At the end of last week’s review, I noticed a tag identifying me as a psychology student. While technically correct, I wanted to clarify my point of view a bit beyond that of an aspiring Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne). For most of my adult life, I’ve bounced from therapist to therapist, the success of my therapy being less a direct result of the quality of professional I was seeing, and more manifesting as a direct corollary of how much I was willing to work in therapy.
So perhaps I’m biased by reality when I watch In Treatment and see groundbreaking results (or the forerunners of such) by clients who not only are resistant to the process, but really would rather not be there whatsoever. “But Libby,” you protest, (Yeah, I’m psychic, it’s a gift.) “Such is the nature of television. The show would be so tedious if it merely detailed the lives of people with issues and a sincere desire to resolve said issues.”
To that I say, “Bah!” (What? I said I was psychic. I never said I was persuasive.)
Regardless of my qualms about the reality of one of the most “real” series on television, week two of In Treatment’s second season was a strong continuation to last week’s openers. Breakdowns to follow:
Dear, dear, Mia (Hope Davis) - who last week only hinted at the crazy she was marginally keeping at bay - revealed this week, to the audience and Paul alike, the depths of some of her delusions. We find out that her meeting with Paul last week - along with memories of a 20 year-old pregnancy - started a series of events that left Mia reeling with revelations of near infertility and a newly-ended adulterous affair.
Mia insists that ending her pregnancy all those years ago was Paul’s doing, a decision that she’s still bemoaning, especially in light of her recent fertility issues. But ultimately, it seems that what Mia is suffering from is not some booming biological clock but rather a bad case of loneliness. She’s desperate for a relationship, desperate for a child, desperate for anything that won’t leave her. So much so that she has convinced herself that her father is her lone ally and was always her lone ally, even back when she was an unmarried, pregnant, aspiring law student.
He was even so supportive that he scheduled her abortion FOR her. Mia, so isolated in her world of corporate dominance, foists all of her sublimated anger and disappointment onto Paul, because he’s the one that abandoned her, as she clings to her father, her lone port in a storm, regardless of the part he truly played in her abortion decision.
The show also makes mention of the secrets kept between fathers and daughters, leading one to wonder if Mia’s storyline isn’t going to delve into some sort of long-hidden abuse, a turn that would dismay me, more than surprise me. Abuse, specifically sexual, seems to be a catch-all diagnosis in most portrayals of therapy on television, so that In Treatment would wait to address such a case until season two is sort of unprecedented. All the same, as a personal preference, I’m always more intrigued by those individuals whose baggage is that of subtle mis-parenting, as opposed to the blatant treachery of abuse.
Week one’s standout character returns to Paul’s office this week with new complications to her burgeoning disease drama. As the episode unfolds, we learn that in the past week, April (Alison Pill) has reached out to her ex-boyfriend, on just a friendly level of course, but that the encounter ended with them falling into each other’s arms. It was only afterward that April reveals that she’s ill and Kyle reveals that he’s engaged to his new girlfriend Sienna. Complicating matters even further is that Kyle tells Sienna about April’s revelation and privileged Sienna offers to pay for April’s treatments.
This olive branch only serves to outrage April, who uses this perceived indignity to further facilitate her ongoing game of emotional tug-of-war between herself and everyone in her life. It’s hard to pinpoint what about the seemingly generous offer drives April to such anger. It may be that she feels pitied or patronized by Sienna. Or maybe she’s just angry at herself for reaching out to Kyle and letting him get close to her again. It’s clear that Paul senses this true nature of her unrest, even asking her if ultimately, she’d rather die than let herself appear weak.
Pill is again phenomenal, imbuing her rage with an underlying vulnerability, even while subtly manipulating Paul into letting her use his phone at the top of the episode. Even Paul is helpless when faced with the possibility of a more relaxed and open April and he acquiesces in short order.
“Wednesday’s child is full of woe ...” Boy howdy, is he ever. This week’s Oliver (Aaron Shaw) episode is a distinct step up from the premiere week’s decidedly mediocre showing. From the opening shots showcasing the family sitting together on the waiting room couch, each lost in their own world, each scored by their own iPod, to the penultimate shots featuring the strained family leaving, again, together, yet still separately, the anguish of the broken family radiates. And none is so pained as Oliver.
Perched in Paul’s chair, he recounts the horrors of his day-to-day life, from falling asleep in class to the hurtful actions of his peers. Feet searching for their footing, he repeats his heartbreaking mantra time and time again when questioned by Paul as to why he doesn’t share his pain with his parents, “If I tell my mom, she’ll call my dad, and then they’ll fight.”
Oliver is a child in crisis. He is caught in the middle in every metaphorical sense, but beyond that, even in the literal sense. Every scene has Oliver flanked by either parent, neither willing to give up ground to the other, so they remain mired in perpetual orbit around their faltering son.
Bess (Sherri Saum) and Luke (Russell Hornsby), while speaking with Paul privately, continue to war. It becomes increasingly clear that Bess is struggling with the process considerably more than her husband. Driven by guilt and second-guessing or perhaps just desperate to go back to the life she used to know, Bess suggests that, really, reconciliation would be what’s best for Oliver, regardless of whatever problems they may have as a couple. The news, then, that Luke has started seeing someone new is more than she can bear, and she bolts, only to be reined in by the fact that Oliver wants to go home with his father for the first time in ages.
All in all, the episode was strong, if a bit disheartening. It remains unclear how this broken family will ever find any semblance of peace, especially with all the members seeming to need intensive therapy of their own, but I’m more interested to see how Paul tries to help them than I was last week. The question of how they will come together is more potent than the question of how the parents will screw up Oliver.
The generational divide is difficult to navigate, especially if you belong to a generation as self-involved as the one I belong to. Which is to say that last week, in my haste to dismiss Walter (John Mahoney) as one-note and vaguely grating, I forgot to consider the fact that he is from a vastly different era than myself. Born in a time where men kept their emotions close to their chest, Walter carries with him the burdens of a childhood filled with loss. It is only now, when his well-structured, insulated world threatens to crumble around him that he finds himself unable to process even simple stresses in his life.
We learn that since last week, Walter has suffered from another anxiety attack, this time, though he is loathe to acknowledge the connection, it is shortly after learning that a long-term, roughly contemporary employee has died. It’s then that Walter regales Paul with tales of several people who have, to a certain extent, just disappeared from his life. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, the amount of anxiety Walter feels with regards to his absent daughter.
The episode ends rather simply with a rough solution, a seeming answer to the source of Walter’s anxiety attacks, but there are still five episodes remaining. Clearly, Paul and Walter have much left to delve into, but where this source material will come from remains to be seen. Though hesitant at first, I’m now intrigued by how the show is fleshing the character out.
From first to worst pretty much sums up my thoughts on the Gina (Dianne Wiest) episode this week. The relationship laden with so much dramatic potential last week felt merely weighted down this week. Evidently, the deconstruction of one Paul Weston is not as fulfilling as I previously imagined it would be and what once seemed promising now seems pedantic.
Forgive me, if you will, for being not even a little bit interested in the Tammy Kent-laden back story. Beyond the fact that last week’s meeting was so much unbelievable happenstance, but the fact, now, that she played a KEY ROLE in Paul’s adolescence and upbringing just smacks of complete implausibility. How fortuitous that she happened to occupy the appointment time directly before his!
I understand that his childhood holds the key to what makes Paul who he is: the savior complex, the complicated women, the fear of walking in his father’s footsteps, but I just can’t bring myself to care. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the show. Perhaps this is a testament to me writing the review after a week of mulling the episode in my head. Or perhaps the show is just really fumbling this storyline. You tell me.
1. I’m probably the only person in the world that read it in this fashion, but the first time I watched the episode, I was convinced that April was intimating that she and Kyle slept together. I changed my mind after further review, but still can’t shake the feeling that more may have happened there. What say you?
2. I really, really, really hope Paul keeps that turtle. Perhaps they can be partners in whatever 70’s cop show that In Treatment’s score seems to be aping.
3. Standout performance this week has to go to Hope Davis. Never has crazy looked so good. Agree?
4. Is wardrobe intentionally dressing Bess in the same pomegranate color each week? What is that about? Am I supposed to be inferring something from this? Perhaps she’s a wee bit OCD and Wednesday’s are pink day.
Libby Hill is a psych student and co-host of the podcast TV on the Internet.