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April 16, 2014

'In Treatment' Season 3 Review: The Therapist Will See You Now

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 25th 2010 5:00PM
Those of you with HBO may not be aware of the full array of benefits that you get when you subscribe to the pay channel.

For instance, you get therapy several times a week, in easily digested half-hour chunks.

'In Treatment' (9PM ET, HBO) is back, and it's as addictive as ever, especially now that Gabriel Byrne, who plays empathic shrink Paul Weston, has terrific actresses like Debra Winger and Amy Ryan to spar with.

If you're at all inclined to probe or analyze your own feelings or scrutinize the emotional arcs of your own life, it's impossible not to identify, at some point, with Weston or his patients, all of whom struggle with difficult truths and painful emotions. 'In Treatment' continues to prove, as it did in its first two seasons, that two people talking in a room -- provided those conversations are written and acted with consummate skill -- can be more engrossing than just about anything else on TV. Even shows that are more fanciful or stylized hold fast to the truth that the greatest revelations come from within our hearts and minds, not from space ships or smoke monsters (as much as we may love them).

This year, there are four half-hour episodes per week (two air on Mondays, two air on Tuesdays). The first three half-hours chronicle Paul's ongoing sessions with three different patients, and the final one allows the audience to see Paul's weekly sessions with his own therapist.

Even if you don't care for any of the other patients -- and it's impossible not to pick favorites every season -- at least try to check out Paul's weekly session with his new therapist, Adele. Amy Ryan, who plays Adele, and Gabriel Byrne are simply extraordinary together. This might be the best sparring we'll see on HBO until 'Game of Thrones' debuts.

'In Treatment' doesn't go in much for humor, aside from the occasional witty remark. But there is a great irony contained within this series: Paul is an acutely understanding and insightful therapist, and he often helps patients make connections and gain insights that they desperately need in order to move forward with their lives. Yet he himself is often a very difficult patient.

Paul's first visit to Adele is a gem; like the best 'In Treatment' episodes, it's a clever, emotionally acute, smartly written one-act play with a well-constructed beginning, middle and end. And it shows Paul at his worst: He's arrogant, peremptory, condescending and unable to accept the idea that his chronic sleep issues or his mixed-up relationship with his former therapist would benefit from a great deal more scrutiny.

In her own quietly determined way, Adele gives Paul as good as she gets, absorbing his gibes about her youth and letting his implied judgments about her lack of experience roll off her back. Slowly but surely, she crawls inside his head and gets him to wonder about some of the things he "knew" he had already figured out. Some of Paul's bluster masks a deep-seated fear about his own ineffectiveness. At 57, he's wondering how much, if any good he has done in his life. He's as much in need of reassurance as some of his patients, but his hero complex won't allow him to see that clearly.

Ryan's film and television characters have tended to be meek, indecisive or lacking in self-esteem, but Adele, who sits in a sunny, spacious office that is the opposite of Paul's earth-tone lair, is controlled, thoughtful and supremely intelligent. Patience and tenacity are Adele's chief weapons against Paul, who, as we see in little scenes here and there, is still dealing with the painful aftereffects of his recent divorce.

Debra Winger has the flashiest part as Frances, an actress who come to Paul when she begins to have trouble remembering her lines. As Paul later tells Adele, she's "about what [he] expected" -- narcissistic, a bit mannered, unable to resist playing the starring role. Other patients include a gay teen with promiscuity problems and a grieving Indian widower who is living in empty life in a spare room belonging to his son and daughter-in-law.

It's always too soon to tell in the first couple of weeks which patients stories will end up being the most gripping, but after two previous seasons of 'In Treatment,' some things are pretty safe bets. Byrne will continue to make reacting and listening interesting, the insights he shares about his patients at his own sessions will sometimes be surprising, and his evasions and conclusions about his own difficult life will be self-congratulating, engaging and sometimes quite moving.

With the smallest moments, Byrne can fascinate -- there's a moment in Paul's first session with Adele in which he pauses before answering a question, and it's as if he's sucked all the air out of the room. The sarcastic and confused Jesse becomes a different person for a few seconds after Paul, at one key point, tells him quietly but forcefully not to speak to him disrespectfully.

It's a masterful performance, as ever. And season 3 promises equally rich performances from this year's promising cast.


Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Prissy987

I have followed this series and am looking forward to this one. I love Gabriel Byrne..

November 01 2010 at 11:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KathyB

Not a faithful view of season one. Got hooked during season two. Have seen first two new shows so far. Will be back. Looking forward to Amy Ryan, but then the therapist/therapist dynamic is just different.

DVR makes life simpler for me as I have shows that only I can't miss. Need not share.

October 27 2010 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Malfoy Roark

I hope this season is closer to the 1st season than the 2nd. The 2nd while good did not come close to touching the excellence that was the 1st season.

October 25 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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