Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Treatment: Week Two (3.5 - 3.8)

True to form, these early weeks feature patients entering therapy with what they believe to be a clear understanding of their problems. In some cases, it's more about other people's opinions, but there's still a general semblance of understanding. What Paul is starting to do, like always, is try and pick at those who have turned to him for guidance, forcing them to confront the true issues that are lurking beneath the surface traumas. It takes aggressive coaxing at times, but we're just about able to spot the specific sources of the various issues on offer this year, including with Paul himself.

Sunil - Monday 3:00pm

There are already thematic parallels in these sessions to Walter last season. Both characters are at moments in their lives where they're visibly aged and no longer as independent as they once were, and they're also beginning to realize that their lives haven't turned out as they had at one point in time imagined. But what makes the Sunil episodes more interesting than they easily could have been is that the writers are actively utilizing his cultural background to create drama. One of the major points of contention here is Sunil's arranged marriage at an early age, and how it differs so greatly with his son's very Western marriage based on gradual courtship and bonding. As a result, Arun has accused his father of jealousy, something that Sunil denies. But you have to wonder if it feeds into his lack of drive, Sunil beginning to wonder how his life could have been if he were allowed greater opportunity to shape his future rather than having it shaped for him.

I also like Sunil's relationship with Paul, and how the former is still trying to understand therapy and how it could possibly help him. With this, he insists on a give-and-take approach, asking Paul about his own life in exchange for honesty on his end. It's actually something that makes a lot of sense, but I guess problems can occur if a patient gets to know too much about his own therapist -- the relationship becoming too intimate and friendly, instead of intentionally detached.

Frances - Tuesday 10:00am

Along the lines of 'surface versus underneath', it's already become clear that Frances' initial problem, that she keeps forgetting her lines at work, isn't the root cause of all her trauma. There's a lot of resentment in Frances, particularly when it comes to her daughter and her sister. Izzy is fifteen and far closer to Frances' sister Tricia than she is to her mom, and it's left Frances feeling left out, her role in the family usurped by somebody similar to her but presumably more compassionate and caring. It hurts. As a result, she secretly looks forward to Tricia succumbing to her cancer in order to grow closer with her daughter again. It's not something she wants to happen, but she's already seeing the bright spots to death.

Frances is probably the least interesting patient so far, and I'm not sure I'm totally feeling Debra Winger in the part. She's not exactly 'bad', it just feels like I'm watching somebody act and read lines. Or it may just be that she looks uncannily like Mary-Louise Parker for some reason and it's throwing me off.

Jesse - Wednesday 4:00pm

Jesse is one of those angry teenagers who seems intent on casting his loved ones as villains in his life, despite their obvious affection for him. Everything means something else, there's always an ulterior motive, and nothing is ever good enough. It's like his complaint that his mother would just accept it if he brought home one of his numerous boyfriends and started banging him in the living room, casting it as somehow reflective of her coldness or sense of denial. But it's probably just her way of somehow 'proving' her acceptance of his sexuality, a flawed attempt to be nice. Yet Jesse can only see it as something negative.

Thrown into this is the issue of his birth mom, something that makes every argument he has with his adoptive parents so much heavier because there's always that question mark over how his life could have turned out in a different environment. And because he actually experiences the work and hardships and graft of his adoptive mother, he can't help but fantasize about how nicer and cleaner it would be someplace else.

Jesse continues to be an interesting character, even if he's still very much about the attack. He brings up Paul's son and uses him as a kind of battering ram this week, trying to deflect Paul's attention onto what he insists is a troubled young boy. Even when he's only ever briefly glimpsed him in the hallway outside Paul's office. Despite everything being volatile, though, you sense a lot of tragedy there, a life based on 'what if's' and a hidden vulnerability. Dane DeHaan is doing great work this season.

Adele - Friday 5:00pm

Is it possible that Paul is getting worse? Despite all these years of therapy, he seems desperate to become even more screwed up, now believing misery and loneliness is a genetic weight around his neck that he can't escape from. It's similar in theme to Frances' worry about inheriting cancer from her mother, the belief that you can't escape a curse that you're genetically predetermined to inherit. But Paul is almost seeking it out. Despite being told by his doctors that he isn't actually suffering from Parkinson's, he's insistent that he is. And despite Adele's offers of help and guidance, he spends most of this session playing games with her in order to try and gauge her experience and knowledge of the human mind. To be succinct, he's acting like a dick.

Gina also remains a heavy presence in these sessions, Paul angry about the way he has been depicted in her hit new book. So he demonizes her, painting her as such a manipulative monster that she should get her license revoked. Adele has an interesting theory about this, that Paul had to start seeing Gina that way in order to unconsciously give approval to a new therapist, but he once again dismisses it as textbook therapy hooey coming from a woman out of her depth.

While Sunil and Jesse are interesting, it's Paul who is experiencing the biggest crisis this season. He is coming off as lonelier and more scattered than ever, a shell of his old self and a man rapidly falling to pieces. And, just like Gina, Adele is refusing to play ball and break her composure despite Paul's constant baiting. It's like a slow-motion car crash, and one of the more uncomfortable things I've seen on recent television. A-

Sunil Writer Adam Rapp Director Ali Selim
Frances Writer Alison Tatlock Director Jim McKay
Jesse Writer Sarah Treem Director Jim McKay
Adele Writers Anya Epstein, Dan Futterman Director Paris Barclay

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