Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Treatment: Week Four (3.13 - 3.16)

Every episode this season has opened up with a small vignette about Paul's personal life, usually involving Parkinson's, but recently revolving around his interactions with son Max. What was made pretty clear this week is that Paul is trying to unravel the mystery behind being an absent parent, and whether you can ever leave your footprint on your child's maturation when they barely see you. It's already effective on its own, but it also ties Paul closer to Jesse, who was discussing similar problems in his session this week. Genetics always bleed through whether you like it or not, but little is greater than the family actively present in our lives.

Sunil - Monday 3:00pm

There's suddenly an uneasy tone to the Sunil episodes, his history so drowned in sadness and disillusionment that you can't help but feel terribly for him. But the writers have recently introduced this almost sinister quality to the character, where he's so distracted by negative thoughts about those around him that he comes off as almost... dangerous? Before I elaborate on that, his story about Malini, his first love, was aggressively tragic -- something so sweeping and melodramatic in execution (Malini ending her life when the caste system effectively terminates their relationship, throwing herself into the ocean with heavy rocks in her pocket weighing her down) that it reads like Shakespeare.

I also found Paul's suggestion that his resentment over Julia is spurred on by his past experiences to be interesting, but Sunil's creeping obsession with his daughter-in-law continues to give these sessions an uneasy edge. He's watching her sleep, stealing her things, and describing her as some kind of sociopath in order to justify her lack of emotion when it comes to her supposed affair, an affair supported by little evidence. Writer Adam Rapp is clearly trying to give this hint of danger to the character, which should make his developing relationship with Paul that much more complex. How far can Sunil go before Paul has to intervene?

Frances - Tuesday 10:00am

It took a while, but Frances is finally dropping her defenses. I guess it's not a huge surprise on a metaphorical level, but Frances is a woman constantly seeking validation or a sense of approval. But, intriguingly, it's never for anything she does herself -- she seeks it after her performances, or pursues critique as an actor rather than as an ordinary woman. It's why she invites Paul to come and see her play, and it's why it takes a lot of gentle pushing before she begins to open up about her history.

I've had issues with Debra Winger over the last couple of weeks, but it feels like Frances' strange, detached and impersonal visage was something of an elaborate performance, too terrified to actually be open with her therapist. But here, when Frances begins talking about her mother and her disappointment that she never got to say goodbye to her, Winger is fantastic -- powerfully sad, but almost embarrassed that so much emotion is all coming out at once. Frances remains the least interesting character in terms of 'issues', but she's no longer a patient you're inclined to skip over every week.

Jesse - Wednesday 4:00pm

Jesse eased up on the sexually-charged antagonism here, clearly too affected by his two dueling sets of parents to be all aggressive and confrontational. As mentioned up top, Jesse is trying to understand what makes a person who they are, whether it's the birth parents that he's never met, or his frequently frustrating but actually-present adoptive folks. Both sets want the best for Jesse, but I liked his quiet introspection this week when it came to self-analysis.

There was also a lot to love about his exploration, how he couldn't help but notice how his handwriting is so similar to that of his birth father, and wondering if he looks exactly like him. I have no awareness of how adopted children feel at that age, but it appears like the show is doing a good job of making it believable. Jesse is angry and unsure of where he stands in life, but is slowly coming around to figuring it all out on his own. Paul, too, is trying to lessen Jesse's tendency to rage, prodding at him until he realizes that his parents have his best interests at heart. I continue to like these episodes.

Adele - Friday 5:00pm

I've thought for a while that Paul just needs to stop being a therapist. And this was the first episode this season that seemed to acknowledge that it probably isn't the greatest occupation for him anymore, Adele wondering if he intentionally distracts himself with other people's problems and manufactured problems of his own, both as a cover stopping him from going out there and experiencing life for himself. A lot of this episode is about passion, and how Paul doesn't recognize it in himself and only experiences resentment that everybody around him seems driven by something. It's another indication of how sad this man has become, how he's lost everything and doesn't have a ton to live for.

What didn't work so well was Paul's declaration of his feelings for Adele. It entirely came out of left-field, and I'm not sure somebody with his history with transference would be so open and... creepy (?) about it. He was practically licking his lips while praising her youth and confidence. Ugh. I'm hoping that was a moment of madness. Nothing more, nothing less. B+

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

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