Friday, March 1, 2013

In Treatment: Week Seven (2.31 - 2.35)

In its final week, In Treatment once again promotes how different it is to everything else on television. Like last season, anxiety and introspection has been slowly building session by session, presumably about to spill over in this final week. But here is where, traditionally, the show's dedication to naturalism clashes with the narrative's desperation for closure. As a result, you can look at this week of episodes as slightly underwhelming. If you're looking for resolutions and a true ending to the stories of Paul and his various patients, then it's probably not the greatest collection of episodes. But in exposing those small victories, the ones that suddenly grant you the ability to move on to that next phase of life, it's unsurprisingly a home run.

Watching the week, part of me was bothered by said lack of closure. But Paul's final session with Gina really illuminated how true the series is. As in life, there isn't a moment where everything clicks together, or one specific experience that closes a major chapter in your life. Instead, feelings linger, people evolving and growing with time, long beyond the possibilities of weekly television. So, no, nobody leaves season two firmly 'together' as individuals, but every character hit some kind of resolution in their own minds, or a sense of emotional understanding that they were nowhere near to possessing seven weeks ago.

Mia - Monday 7:00am

This worked like a greatest hits hour, encapsulating every key persona of Mia's and laying them bare. We saw her vulnerability, her iciness, her petty jealousies, as well as her insistence on being overtly sexual, despite it all coming from a haunted place. But the ending to her story was marvelous, Paul recognizing how much she has been crying out for some kind of feeling and intimacy all of her life, Mia denying she's ever capable of it, before Paul confronts her with the very fact that they've been intimate for the last seven weeks. It's that sudden realization that she is able to be human and connect with others. The moment where everything suddenly made sense was so wonderful, Hope Davis' face expressing a range of different emotions all at once: relief, excitement, embarrassment... and hope. Instead of abandoning therapy, she decides to stick with it, finally realizing how it has helped her.

April - Tuesday 12:00pm

It's easy to criticize this episode for feeling too half-baked, April's story nowhere near resolved. But that winds up being exactly the kind of point the show is trying to make. April has so much emotional baggage that she could never even begin to unravel it all within such a short time-frame. The real victory here was getting her to confront her cancer and do something about it, which she has. Along the way she has formed this tight bond with Paul that has become so loving and compassionate, notably in his gift of a hat to her at the end of this session, while still slightly flawed at points. But it's true, April's journey is only just beginning. There's a lot to work through, but you now trust her enough as a person to know she'll keep on trying to break it all down. The life-and-death peril of her diagnosis has been dealt with, and now time isn't so much a factor. Which is such a strong ending for her.

Oliver - Wednesday 4:00pm

In the end, Oliver's story wound up being the one most brimming with potential and most lacking in on-screen follow-through. It all felt a little on-the-nose, both in his relationship with Paul, as well as the generic arguments Bess and Luke frequently had. Following tradition, this final episode was sometimes a little jarring in terms of how quickly things seem to have been healed... noticeably the sudden ease Bess and Luke had with each other. But, ignoring what feels like contrivance, it was a relief to see them finally accept how over they are as a couple, and try and fix their relationship with their son. Likewise, you can understand Oliver's anger at Paul, but there was something so moving about Paul's last gesture of love: the cute phone game he initiated to prepare him for leaving the city. It's just generally a sweet closer, regardless of some of the weaker areas of the story as a whole.

Walter - Thursday 5:00pm

Similarly to April, this was more about a small victory than anything larger. The small victory being Walter's decision to stay in therapy and begin to explore the man he's so desperately wanted to be all these years, but kept repressed in an elaborate defense mechanism. So many of his early sessions were angry and aggressive, Walter just as dismissive of Paul as a man as he was of therapy itself. But here he entirely recognizes how much Paul has helped him. Sure, there's still embarrassment over the knowledge that he allowed somebody else to see him in such a small, vulnerable position, but as a kind of personal breakthrough, I don't think you could have asked for a warmer finale for his character. John Mahoney, like always, was exhaustingly great on this show. What an incredible actor.

Gina - Friday 6:11pm

This was also a story that felt almost half-done, at least in regards to Gina and her enigma of a past. But Paul's comments here were wonderful. In an interesting metaphor for the show itself, he complains about his desire for an instant fix, or some kind of proof that what he's doing is at all worthwhile. Instead of smaller success stories, he wants a grand confirmation of his own power, something tangible that he can use. That's generally impossible, and it's understandably left him feeling disillusioned with therapy and worried that he isn't very good at it. I took his leaving Gina as an admittance of his own weaknesses, particularly as it's so difficult to push her buttons. Gina forces him to confront his own fears and insecurities, and it's probably a statement on his own mindset that he wishes to withdraw himself from that world instead of lurking around inside of it. It's a strange ending, especially after all those aforementioned victories this week, but a powerful statement on how flawed an individual Paul Weston has become over the last two seasons.

I don't think I got as emotionally wrapped up in season two as I did the previous year, but I'm not sure if that's my own personal circumstances rather than the quality of the writing. It definitely felt different to last season, noticeably with the absence of the story-blurring through the week, and certain subplots (Tammy Kent, most of Gina's feelings) got the short shrift, but the writing itself continued to be intently engaging. Characters are richly drawn and performed by universally strong actors, and the key themes of the show (history, vulnerability, identity) all remain absorbing, despite the length of each season and how much of your time you need to grant it. Above it all, though, there's nothing else around quite like this show. A-

Mia Teleplay Jacquelyn Reingold Director Courtney Hunt
April Teleplay Sarah Treem Director Jim McKay
Oliver Teleplay Keith Bunin Director Ryan Fleck
Walter Teleplay Warren Leight Director Warren Leight
Gina Teleplay Marsha Norman Director Paris Barclay

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