Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Treatment 8: A Princely Performance

Week 8 of In Treatment on HBO was it most powerful so far. (I may have said that before - but it's true.)

Although Alex's death was no real surprise - I saw it coming last week - I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. And the funeral scenes were just what the series needed. Paul and we get to see people for the names he and Alex had been discussing ... we meet Alex's wife, children, gay friends, and, of course, Alex's father. Laura's presence was also just right, and I thought she and Paul looked more comfortable together than any time before. Paul also seemed more human and real - a therapist grappling with his own feelings about his patient's death, but, in the end, just a human being, grieving like any of us for the loss of someone he cared about.

But, of course, Paul's feelings as Alex's therapist are what drives the story, and these come into full play in Tuesday's episode, when Paul gets a visit from Alex's father, played brilliantly by Glynn Turman (Mayor Royce on The Wire). This episode, propelled by Turman's performance, was the best single episode in the series so far, as father and therapist both contend with their intersecting guilt over the likely suicide of a son and patient. Turman's performance as Alex Prince, Sr. is so good he actually looks like Alex - I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Turman is actually Blair Underwood's father, or the two are otherwise related. That's a testament to magnitude of Turman's rendition.

Skipping ahead to Paul's session on Friday with Gina, we find that Paul indeed thinks that Alex took his life. Paul is in this session without Kate. He engages in his customary needling of Gina ... and Gina responds with a hurricane of revelation about what makes her tick. She wants to help Paul, but won't tolerate his painting her into a corner that doesn't jibe with who really is, or thinks she is. When it's over, it's clear that Gina may be more the powerful, intelligent, and better therapist than Paul. This was easily the best episode with Gina (and also a sterling, powerhouse performance by Dianne Wiest), and also one of the best in the series. And the permission that Gina gives Paul to explore and decide upon his relationship with Laura was appropriate - Paul can't rely on Gina to tell him what not to do - and promises a good finale episode with Laura this coming week.

Meanwhile, back on Thursday, Jake shows up without Amy - a part of me thinks that's a plus - and also gave us his best session so far. We finally get to see the combination of talent and insecurity that moves Jake, and Paul does a good job of bringing that out.

And, saving the best for last, it was great to see the progress Paul is making with Sophie. At the end of Wednesday's episode, Sophie seems to finally be allowing herself to have a relationship with her mother. Paul's work with Sophie is always a pleasure to see. As I've mentioned here before, he is at his best with her, because he is not conflicted by sexual attraction and possible love (Laura), competition (Alex), and a marriage in trouble (Jake and Amy) and all too reminiscent of his own.

This coming week's finales should be excellent. HBO has made a real contribution to the English-language television by re-doing this wonderful Israeli show here.

See also In Treatment on HBO ... 2. Scalding ... 3. Triangle ... 4. Love and Death ... 6. Paul's Greatest Strength ... 6. Paul's Boat ... 7. Alex in the Sky with Diamonds ... In Treatment Concludes: For Now






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more about The Plot to Save Socrates... good reading if you're in a doctor's office...


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