‘In Treatment’: Week two in review

Week two of “In Treatment” is in the books, and I have a review coming up just as soon as I have a fridge full of soy products…


“I am beginning to regret that I requested you to speak more.” -Sunil

Paul Weston is a therapist who will break a boundary or twelve. In the first season, he pondered an affair with Laura. In the second, he took April to the oncologist and took Oliver into his kitchen to give the hungry kid some food. So it’s not exactly shocking to see him breaking his own rules left and right with Sunil – letting him smoke in the office, opening up a little about his divorce – but it’s worth asking why he’s doing it so frequently for this particular patient.

Part of it, I suspect, is that Paul sees something of himself in Sunil, who’s also unhappy but can’t quite articulate it, and who has trouble sleeping. Part, though, is that, as we talked about last week, Sunil comes from a cultural place where he’s very resistant to traditional therapy, and is in a personal place where there’s not a whole lot Paul can do for him. No matter what’s accomplished in that room, Sunil’s wife will still be dead and he’ll still be living with his son and daughter-in-law. So under those circumstances, it’s maybe not so surprising that Paul would bend his own rules to make Sunil as comfortable as possible.

Sunil’s still not opening up, but we can already see some problems beyond the external ones. The story of seeing Julia in the towel brings to mind her comments last week about feeling uncomfortable with the way he looks at her, for instance. She’s thus far been presented as the villain in his story, but is it possible that he did look at her too long in that bathroom, that his son is right to call him jealous, that when he says Julia reminds him of his wife (and vice versa), it’s not just frustration with the differences, but perhaps appreciation of them?

Still, as with Walter last year, this is going to be a long and tricky process, because Sunil will shut himself down the moment the conversation goes in a direction he doesn’t want to travel, like when he goes silent after Paul asks if he ever wished for something more in life. He says he was right to choose duty over passion, but maybe he’s just spent a long time convincing himself of that, just as he said it took him a while to come to love his wife.


“God, sounds like we’re in a relationship or something.” -Frances
“Therapy is a relationship.” -Paul
“Then you’re getting the short end of the stick on this one.” -Frances
“Why?” -Paul
“All of the crazy. None of the sex.” -Frances

Where Paul willingly breaks down barriers with Sunil, he keeps trying to hold them up with Frances, who keeps trying to act too familiar because of what her sister knew about Paul 18 years ago. But Frances doesn’t want to play by the rules, having lied to Paul about getting her sister’s permission to see him.

Despite my love of Debra Winger, the France episodes remain this season’s weak spot, because it doesn’t feel like there’s any mystery or subtext. Sunil doesn’t want to reveal much of himself, and Jesse reveals so much that it’s hard to sift through it all and figure out what’s important, and both are struggling to deal with their feelings. With Frances, it seems obvious – to Paul, to us and even, to an extent, to her – what her issues are. She’s very much aware of the part she’s supposed to be playing here, which makes everything feel oddly artificial.

Maybe there’s more to her story that I’m just not seeing at this point, but right now the greatest value of these episodes comes from the little pieces of Paul’s story, like seeing him silently go through his neurology exam.


“When Marissa looks at me, all she sees are two strangers fucking.” -Jesse

Jesse’s also trying to break down the doctor/patient barriers, but Paul’s not having any of it, refusing to discuss Max with him, and mostly maintaining his composure when Jesse threatens to throw the bronzed baby shoes through the window.

As mentioned above, the Jesse sessions are all over the map, but it makes sense. He’s a teenager, and he’s taking Adderall (though maybe not as often as he should), and he’s gay, and his parents don’t necessarily approve, and he’s just been contacted by his birth mother. Add all those up and of course he’s going to bounce from topic to topic, mood to mood, getting defensive at times, attacking at others, and occasionally being brutally honest with himself and/or Paul.

All the actors on this show are great, but Dane DeHaan was the only one I didn’t know going in, and like Mia Wasikowska in the first season, he’s absolutely justified the creative team’s faith in him.


“I think I’m becoming my father.” -Paul

I can absolutely see Paul becoming a cautionary tale character in Gina’s book. If you just spell out the things he’s told her over the previous two seasons, that’s territory too fertile or embarrassing for a first-time novelist to leave out.

Adele, on the other hand, does not seem like the sort who would ever write such a book and include one of her patients in it in this way. We don’t know much about her, both because she’s new to Paul and plays things closer to the vest than old chum/mentor/supervisor/frenemy Gina did, but she already seems to be the perfect therapist for him. She calls him out on his BS when she has to, but also knows when to hang back (note how she caps her pen and puts her pad away as Paul begins to open up about his fears), and has in two short sessions figured out how to relate to this guy. It’s a great dance between these two.

My only complaint with the Adele episodes is that Paul keeps bringing up how youthful she looks as a way to attack her credibility when she’s annoying him. I think Amy Ryan looks fantastic, but she also doesn’t look significantly younger than her 40 years. I can see how to a man pusing 60 like Paul, a 40-year-old might seem like a baby, but mostly in those moments I keep imagining them having been written for a different actress. Which feels wrong, because what part would Amy Ryan not be perfect for?

What did everybody else think? 

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