‘In Treatment’: Week one in review

I gave a general review of “In Treatment” season three over the weekend, and I said my approach to reviewing each week was going to be to offer brief sketches of the four episodes after they all air. So thoughts on week one of Paul Weston’s new year coming up just as soon as I sound like Miriam Webster…


“But this is not math. This is the furthest thing from math. It is only a feeling. And sometimes, it is only a blankness.” -Sunil

I talked in that review about how there are some commonalities between this year’s other patients and some of the ones from seasons past, but it didn’t occur to me until afterwards that Sunil qualifies, too.

He’s this year’s Oliver – sort of.

Sure, he’s an older immigrant widower and not an inarticulate preteen, but there’s still a sense – at least from him – that his problems are actually caused by a life-changing family event (for Oliver, his parents’ divorce; for Sunil, his wife’s death) and the insensitive people who are his caretakers. The Sonya Walger character in particular treats Sunil like a petulant child, and Sunil lives down to her expectations with the somewhat childish approach of refusing to speak English in her presence.

It’s a long, deliberately uncomfortable preamble to the actual therapy, and Irrfan Khan makes the most out of his character’s long silences and his distant body language. And then once the son and daughter-in-law leave, Sunil switches to Paul’s native tongue and tries to suggest that he has another problem that Paul is just as incapable of solving: he wants his wife back. He’s obviously also depressed, and Julia implies that there’s more than culture clash in the tension between the two of them, but his “prescription” for happiness – a return ticket to an India where his wife was still alive – seems an entirely sensible, if unattainable wish, no?

Also, “In Treatment” is generally not a light show, but I laughed quite a bit at Sunil’s deadpan discussion of how he’s disposed with his meds. (“It is the most happy flower, Dr. Weston. It’s flourishing.”)


“Sorry. I haven’t been here even five minutes and I’m already a parody of myself.” -Frances

Debra Winger is a great, great actress whose career didn’t turn out the way anyone might have hoped when she burst on the scene in the early ’80s, and I’m glad to have her back in a significant role, when she’s either been taking tiny parts (like in “Rachel Getting Married”) or not acting at all the last few years.

On the other hand, there’s something that feels, as the quote above suggests, a little too obvious about casting her as a once-famous (albeit not, as Paul notes to Adele, as famous as she thinks she was) actress making a comeback, dealing with many of the familiar concerns and neuroses we’ve seen in stories of actresses of a certain age.

Unsurprisingly, the parts of the Frances story that interest me most have less to do with the state of her career, and with her problem remembering her lines (a crisis with a deadline, ala Walter’s sleeplessness last season) than with her family issues, and the odd proxy connection she has with Paul, who used to treat her dying sister. As with Mia last year, Frances knows more about Paul than a patient probably should, and given the problems Paul generally has with maintaining professional barriers with his patients, this could get weird.

And though the hand tremor was introduced in the teaser to the Sunil episode, it’s only after hearing of Frances’ reluctance to get the breast cancer gene test that Paul finally decides it’s time to find a neurologist to see if he, like his father, has Parkinson’s.


“All I hear is static.” -Jesse

Paul Weston, whatever his problems both personal and professional, is good with kids. Not necessarily his own kids (and Max’s arrival at the end of the Adele episode should complicate things), but the one episode each week where you can feel confident Paul will be on his game is the one with his youngest patients.

Jesse, though, seems like he’s bound and determined to make it tough for Paul to make the usual connections. He pushes Paul’s buttons, keeps changing the subject whenever Paul takes the conversation somewhere he doesn’t want to go (which is pretty much everywhere), even suggests Paul has an unhealthy, unprofessional interest in his sex life. (And it’s there that Paul finally asserts control over the session, recognizing that he can only let the kid push him around too far before the doctor/patient relationship won’t work.)

I also like that we’re entering Jesse’s therapy in the middle. The first season’s patient roster was divided evenly between people Paul had been seeing for a while and those who first came into his office at the same time we did. Season two, because of the nature of Paul’s move to New York, started off with four brand-new patients, and while those were all strong stories, something felt off about them all starting in the same week. I’m glad that at least one of these has been going on for a little while before we got to eavesdrop on the conversation.


“I’ve been over this again and again with one of the best analysts on the East Coast. I do understand it all. There’s really nothing more for you to contribute to that.” -Paul

Though Gina was more stable than Paul, there was always something not quite right about their therapeutic relationship in the first two seasons, and it takes Paul Weston newbie Adele to point it out.

It’s funny in a way to have Amy Ryan playing the character pointing out the many different, at times conflicting, roles Gina was playing in Paul’s life, given that Ryan has established herself in the last few years as an actress who can essentially do anything, from “Gone Baby Gone” to “The Office.” Here, her job is to play detached observer – the person who doesn’t know about Paul and his drama (aside from the bullet points he gives her halfway through the session), isn’t responding to past encounters or crossed boundaries, and just sitting back and letting this agitated man reveal himself to her. She’s, unsurprisingly, terrific, and the dynamic between them is already very differen from the Paul/Gina one (though there were a few different Gina episodes where Paul showed up insisting he wasn’t interested in a therapy session, then had one, anyway).

And though Dianne Wiest isn’t in the cast this season, I like the idea of Gina continuing to have a presence in Paul’s life via the book that he takes as a roman a clef about their professional relationship.

What did everybody else think? 

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