I’ve been giving HBO a hard time ever since The Sopranos went off of the air, finding it hard to justify the $10-$12 I donate to the company’s coffers each month, and when I first saw the promos for In Treatment I didn’t hold out much hope that things were going to get much better.
Slowly but surly though the show has grown to become an addictive part of the week. Sure it helps that it’s on about five times a day but a show like this is worthy of praise.
If you’ve missed it, Gabriel Byrne, he of the mighty Irish brogue, treats four different patients, one each day of the week and then finds himself seeking therapy for his own failing marriage. The patients can be a bit of a cliche. There’s the non-functional fighter pilot, impotent and potentially gay (played by a terrific Blair Underwood, almost making up for his cameo on The New Adventures of Old Christine), a suicidal teen hiding a past that may include sexual abuse, a waring couple whose marriage becomes endagered after years of trust issues. Oh and there’s the thirtysomething bombshell who is in love with Paul and who Paul has fallen in love with.
The show would be just one long bitch-fest if not for the fifth therapy session of the week. Paul’s own treatment session with Dianne Wiest, his former mentor. The sessions between Byrne and Wiest are electric and both should start making room for the Emmy that will surly come to both.
Byrne has never been this good. He’s an absolute God in sessions with his patients and then turns into the greatest prick of all time in his own sessions as he attempts to justify his own ethically-challenged behavior. The central question here is whether or not Paul is a good therapist? Is he helping his patients to find their way in the world or is he simply too self-absorbad to be doing anyone, including himself, any good.
Byrne has created the least likeliest hero this side of Gregory House, but the underlying theme here is that maybe there are no heroes — no right paths in therapy — and the specter of two people, therapist and patient, clinging to one another as they try to make sense of their wounded lives is utterly riveting.