Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In Treatment: Week Five (3.17 - 3.20)

While I've enjoyed every season of In Treatment, I still don't think I've been more enamored with the show than I was during season one, which exploited the 'one room, many stories' motif to a heavier degree than anything in recent years. But one of my complaints mid-season involved the dramatic leaps and hurdles the writers had to employ to overcome the obvious limitations of the show's premise. Like the suicidal girl overdosing in Paul's bathroom, to keep the drama contained to his base of operations. Season three has fused both extremes together, maintaining the 'one-room' drama that quickly became this show's trademark, but also creating a ton of soapy, detached drama along the way, something that feels uncertain at times, but proves generally entertaining. I'm not sure it entirely meshes with In Treatment's basic sensibility just yet, but I'm eager to see where it's all headed.

Sunil - Monday 3:00pm

Sunil is quickly becoming the biggest example of that aforementioned balancing act, now more and more sinister with every passing week. His creepy fixation on his daughter-in-law is at this point so extreme that she's calling him unstable to his face, and you can hardly argue with her considering he's been documenting every move she makes, Sunil finding the betrayal and negativity in every little thing she does -- what appears to be a passing friendship with a writer is, in Sunil's mind, actually a heated affair, both parties actively humiliating him and his family. It's uncomfortable as hell, and I remain impressed with how the writers and actor Irrfan Khan have created this character in all his guises.

The psychology in this session occurs via Sunil's dreams, in which he beats a woman around the head with his son's severed arm in order to protect his grandchildren. It's all a little transparent as far as metaphors go, but another warning sign that Paul really ought to step in at some point before things get worse.

Frances - Tuesday 10:00am

We didn't get a ton of new information in Frances' session this week, another episode ending with Frances storming out all angry at what Paul has only just started getting her to confront. What he states outright towards the end is a message she needed to hear: she has real issues with her sister, and she can't move forward in her life if she doesn't actually acknowledge them. She's still lacking when it comes to human emotion, abandoning her dying sister to sleep with a much younger man at the time when she should have been calling Tricia to see how she was. Right now we're still in that stage where we're just hearing about the problem, and there's little movement when it comes to actually fixing it, and until then I remain sort of unmoved by her story.

As an aside, I couldn't help notice the April parallels with the letter and the probable cancer diagnosis and Paul reluctantly opening up the envelope for his terrified patient. I didn't feel it was at all as effective as last season's version of the same events, but raised an interesting point about how we detach ourselves from negativity, and how much we embrace denial.

Jesse - Tuesday 10:23pm

One of the things that has left a major impression on me over the course of Jesse's episodes is how much he changes from week to week. A kid who started out so confrontational and aggressive is suddenly so quiet and sullen, like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Here it's the collapse of those shoulders, everything Jesse is feeling suddenly crashing down and leaving him this devastated shell of a person. Showing how much he relies on Paul, he appears suddenly the night before his actual session seeking some kind of outlet for all his emotions, having visited his birth parents' home during the day and spying on the family from afar.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't what he imagined. There were other children there, for one, leading Jesse to believe that he was contacted in order to donate an organ of some kind, one of the younger kids appearing sickly and ill. Like Frances' session, nothing here is concrete, but it was easy to get absorbed by Jesse's disappointment, the realization that his fantasies about this alternate family probably aren't going to be met, followed by his brief decision to blame Paul for sending him down that path in the first place, despite Paul having never done such a thing.

Adele - Friday 5:00pm

Paul's willingness to essentially come on to his therapist is such an irrational move that it's easy to wonder if this is all an elaborate game. So much of Paul's sessions with Adele have been about him prodding at her, or calling out her apparent weaknesses as a therapist -- and I wouldn't be surprised if Paul's admittance of his feelings and subsequent suggestion that they could actually get together is yet another test. "You're a terrible therapist, just look at how you're breaking the rules with me", and so forth. But Adele continues to be compelling by rarely breaking character. She takes it in her stride constantly, because she's far more professional than Paul has ever been.

Part of why these episodes work so well is that Adele isn't Gina. She's not connected to Paul like his previous therapist was, and has none of the emotional baggage. And when Paul tries to slip that in, arguably to get a better hold on her, she doesn't fold. She realizes the power that a therapist holds and doesn't want to be an equal in this relationship. It's a little cold and calculating, but absolutely what a therapist needs to be. Like so much of In Treatment, it's a move that speaks most of all about Paul's character and his weaknesses as a therapist and as a man. A-

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

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