In Treatment: Season Two

In Treatment: Season Two
Despite sticking to the same format of season one — voyeuristically observing therapy sessions with a handful of patients over the period of seven weeks — this second season of HBO's deceptively simple drama has a strangely defeatist, distancing feel. Perhaps it's Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne), who starts out this year recently divorced and being sued by the family of a deceased ex-patient. He's lethargic and hesitant, afraid of repeating the mistakes he made in the past. Adding insult to injury, his Monday patient is Mia (Hope Davis), an old student he inadvertently knocked up 20 years prior, whose awkward jabs at romantic affections are only exacerbated by the fact that she works at the legal firm representing him. She challenges his identity each week, taking jabs at the shambles his life has become while detailing her promiscuities and anxieties about missed opportunities. Mia isn't a particularly likable character, spewing her predatory, salacious desires, hoping to usurp ethical boundaries, which might account for some of the modified tonality. Although, April (Alison Pill), Paul's Tuesday session, is infinitely identifiable and unique, embodying an INTJ sensibility via her refusal to seek treatment for her recently diagnosed Lymphoma, unable to give up any form of control. Her intelligence and observable defences are contrasted with painfully insecure, overweight child Oliver (Aaron Grady Shaw), whose overeating and social awkwardness stem from a belief that his separated parents don't want him. Paul discusses these cases, along with surly, patronizing CEO patient Walter (John Mahoney) on Fridays with his therapist Gina (Dianne Wiest) while also trying to piece together his non-existent relationship with his father and the lifetime of guilt with which his manipulative mother saddled him. When it comes down to it, the issue with this season may very well be that our depressed, middle-aged protagonist is the only real patient; he screws up with April and Mia, preoccupied with his needs and work-life balance issues. Where season one felt like an exploration of several different, complex personality types, this grouping of characters appears to exist only to reinforce the fragile consciousness of Dr. Weston. Fortunately, an intense performance from Alison Pill as a young woman incapable of showing weakness in the face of mortality makes up for this strained overall contrivance. Unfortunately, no supplements are included with the DVD set. (Warner)