Friday, October 29, 2010

Back In Treatment 3.1.1-2: Bengali Candy, Twitter, and Superb

In Treatment's back on HBO for its third season - and, significantly, its first with totally new stories (the first two seasons were American adaptations of Be'Tipul, the Hebrew name of the series that originated in Israel and played there for just two years).  So, when I say the first two episodes were superb, that's high praise indeed, because an original story is always more of a challenge than an adaptation of a proven winner, though that's no piece of cake, either.

And the first two episodes were fine, indeed - the same deep, cool, drink of the human intellect and our undeniable capacity for rationality, the same mix of emotion and warmth and heartfelt soul, the same welcome respite from all the smack in your face violence of most other shows on television (which I admit I like a lot of, see what else I review here) - in other words, the same unique, narrative power  of the past two years.   And as in the last two seasons, the acting in these first two episodes was outstanding.

Sunil in the first episode is an appealing, original character, an Indian man living with his son and unhappy daughter-in-law and their children in New York.  Sonya Walger plays the daughter-in-law, down to just one major role in a television series after her double billing last year in Lost (Penny!) and Flashforward.   Irrfan Khan (he played the cop in Slumdog Millionaire) looks a bit too young for the part of Sunil, but gives a quiet, convincing portrayal, replete with deftly unwrapping and putting in his mouth "his favorite Bengali candy" (as his son tells us) and deftly wrapping and putting in his mouth some kind of cigarette.  Paul lets him smoke - daughter-in-law hates it but she's left the office - because Paul wants to make Sunil comfortable, and Paul still enjoys the smell of tobacco.

Debra Winger as Frances in the second episode is just great, as good or better than her fine recent work in the movies.   Her facial expressions are as good and multifaceted as her dialogue, which runs from challenging Paul (as his attractive female patients always do) to complaining about social media and her daughter "blasting evil shit on Twitter" about her.  (Paul sympathizes and admits to still having "a problem with email";  see my New New Media for more about Twitter and social media.)  And Debra's character is perfectly cast - an actress her age, worried about forgetting her lines.

But the deeper story of Frances intersects with Paul's personal life and history, and could be the real payoff this season:  Frances' sister Patricia was Paul's patient 18 years ago, and she now has Stage 4 breast cancer.   This of course is having profound impact on Frances, but it also deeply affects Paul - whether out of feeling he still has for an early patient, or of feeling he had especially for Patricia, is not clear - which makes for an intriguing story.

And Gabriel Byrne is as wonderful as ever as Paul, somehow managing to be strong, in command, vulnerable, and almost never petty.   And this season, in addition to everything else, he's worried that he may be experiencing early symptoms of Parkinson's, which his father had.    At the end of the Frances episode, Paul calls a doctor asks him for a "good neurologist"  (I've always found that usage amusing - who in their right mind would ask someone for a doctor who wasn't good?)

Off to an excellent start, and I'll be back here with another review after I've seen episodes 3 and 4.

See also Back in Treatment on HBO ... Back in Treatment: Three More Fine Times ... 2.1-2: Fathers and Daughters ...2.3-5: A Senior, A First Love, A Boy and His Turtle ... Sleep and Ethics ... In Treatment, In Retrospect

And Season One reviews: 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 ... 8. A Princely Performance ... In Treatment Concludes (For Now)









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