Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tube Steak: "In Treatment", You've Still Got It

The second season of "In Treatment" has been every bit as compelling as the first, with Gabriel Byrne's Dr. Paul Weston descending further into his brokenness as he has removed himself from his home and family. Perhaps the most interesting development of this second season has been how he has let his patients into his life as his family structure--fractured as it may have been--has all but evaporated.

Coming off of a tumultuous year in which he fell in love with a patient, was sued for malpractice by the family of another, divorced his adulterous wife, and moved to Brooklyn from his suburban Maryland home. Having nearly blown up his life, it would seem that the writers wanted to test out John Donne's notion that "no man is an island, entire of itself."

Within the dynamic of this season, Paul is seeing patients that seem to address his own need to supplant his estranged family with one comprised of patients. Paternal instincts come to the fore heavily in the April and Oliver sessions. Mia finds new ways to try to draw Paul into her life as a husband figure. There are maternal qualities to his relationship with Gina.

Most importantly, from these small segments of people's lives, once-a-week therapy sessions, the audience is given gifts. Like in Week Four, two episodes after having to move a Mia session to the other room from the dining room and implying her want for the session to occur in there was motivated by wanting to feel special, he brought Oliver--who felt unwanted by his parents and had stopped eating because kids at school (and his father to a lesser degree) were calling him fat--into the kitchen (and into his world) to have a sandwich. If anything can be made of the parentheticals and tangents in that prior sentence it is that the show is rife with subtext.

There is so much going on in each episode--the week's events in each patient's life being uncovered, the patient's past affecting their every decision--that it really is like a mystery every week, as Terry Gross got to on Fresh Air earlier this week.

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