If someone were to tell you to check out a show where each episode had only two characters, and they spent the entire time talking to each other in the same room, would you be inclined to follow up on their recommendation? I hope so, because that’s exactly what I’m about to tell you!
In Treatment is an HBO production starring Gabriel Byrne as a seasoned psychotherapist named Paul Weston. In each episode, we find ourselves as flies on the walls of his office, watching his incredibly intimate and realistic relationships with complex individuals. It is one of my favorite dramas ever – and as I said, each episode features two characters. I can’t imagine how challenging that must be for Byrne and his counterparts; it’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but what a masterpiece it is.
What I especially love is Paul’s character – he is so good at what he does, and he has this unbelievable ability to listen to his patients and draw connections in their lives, and truly help them on a deep level with whatever they’re dealing with.
However, he’s also just as flawed as his own patients, you might say. Once a week, he visits his grad school mentor, Gina, and seeks out his own therapy — the complexity of his character balances his skill and his art as a healer of others. One time during a session with Gina, he grapples with the seeming dissonance of helping others while dealing with his own tremendous life problems. Gina poignantly points out that he is a professional who has a sharp set of binoculars with which to see others. But, the very functionality of binoculars is to look outwards – and thus it is impossible for him to look at himself with the same lens and cure himself. That’s really stuck with me; as an impending grad student in Marriage & Family Therapy, I often have the same insecurities – how can I help others, when I might have just as many problems as my future patients will be? This show provides an incredible glimpse into the world of therapy, and really enlightens the audience of its usefulness.
Moreover, the acting and characters are superb. I just finished the latest season – the second, and I’m convinced that all of the actors deserve Emmy recognition. The first season was equally as well-acted and well developed, but this one holds a special place in my heart.
Generally speaking, the format of the show is as follows: Paul meets with a patient for a session – it is ‘supposed’ to be 50 minutes long, but for the sake of the show it is actually about 25 minutes. For the entire time, they delve into the patient’s past, and work to create a bond. It’s full of laughter, anger, tears, and enlightenment. I can’t really explain it in words, what happens in the room, but it’s transfixing. In season 2, the patients were:
April (Allison Pill), 23, dealing with an unbearable diagnosis, and with the possibility that her life might not go the way she planned. She also struggles with the need to save her family from worry and take responsibility for her autistic brother.
Walter (John Mahoney), the CEO of a company that’s heading for a very public demise. He’s dealing with a lifetime of guilt and unfathomable burden, and comes to grips with the fact that he’s entering the later stages of his life without really knowing who he is.
Oliver (Aaron Shaw), a 12-year old who’s dealing with the confusing world of his parents divorce, whereas his parents are coming to terms with their decisions and their insecurities of raising their son.
This show is a gem, an emotional powerhouse, and a triumph to all of the talented artists involved. I really recommend it to you – whether you start from season 1 or 2, you’re in for a fantastic theatrical performance that will stay with you for years. From what I’ve heard, season 3 has just begun filming and will be out later this year. It will star Amy Ryan (The Office), Debra Winger, and others, opposite Gabriel Byrne.