Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Treatment: Week One (3.1 - 3.4)

It's always tricky to review the very first week of In Treatment. Like life, it's hard to get a complete handle on people after only knowing them for twenty minutes. You can obviously get a sense of what makes them tick and what their general personalities are like, but it's only ever surface. So the first week is naturally a little vague, a rough draft of a bunch of new characters rife with dramatic potential. Like always, though, there's a lot to love so far, the surface of these people already rich and intriguing, played by actors that immediately jump off the screen with intensity and anguish.

Sunil - Monday 3:00pm

The greatest moments of acting, for me, are the ones in which everything is conveyed through facial expression or movement, dialogue not even present. Irrfan Khan is incredible here, the first half of his session staying silent and repressed, allowing his dismissive daughter-in-law and subservient son to repeatedly attack him, all the while lending variations on an eye-roll or a flippant hand gesture or a jaded bit of body language. It's the very best type of acting, thoroughly precise and meaningful, but performed tightly naturalistic.

As a character, Sunil is an aching depressive, dissatisfied with how his life has turned out and struggling to exist in a new environment with in-laws and Manhattan apartments. We've seen this kind of theme before, but cultural ambivalence to therapy is something new, Sunil describing how his background considers therapy a requirement for people who are literally crazy, those residing in mental institutions and not so much those in sexy penthouses and brownstones. Sunil's family, so far, are a little thinly drawn to entirely work, but Sunil's silent protest is captivating, in complete opposition to the confrontational demeanor of similar patients in the past two seasons.

Frances - Tuesday 10:00am

Like Sunil, we've kind of seen this type of character before. Frances is a middle-aged wreck, terrified that she's losing her drive and her mental prowess, while living in constant fear that she'll succumb to the cancer that killed her mother and is rapidly ending her sister's life. But there are also new corners to what has become an In Treatment trademark: Frances is an actress of considerable note, already lending her time with Paul an air of arrogance and self-absorption, casually namedropping like she'd expect Paul to already be aware of them. She exists in a very specific bubble, which makes her somewhat unlikable but nevertheless interesting.

Jesse - Wednesday 4:00pm

In a strong narrative move, we're introduced to Jesse mid-treatment, Paul already familiar with his baiting of him and his eagerness to disguise his real problems with showy distractions. Surprisingly, it doesn't leave you stranded at home. But it's a classic In Treatment bait-and-switch that proves most affecting, the episode opening with Jesse attempting to shock Paul with his recent sexual adventures with various older men, only for his true neuroses to radiate from a far more moving place: Jesse is adopted, and his birth mother has just tried to get back into contact with him. Already the story explores the probable mindset of any adoptee, particularly the hypothesizing of your birth parents and what they may be like, and how you always imagine them in extremes. If you're happy in your current life, you can't help but imagine them as junkies and prostitutes (like Jesse does here). But that kind of vision could also represent a form of rescue, imagining them as your probable savior.

Discovering his mother is presumably stable and financially secure, it only opens up an area where you can't help but question why somebody in that life could possibly give you away at birth. You can already sense the narrative wheels spinning. Dane DeHaan was great here, angry and confrontational, but narrowly disguising his inner depression.

Adele - Friday 5:00pm

You can't help but wonder if Paul's worry over what could be Parkinson's Disease is more of a psychological trauma than a physical one. This is a man who has become increasingly jaded about therapy itself and constantly preoccupied by the thought that it's all an exercise in futility. So what better way to bring his career to a close than by unconsciously sabotaging it? I'm probably way off-base, but the show seems to be exploring a deeper mid-life crisis this year than ever before. Not only is he dating somebody twenty years younger than him, he's also becoming over-reliant on sleeping pills and medication, and spends much of his first session with Adele, the doctor he turns to to refill his prescription, arrogantly dismissing her opinions. It's her age, her apparent naivety, her bright office, the way she tries to get a handle on his past experiences with Gina -- everything's less than, and it bugs the hell out of him.

I always give In Treatment a ton of credit for allowing Paul to be regularly exposed as somebody so rude and aggressive, particularly as it's in such direct opposition to the friendly face that he shows his patients. But it's also something that grounds the series in reality, Paul embracing those ugly parts of ourselves that we only reveal to certain people in our lives. While I'll miss Dianne Wiest, her presence remains all over these sessions, and Amy Ryan adds new life to the end-of-the-week round-up. Some of the references to Paul's patients comes off a little clunky at times, but the themes appearing so far are enough to carry the show. It's always hard to totally grasp the stories and characters in the first week of a new season, but you're unsurprisingly left gasping for more when the credits finally roll. A-

Sunil Teleplay Adam Rapp Story Adam Rapp, Jhumpa Lahiri Director Paris Barclay
Frances Writer Alison Tatlock Director Paris Barclay
Jesse Writer Sarah Treem Director Paris Barclay
Adele Writers Anya Epstein, Dan Futterman Director Paris Barclay

No comments:

Post a Comment