Monday, June 3, 2013

In Treatment: Week Seven (3.25 - 3.28)

It feels sort of funny to say that a season with twenty-eight episodes ended up a little rushed, but that's always the feeling I get at the end of another year of In Treatment. Stories build, characters grow in complexity, and the finales are always pulled together with a half-dozen smaller ideas left scattered to the wind. And, once again, just like every year, I come back around and realize that it's life itself in a nutshell -- a commentary on the fact that we're never truly 'done', and that actual individuals don't have season finales.

Frances - Tuesday 10:00am

It's one of those hoary cliches to say that you only truly appreciate somebody when they're gone, but that's what happens to Frances this week. All season she has talked of Tricia with resentment and animosity, but here, in Tricia's last days, she's began to remember everything that Tricia did that was important to her, and how much she has meant to her life and growth as a woman. Sure, it may all be a little glorified, a sense of denial that we sometimes reach when somebody we care about dies, but I liked Frances' belief that Tricia was a true part of her, and that Tricia's existence helped ground her as a person and gave her the ability to believe in herself.

But I still feel like there's a lot held back with Frances. The memories she has of Tricia and her mother and the way they're the only two people aware of all of that are so interesting, and Frances' own relationship with the stage (she says here that she doesn't actually like theater performance) are just two corners of her character that were almost explored, but only briefly talked around in the end. I guess it's real therapy, and Frances is the only character who I imagine would stick around after this week (that's if Paul allows her to), but it all made her story a little unsatisfying on a narrative level.

It also marked a real distinction for the show, seeing as every other patient to appear on In Treatment had issues that built and built every week, pulling in other stories and memories and eventually becoming a collective picture of that person as a real individual. But Frances remained stuck in these same three corners most of the time, back and forth between her sister, her daughter and the play she was in -- yet all three ideas were never realized as powerfully as they could have been. There were definitely moments where she hooked me, and these last two weeks were her strongest as a character, but it sort of goes without saying that she was the least interesting patient this year.

Sunil - Tuesday 5:20pm

One of the risks of launching into a story that permanently disorients the audience and leaves them grasping around for an explanation is that the resolution to the story will always read as anticlimactic. For weeks we've seen Sunil's growing madness and burgeoning obsession with his daughter-in-law, so much that it's easy to predict that he'd eventually kill her or at least harm her in some way physically. And, really, wouldn't that be just as underwhelming as the ending we got here? Considering it always appeared so sign-posted.

So, in general, I don't have a problem with this resolution, Sunil revealing that he had intentionally crafted this sense of irrational craziness purely to get himself deported back to Calcutta. While I hadn't guessed certain specifics, part of me had at least thought that some of his growing delusions came off a little ham-fisted. There were only so many thin metaphors and contrived wonderment you could take before you begin to question whether he was faking it, or if it was just overly soapy writing. In the end it became a statement on an audience's collective trust. When part of you thinks the writers are going against the show's basic format, trust them to slowly reveal that they were playing all along. They hadn't completely gone off track.

As for Sunil himself, you need to admire his tenacity for setting all of this in motion, particularly as he's had an end-goal for a while now and went out of his way to initiate it all. I imagine some of his feelings about Julia were genuine and that in itself says a lot about his character, but you also understand his sadness and probable resentment. And, like he said, therapy at least got him to open up about Malini again, instead of keeping such an enormous weight bottled up inside.

You also understand Paul's anger, too, not only because he's been lied to for so long, but also the anger at himself for becoming so emotionally invested in one of his patients, yet again. It's like history repeating itself.

Jesse - Wednesday 4:00pm

I asked for a happy ending, and I didn't get one. Jesse's story was the most profoundly tragic of the week, ending therapy when things were probably at their lowest point. Even worse, Jesse is entirely unaware of it, or at least believing that everything is once again fine. Jesse's problem is that everything has to exist in extremes. At first his adoptive parents were rendered meaningless because of the biological parents he has out there somewhere. And then they rejected him, which threw him back into the arms of his father. But bonding with his adoptive father again has this horrible fallout in which he then takes it upon himself to trash his adoptive mother and abandon Paul, who he had viewed for so long as a kind of surrogate dad.

I guess you could argue that Jesse is at least happy in some form now, discovering that bond with his father and realizing that he actually loves him, but it's one of those glass half-empty/glass half-full deals. A perfect ending would be for Jesse to actually acknowledge all the love around him, instead of splitting it all off and categorizing it.

It's a resolution that directly contrasts Paul's past work with similarly disaffected young people, and says a lot about Paul's own mindset right now and the decisions he makes in the following episode. Sophie, April and Oliver all connected so deeply with Paul in the end, and I imagine a lot of his self-worth comes from that. So when somebody of that type remains so volatile and damaged in their last session with you, it's understandable that you'd take it as a personal affront.

Adele - Friday 5:00pm

Whether Adele is a perfect therapist or not is debatable, but she sure did say to Paul what needed to be said for so long. We've watched Paul for three years become more and more attached to his own patients and finding himself so distracted by them that it alienates every one of his 'real' loved ones. And Adele for the first time explicitly states it, suggesting that he seeks out intimacy in therapy because he's far more comfortable rejecting it in reality. He needs that intimacy, but goes out of his way to keep it at arm's length.

It's also hard to entirely understand Paul at this point, too. I'd buy that he'd reject his patients and abruptly decide to shut down his practice, if only because it's a dramatic, short-term solution to a long-term problem. It's his easy way of responding to Adele's work after all these weeks, in which she's repeatedly told him that he struggles to make decisions and remains happy to drift through life. But I still don't totally understand his transference with her. Some of the fun here is seeing Amy Ryan's cold poker face, refusing to leave any expression or hint at where her feelings truly lie. But it's also difficult to see Paul's feelings, too, even if he's verbally stating them. I don't know if it's the writing or a sense that Gabriel Byrne isn't believing it either, but Paul's declaration that they could be together and his questioning over the state of her personal relationship with her baby's father both read as a little contrived. I'm still not sure he'd ever go that far.

In the end, though, he made a choice. It's unknown whether it'll last long, but he recognizes where his biggest failings lie, and decides to get out there and live a little. Adele takes him to task on becoming so wrapped up in that tiny box of four walls and a therapist's couch, so it's only appropriate that the very last shot we get of Paul Weston shows him slowly dissolving into a bustling crowd of New Yorkers. This is a man wanting to change, at least outwardly. Maybe deep down he wants to retreat back into the safe confines of his office, but there's still an obvious awareness there of life's possibilities and where they could take him. He's still drifting, but at least drifting someplace nice is now something of an option. A-

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

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