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In Treatment Season Three: Week Two

In Treatment has been a longtime favourite of mine, ever since its first season aired during the winter cold of the Writer’s Strike back in 2008. Every year, Gabriel Byrne‘s Paul Weston sits down with an all-star cast and slowly draws me into the complex lives of his patients. Every year its been a longshot to be renewed, and yet here we are.

My thoughts on the second week of the season after the jump…

Sunil, Week Two: Written by Adam Rapp, directed by Ali Selim. The simplicity of the narrative in the first episode is complicated quite a bit here, as much of what seemed obvious  last week is cast into a new light. There are hints here that Sunil’s overwhelming grief may not be, perhaps, because Kamala was the one true love of his life, and that there’s more of a sense of conflict between Sunil and his son.

The most interesting thing is the connection this episode makes between Sunil’s late wife Kamala and his son’s wife Julia (Sonya Walger). Though last week it seemed as if Kamala was his angel and Julia his devil, Sunil seems to have a more complicated relationship with his daughter-in-law. He mentions that he thinks of Kamala every time he sees Julia, and it doesn’t ring true when he says it is only because of their stark differences. In fact, their personalities might not be so different after all: Julia’s frustrations and stubbornness with Sunil recall somewhat the angered Kamala’s refusal to speak for an hour after meeting her. It seems very important that the last words that Kamala spoke sounded tonally similar to how Sunil reads his daughter-in-law’s approach to her son: in control of the marriage, the strong ‘in charge’ one.

Could Sunil’s contempt for his son’s marriage partly come from a reflection of his own? After all, Sunil and Arun are very similar, and Sunil initially assumed that the differences between them caused them to fall in love, which could reflect his own experience of love. There is definite evidence of parallel dynamics between Sunil/Kamala and Arun/Julia. If so, then the pattern Sunil shows of not addressing conflict directly could apply to his entire grieving process, offering a new perspective on his marriage. And it could be what tied into what Paul implies is a potential attraction on either’s end, as Sunil and Julia see a little bit of their spouses in each other.

Other than the new information, and implications, toward Sunil’s marriage, this episode continues the question of what Sunil is to Paul. Paul promises to avoid calling Sunil a patient, allows him to smoke, and even lets him call him by his name. He knows Sunil won’t confide unless there is an element of friendship there. That is sorely affected by how Paul handles the end of their session, breaking all of the unspoken (and one spoken) rules of their relationship, making me wonder whether Sunil will be more withdrawn next week. Sunil is somewhat reminiscent of, if anyone, season one’s Sophie: sarcastic, withdrawn, who gives Paul an inch for every mile’s worth of fight. And just like his relationship with Sophie, Paul has to draw Sunil out, knowing full well that the relationship is fragile.

Frances, Week Two: Written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Jim McKay. It seems that under Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman, one-dimensional seeming problems grow new complexities come week two. First the complication in the relationship between Sunil and Julia, and now an explicit look at Frances’ inferiority complex. It seems, to Frances, everyone always wanted something or someone else. The assistant director wants another actress, her daughter wants her sister for a mother, and her ex-husband wanted a younger woman. Paul notes her constant ‘pings’ to see his reaction to her, to see if she can ‘one-up’ her sister by winning over her therapist, which is worrisome – especially as Frances neglected to approach her sister about having therapy with Paul.

Jesse, Week Two: Written by Sarah Treem and directed by Jim McKay. Jesse, in the wake of the phone call from his birth mother, is trapped between the disappointments of his life and the promise he attributes to his potentially wealthy alternate one. He’s so angry at Marissa, his adoptive mother, for not caring about him, building her tests he knows she’ll fail, so he can run off with his imaginary perfect mother. The question, of course, enters the picture: how much of this dynamic with Marissa is real, and how much invented? I can’t help but recall the raging bitchmonster that Sophie’s mother turned out to not be, and Alex’s supposed cold-as-ice wife.

This is the second time that a younger patient has asked Paul to ask them “normal shrink questions”. I’m not sure if this was an intentional callback to Sophie or not.

We’re introduced to Nate, an athlete who Jesse’s had a fling with who he constantly lies to. We also learn that Jesse purposely leaves his cellphone mailbox full when he wants to protect himself from others’ attempts at communication, and is shocked and offended when someone uses his landline to approach him. He lies to everyone, and just as he uses his theatricality to control others’ perceptions of him, he does so by inventing histories for them, to gain their sympathy, to turn them on. One has to wonder if he’s ever lied to Paul to control their therapeutic relationship.

I have no idea how to read Jesse, or what the underlying issues are. Perhaps they’re obvious to others, but beyond the basics that the episode is downright telling us – he’s conflicted about his adoptive parents’ feelings towards him – I’m not sure where this is headed. I’m interested to hear more about Jesse’s adoptive father, though; he’s only come up once, in a key memory that seems to have fractured Jesse’s relationship with Marissa, and I’m intrigued.

Adele, Week Two: Written by new showrunners Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman and directed by Paris Barclay. Last week, Paul showed a remarkable amount of self-knowledge about his ‘in treatment’ persona, criticising his over-defensiveness with Gina in an attempt to warn Adele about what she was getting herself into. This week, we really begin to see Paul slip into old patterns: trying to control the session and tell Adele what he knows, personal attacks sheathed as advice, and a rock-solid faith in his own self-analyses. Frankly, Paul is ugly in these sessions, and it takes more effort on my part to sit through them than with the others.

But, that said, I do enjoy them. Why? Because Adele, at all times, has his number, and is slowly leading him to realise that the things Max is inheriting from his father, the things he’s actually worried about, have nothing to do with Parkinson’s. After all, anyone who’s watched the show through the seasons would have been able to answer the question about Paul’s happiness for him.

The last time we saw him entranced with potential was as he described his new romance with Wendy; before that, it was on the eve of his attempted advances on Laura, and even then, he knew he was making a mistake. He seems to lay all his dreams of happiness, of a new life, on the women he pursues, sadly.

As a patient, Paul is as frustrating as Alex, or Walter, or any other patient who walks into the room and tries to use their authority to derail the subject when things get too close to the bone. But perhaps Adele can help him in the ways Gina couldn’t, but leading him towards seeking a happiness greater than the beautiful young woman he’s pursuing.

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