In Treatment: Season 1 - Review
Review by Jack Foley
HBO scored another massive critical hit with therapy drama In Treatment and it’s easy to see why.
Intelligently written, emotionally involving and expertly performed, it was another top-drawer production that deserved to find a much wider audience than it inevitably did.
Based on the hit Israeli drama Be Tipul, the series followed a therapist named Paul (Gabriel Byrne), whose patients are steadily becoming more than he can handle.
Each have their dark secrets, hidden traumas, and violent battles raging within, and included among them are Laura (Melissa George), who has fallen in love with Paul; Alex (Blair Underwood), an Iraq veteran re-examining his life; Sophie (Mia Wasikowska), a suicidal teenager; and Jake and Amy (Josh Charles and Embeth Davidtz), a picture-perfect couple whose relationship is in jeopardy.
This first series also finds Paul returning to therapy himself with an old colleague, Gina (Dianne Wiest), helping him come to terms with his mounting professional dilemmas.
In TV form, the series played out over five nights a week, for nine weeks, with Laura returning for a half an hour session each Monday and so forth… right up until Friday, when Paul took to the couch himself.
It did require a certain amount of devotion to stick with each night… but the rewards were great.
Rather like a series of one-act plays, each episode was dialogue-heavy and mostly unfolded within the confines of Paul’s office.
But like any really good play, the power of the actors to lock you into each scenario was paramount – and no one on In Treatment missed a beat.
Some sessions were, inevitably, lower key than others, paving the way for inevitable flare-ups and confrontations. But all hooked you in some way, while the flawed characters were consistently intriguing, not always likeable, but somehow always sympathetic.
George’s seductive temptress Laura was particularly good, consistently flirting with the married Paul, while recounting graphic details of her previous sexual encounters whenever the opportunity afforded. Clearly damaged goods, the sexual tension between herself and Paul was tantalising.
But Underwood’s brash air force pilot was one of the highlights – a formidable opponent for Paul, whose initial bravado and scepticism gave way to a highly tormented soul. It was expertly played, while his torment was brilliantly coaxed.
Wasikowska’s suicidal teen was, by turns, precocious and highly vulnerable and her father-daughter like bonding with Paul beautifully and sensitively played. You didn’t always like Sophie… but there were always reasons highlighted for her erratic behaviour.
And bickering couple Jake and Amy (Charles and Davidtz) always brought a lot of suppressed anger and volatility to the Thursday night sessions, and displayed a different kind of tension.
Paul, too, was prone to moments of fallibility. He got things wrong. His personal life was a mess. He took things out on his own therapist (played by Wiest). And he could be as selfish and foolish, on those Friday sessions, as he was wise and supportive and most other points of the week. Needless to say, it was a tour-de-force by Byrne.
Watching all the stories unfold, however, was a riveting and rewarding experience that gradually gave you more and more. Subtle, brave, provocative and poignant, In Treatment: Season 1 marks yet another must-see hit from HBO.
UK DVD Release: February 1, 2010