thoughts on pop culture

In Treatment Season 3 Coming in 2010

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I’m in serious catch-up mode on my news feeds, and I can’t believe this gem has been sitting unread. Production is set to begin on a third season of HBO’s In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne as our favorite therapist. The caliber of acting and writing on this show is well worth the subscription to HBO, so I can’t wait for the show to come back next year.

Full Press Release at

UPDATE – No official date yet, but the latest information is that shooting will get underway soon, with the new season set to premiere in the fall.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Renewed, Television | , , | 1 Comment

In Treatment Season 2 Week 4

This week brought us two great episodes, two okay episodes, and one that I felt just went through the motions. If it hasn’t been obvious based on my last couple posts, I’ve become very partial to both April and Oliver. I understand they are the two most sympathetic characters this season, so I guess liking them is a bit of an easy out–but I don’t care. My biggest surprise so far this year is Walter. Maybe it’s because I was excited about John Mahoney joining the cast, but I was expecting Walter to be a great character. This week I thought he fell flat. There’s still time to improve though, so I’m reserving final judgement for the time being.

Mia’s session was productive, but frustrating to watch. Immediately upon entering, she proceeds to force her way into the kitchen, violating the boundaries Paul has established. Then she take pleasure in describing her tawdry weekend in graphic detail, including both anonymous sexual partners. At first it seems she’s trying to make Paul jealous, but then we find out she’s just trying to convince herself how exciting her life is and how she can still “go on a spree” as if promiscuous sex is like buying designer shoes. The best moments of this session were the ones following Paul calling bullshit and saying Mia just likes to think she’s special, tying it to her relationship with her father. Just before the session ends, Mia has an honest moment and admits to Paul that she doesn’t want to be alone.

April arrived for her session early, looking worse than last week when she hadn’t slept in two days. Right away, she makes a point to give herself an out by saying her brother is going to call and she’ll have to leave early. She also tells Paul she never had the conversation with her mother from last week. Paul tells April directly that he doesn’t want to waste what little time they may have left due to her cancer. He pushes April to contact him when she’s feeling depressed–his scars from Sophie are still showing. After discussing her mother and brother, Paul broaches the topic of chemotherapy. Naturally this is when Daniel calls. After she makes a frenzied call on her brother’s behalf, April faints briefly. When she awakens, Paul launches into a lecture about how she simply cannot take over everything. This angers April and she tries to analyze Paul, but only ends up admitting all of her own fears about what the chemo would do to her and how she will eventually succumb to the cancer. Paul assures April that he won’t hate her for the pain she could cause him personally. After April talks to her mother on the phone, Paul presses her so he can understand what about his office gives her the strength to deal with things–see admits it’s him, so Paul offers to go with her to begin the chemotherapy process. As they left the office, I realized that Paul will blur the boundaries of the office when he feels it’s the best thing for the patient.

Oliver’s session this week broke my heart. I was angry that Bess took up so much of the session, especially since she made the classic mistake of thinking that last week’s session had solved all their problems. Once she left, Oliver came in and told Paul that he’s tired of being fat and he’s quit eating. Paul is visibly uncomfortable at hearing this, but doesn’t press the issue when Oliver says he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. They discuss the adoption that Bess and Luke didn’t go through with, and Oliver expresses his concerns that he may be adopted as well. As they continue to discuss it though, Oliver says he actually wishes they would give him away too, so he could be with those who really want him. Luke isn’t there at the end of the session, so Paul asks if Oliver is hungry and invites him into the kitchen for a sandwich. Paul was once again breaking his rules for a patient who really needed it. It’s just plain sad that neither of Oliver’s parents has a clue about what’s troubling their son.

Before Walter’s session, Paul gets a call about his father’s condition getting worse and really lets his emotions out. None of those emotions make it to Walter’s session though, where Paul seems overly detached. After being forced to resign, Walter explains that the experience makes him feel like an old man.  I noticed that this was really the first time Walter has looked like an old man too, complete with Mr. Rogers sweater and a complete lack of the drive he’s had in the previous three weeks. Walter makes it very clear that he thinks retirement is equivalent to death, then explains to Paul that he blames himself for his brother’s death. Paul confronts Walter about this, and this time when Walter leaves the session in a hurry, it has nothing to do with work and everything to do with a desire to avoid facing his real problems.

After a rough deposition, a tense meal with Tammy, and an unsatisfying meeting with his daughter, Paul is running late for his session with Gina.  I’m amazed at the different Paul we see in these sessions. We seem him as the rock all week and with Gina he behaves like a child. He says he hates his life and admits to trying to use his patients to meet his needs. He also talks about Mia for the first time and comes across as a horny teenager. Gina notices and Paul quickly says he’s not in love with Mia and won’t be going down the Laura road again. After Tammy is brought up, there is a brief exchange about old flames that I’m pretty sure ended with Paul expressing regret for never having slept with Gina. I didn’t get long to dwell on this though, because Gina seized the opening to confront Paul about his daddy issues. In the end, that was enough to cause Paul to go see his father after the session, ending with a tearful apology to his unconscious father for placing all the blame on him.

Lead Actor in a Drama is probably the most competitive category in the Emmys, but I think Gabriel Byrne has a real good shot at taking the trophy this year. He has already shown incredible range this season, and I’m sure the best is yet to come. It may not be great for Paul, but the move to Brooklyn may be just what Byrne needed to fill his mantle.

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 4

In Treatment Season 2 Week 3

The unknown was a big part of what made the first season of In Treatment so good, so I’ve been a bit concerned that the second season would just give us the same basic characters again, just with different details.  The third week of this second season has started to fill in the lines of the new patients’ character sketches, and I’m happy to report that there is new ground ahead.

After week two, I was concerned that Mia was going to turn out to be just another patient in love with Paul.  But this week’s discussion about Laura, showed me exactly the opposite. As Mia described what she imagined Paul’s encounter with Laura to have been like, we can see that she is really describing the fantasy she had about Paul when she was 22. That small difference is what I think makes Mia a deeper character. The delight on her face when Paul played her old cassette betrayed her excitement about the possibility that Paul regrets passing up his opportunity with her. While she is mature enough to see how foolish her fantasy was, at the same time she is angry at her younger self for her lack of action. There is more conflict here than we ever got with Laura.

April is this season’s version of the Sophie, and Alison Pill has the biggest shoes to fill thanks to the unprecedented performance given by Mia Wasikowska last year. April is probably the least different of this season’s characters, but Pill’s portrayal is so genuine I’m not sure it matters.  The juxtaposition of total exhaustion and fiery destruction seemed like a preview of the range of emotions we can expect for the rest of the season. The most amazing thing is that it doesn’t seem like an act.

Bess and Luke would have been a boring version of Amy and Jake from season one if it weren’t for Oliver. Luke’s excuses and Bess’s passive-aggressive rants are just boring, but Oliver is something new. I mentioned before that my own experience as a child of divorce is a big part of the reason why I love this character. At this point, I can’t see anything wrong with Oliver. He just seems to be making himself neurotic by trying to please both of his parents. My heart broke when he fell asleep on Paul’s couch at the end of the episode, apparently Paul’s office is the only place where Oliver feels safe enough to rest.

If Mia is this season’s Laura, then Walter is the new Alex–and no, I don’t think Mia and Walter are going to fuck. Maybe it’s because I’m a lot more familiar with the corporate world than the military, but Walter is much more interesting to me. I think it’s pretty far-fetched to think a CEO would drop everything and travel around the world just to exert control over his crusading daughter, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief because of the interaction between Walter and Paul. Walter’s insistence on treating Paul like a servant will only go so far before Paul will lose his shit like he did with Alex. Part of me secretly hopes Walter will bring Paul an espresso machine.

Paul is also very different this year.  I’m not sure if it was one of his patients, his divorce, or maybe his sessions with Gina, but something has turned Paul into a man of action.  Last year he would have considered all the reasons in favor and against screwing his high school sweetheart, but here we are in week three and Tammy already spent the night. Surprisingly, Paul’s hour with Gina this week does not include any talk about Tammy, but focuses instead on Paul’s anger with his father. As he went on, I heard Paul express a lot of the same feelings that young Oliver is going through. That would certainly explain why Paul relates so well to Oliver. The closing moments of the session were interesting, with Gina saying very matter-of-factly that next week they would talk about Tammy.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 3

In Treatment Season 2 Week 2

Season two is starting to take shape after a second round of session this week on In Treatment.

Note – My day references are based on the session days within the continuity of the show, not the days in real life on which the shows aired.

On Monday, Mia came to Paul’s office for a session, and proceeded to blame Paul for everything in her life that hadn’t worked out in the twenty years since she was last his patient. It became obvious quickly that Mia’s doubts about her own choices were leading her to question Paul’s skills as a therapist. The session culminated with Mia making a point to mention how much money she makes, right before telling Paul he owes her a child for convincing her to get an abortion when she was 22. Mia’s position is absurd, but Hope Davis is doing an excellent job of portraying her. An actor has to be on top of their game on this show, and Davis really sets the standard. With the story told mainly through extended close-ups, extreme control over their emotional displays is key, right down to subtle facial expressions that often tell the story.

Tuesday brought another session with April, the cancer-stricken grad student. I thought this session really let us see Paul’s skills at work. Paul quickly addressed April’s hesitance to share anything at the start of the session, and then her emotions started pouring out. I liked the way Paul initially withheld the use of the phone, and then subtly gave April the phone as a reward after she started sharing. At the end of the session, we got a look at a nervous Paul insisting April not harm herself–it certainly showed us that Paul is still stinging from Sophie’s attempted suicide last year.

Oliver’s session on Wednesday was unfortunately dominated by his bickering parents Bess and Luke. Their exchange was pretty stereotypical, and was surpassed by the conversation in the early part of the session between Paul and Oliver. At first, Oliver’s talk about being fat was actually pretty hilarious, but it quickly turned heartbreaking as he shared what he had heard from the kids at school and even his own parents. Maybe it’s the young fat boy and child of divorce inside me talking, but Aaron Shaw delivered a very real performance this week.

Thursday began with Paul finishing up a visit with his daughter Rosie. She shared a spot-on observation about how Paul’s dedication to his patients (and the confidentiality required) are the cause of Paul’s lack of connection with his family and his resulting loneliness. Later on, Walter had a session where he mentioned several times that he mainly thinks of himself as a poor substitute for his older brother who died as a young man. As Walter insisted on paying at the end of his session, Paul’s frustration was palpable. I wasn’t surprised when it came up during his session with Gina the next day.

Paul’s session with Gina actually began with an ambush from ex-wife Kate that appeared to be nothing more than an excuse to get a couple digs in at his expense. Of course, it also allowed an awkward moment when high school sweetheart Tammy emerged from her session before Kate left. Once Paul went inside, Gina expertly maneuvered Paul into changing his mind completely about his need to go into treatment with her. One of my favorite things about the show is how Gina is the one person that Paul will fully open up with. He hides his vulnerability all week long, not just from patients but from his children and even his wife when he still had one. That doesn’t work with Gina though, and that is what makes this the perfect way to close the week. I think Paul needs his sessions with Gina if he wants to have any chance at succeeding with his own patients. It’s the only way he can get his own baggage out of the way. Speaking of, he certainly didn’t waste any time calling Tammy once he finished with Gina.

I really thought Hope Davis (Mia) and Gabriel Byrne (Paul) gave the stand out performances this week. As I mentioned before, Davis used a subtlety this week that allowed Mia’s true feelings to betray her false front through a series of expertly-executed movements and facial expressions. Byrne on the other hand, showed us a full range of emotions through this weeks episodes, from concern for April’s safety to disdain for Walter’s lack of respect for his skill as a therapist. I’m sure each character will take the spotlight at some point during the season, and getting a chance to see those performances is a big part of what keeps me coming back for more.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 2

In Treatment Season 2 Week 1

Before the premiere, I wasn’t sure how I felt about HBO’s decision to lump all five installments of In Treatment into two nights. After tonight, I’ve made up my mind.

We’ve only just met this season’s patients, so I’m not sure who I like most, and if the first season is any indication, I’m sure I’ll change my mind a few times between now and the finale. Based on the first five episodes, its a tie between April (Alison Pill) and Walter (John Mahoney), with Oliver (Aaron Shaw) next and Mia (Hope Davis) bringing up the rear.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the lawsuit takes its toll on Paul through the course of the season. His first conversation with Gina seems to indicate it’s going to tear him apart, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait to find out.

As for HBO’s scheduling decision, I love it. Thinking back to the first season, each week’s episodes had a natural ebb and flow that seemed to peak at each of Paul’s sessions with Gina, especially as the season drew to a close and Kate started coming along. I’m looking forward to the way this schedule will accelerate that cycle. I hope that will be enough for us to handle five days off before the next new installment.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Premiere, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Treatment Season 2 Week 1