Already, the pace of In Treatment’s second season is picking up, perhaps simply because they only have seven weeks of episodes to play with this year, not the nine of last year. In these second-week episodes, we’re getting to some breakthroughs that were only made after a few weeks of concentrated talk last season, particularly in the Mia and Walter episodes. Even if there was no episode with as much concentrated greatness as last week’s April episode, there was a lot to mull over here.
To the recaps!
Mia: “You owe me a child, Paul.” Uh oh. Mia, who probably seemed the most superficially together of Paul’s patients last week, now sorta seems like she’s the most obviously dealing with a lot of deep-seated and hard to root out issues. It’s a little easy to resist this story, simply because it plays off of a lot of clichés about how career women really, deep down, just want a baby. Fortunately, there’s a lot more going on with Mia than first meets the eye, and Hope Davis is playing even more subtext. (This episode actually seems to cut back to Paul realizing something about Mia quite a bit, so he’s probably drawing an even more accurate portrayal than we are.) The story seems to be heading to a revelation that Mia was abused by her father (especially since she seems to try to force the blame for her own choices onto everyone else in her life BUT her father), but it’s taking a few curlicues on the way there, which is welcome. Particularly well done is a monologue where Mia talks about going to visit her father’s store early in the mornings, which always seems like it’s going to spill into an admission of abuse, but never quite does, instead detailing the story of a morning when he was robbed. He tried to resist the robber but caved when the robber threatened Mia, and then she and her father spent the day together after he broke down weeping in her arms. I kind of hope this all ends up that Mia wasn’t abused, since that seems so obvious, but In Treatment, for all its virtues, almost never goes for the big twist, something that stems from its deliberate nature. Still, there’s a bit of a twist here as we discover Paul still DOES have his Mia notes from 20 years ago and, more importantly, what appears to be a classical music mix tape she made him. There’s more going on here than appears obvious right away.
April: There’s really nothing like the connection forged between two young 20somethings in love. Nothing can burn quite as hot or be as extinguished as quickly by the stupid actions of one party as such a connection. This week’s April episode, which is a bit of a step down from last week’s episode, mostly dissects her relationship with ex-boyfriend Kyle, now engaged to pompous rich girl Sienna, despite the fact that he and April are clearly still in love. April, you see, slept with his best friend, for no real good reason, other than the fact that she tends to push everyone away, even Paul. But because she has cancer, she needs to be pulling them closer. When Kyle finds out about her disease (he’s the first person she tells after she tells Paul), he offers to help her through her treatments, and she really wants to but is unwilling, simply because she’s not sure how to deal with him. April seems to have elements of disassociation, and at the end of the episode, Paul stops beating around the bush and suggests that her desire to avoid treatment is a form of very slow suicide. It doesn’t seem likely that April would take the initiative to kill herself on her own, but she might welcome such a disease as a way to call attention to herself, especially in a life where it seems like the gaze is always falling onto people like Sienna or her autistic brother, Daniel. Alison Pill’s work is still prickly and perfect (check out how she negotiates having Paul let her make a phone call early in the session), but the episode just couldn’t compete with last week’s cancer revelation. Still, we got to see Paul, now seemingly spooked by the thought of his patients killing themselves, take notes on the session, reversing an old habit.
Oliver: The Oliver storyline feels a bit too laden down with symbolism at this point, but this week’s episode was a step up from last week’s, especially as it showed us the center of the storm Oliver’s living at a little more thoroughly. But as much as I enjoy turtles, making one sort of a symbol for Oliver’s predicament (he always has to go wherever Oliver goes so he doesn’t die) feels like a bit of a stretch, though the device of the overloaded backpack (“I don’t know what I’m going to need,” Oliver says plaintively when his dad calls him on it) was a bit better. Since the Israeli series In Treatment is based on, Be'Tipul, originally used these sessions for a return of the characters who became Jake and Amy last season (as they dealt with how their separation was affecting their son), it’s interesting to see that Oliver’s mom seems as if she wishes the divorce were not happening, when Amy last season was the one who did the most to hasten the separation along. As with last week, the scenes where Paul and Oliver talked alone were stronger than the scenes with Oliver’s parents, though their fight over whether or not Oliver would be staying with his dad (who’s taken up with a new girlfriend, wounding his soon-to-be ex-wife) showed that Oliver has very quickly figured out how to navigate these tricky waters, as he reverses his policy of not staying with his dad to agree to stay there tonight. Oliver’s story is about a group of people who are all talking but not really listening to each other, and it’s hurting all of them more than they’re willing to admit, but it’s also the sad story of a very sad little boy who’s already picked on at school and now has to face his family falling apart. That the episode opens with all three listening to their individual iPods is noteworthy. None of them are really CAPABLE of listening to each other, the sort of thing that might let them be like the happy couple leaving Paul’s office, the one Oliver looks at in surprise, as though he’s suddenly realizing that there are other ways for families to live.
Walter: Walter continues to be a tough case, and Paul’s probably doling out the most actual insights for him, even as he seems to reject those insights. Walter’s story, superficially spurred by his fear of a corporate scandal that is cracking the front page of the New York Times, really stretches back to his childhood, when his brother drowned, disappeared and died, leading him to be unable to deal with anyone leaving him, no matter how briefly. (His story of his father taking him aside and seemingly asking the very young boy to completely step into the life of his more promising older brother was both eerie and seemed as if it might actually happen to some poor kid.) Watching Walter spar with Paul is not yet reaching the sublime level of some of the other patients, though I suspect it will pay off handsomely in the weeks to come. For now, though, the guy is too dedicated to not wanting Paul to read too much into things, something nearly impossible for a therapist to do.
Gina: It looks like we’re going to get the Paul Weston origin story via the Gina sessions this season, as Paul finally opens up to a real degree and talks about how his first make-out session (with the young Tammy Kent, now the patient Gina sees immediately before Paul) at a Christmas Eve party immediately preceded him finding his mother after her first suicide attempt. The ghosts of other patients, especially Alex and Laura, hang over the proceedings, as Paul tries to make sense of so much in his life and is forced to talk about himself for once, not the problems he’s having with other patients. What’s remarkable this season is just how ANGRY Paul seems in his sessions with Gina and how ably Gina exploits that anger to move him right along the path he needs to be on to get to the revelations he needs to make. It’s perhaps not as intense as the other episodes, but it’s nice that the show is finally giving us some insight into why Paul is the man he is and just where some of his intense desire to save everybody comes from.
Week 2 Average: B+
- Because I watched this on a terrible quality DVD screener (that I might get up the piece shortly after the East Coast broadcast ended), I was unable to make out what Oliver’s parents were listening to on their iPods. I don’t imagine this will lend any great insight into the minds of Luke and Bess, but I hope someone can enlighten me in comments nonetheless.
- Paul’s family turned up quite a bit, from Rosie showing up to remind us that Oliver’s not the only kid who wishes his parents would get back together to Kate turning up to confront Paul at his session with Gina. I also really liked the description of Kramer Vs. Kramer as one of Kate’s favorite movies. It says a lot about her and about how Paul views her, I think.
- There may be no series on TV that utilizes the nicely rhythmic sound of falling rain as well as In Treatment. Opening the week with Mia staring out at the rain falling on Paul’s Brooklyn street was a nice touch.
- Be'Tipul creator Haggai Levi directed a couple of episodes this week.
- I'm not entirely sure I dig the music they're using this season, which sounds like the score to a '70s cop show, particularly at the end of the Oliver episode.