunin Director Ryan Fleck
Walter Teleplay Pat Healy Director Norberto Barba
Gina Teleplay Marsha Norman Director Jean de Segonzac

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