To be honest, I don't know how HBO keeps doing it. Over the past decade, they have been responsible for some of the finest programming on television, if not some of the finest series' of all time. From "The Sopranos" to "Deadwood," the network managed to deliver something new and wholly engrossing on a fairly regular basis. "In Treatment" is one of the newest series' from the network and it should come as no shock, that, even judging it's rookie season alone, is a series that will stand high on the list of shows from the network.
Unlike the hour long dramas many have come to expect both on HBO and on other network and/or cable channels, "In Treatment" is presented in half-hour installments. This first season is 43 episodes long, which seems like a beast of a season, but when you consider the runtime, it's obvious this is no longer a season than any other drama. The unique running time and episode count though, is essential in allowing "In Treatment" the freedom to do what it does so successfully.
Helmed by the brilliant, Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment" is a remake of an original Israeli drama. Byrne plays Dr. Paul Weston, a therapist living in Maryland practicing out of a home office. The series structure runs by "weeks;" five episodes gives us a look at five different therapy sessions. This pattern repeats until we reach the end of the season run. The show itself is not flashy or gimmicky in anyway (save for structure) and this allows it to highlight some phenomenal acting talent.
The standout here is Byrne; he helms each episode with great screen presence, but brings a different style to each episode, which corresponds to the interaction of Paul and his patients. The "weeks" close with Paul's own therapy with his former mentor, Gina (the always wonderful Dianne Wiest), and it's here where the heart and soul of this character come alive.
To understand the variety in performances, it's best to talk about Paul's four patients. On Monday's, Laura (Melissa George), a doctor, who over the course of therapy has developed an obsession with Weston, is the focal point. Of the four patients, this is set of sessions that I felt a bit of frustration with. The conflicts and developments that arise over the season involving Laura and Paul felt clichéd at first, but ultimately, was a necessary piece in order to further Paul's sessions with Gina. On Tuesday, Paul moves from the understanding listener to the investigator when he encounters a brash, pilot, Alex (Blair Underwood), suffering from bottled up emotion over a horrific mistake. Wednesday's, Paul shifts style again. Sophie (Mia Wasikowska), a possibly suicidal, star, teen gymnast, is the patient; this series of sessions are a highlight of the season as it shows just how great a therapist Paul is, despite his own growing doubts, when he is able to develop an amazing rapport with an emotionally fragile, young patient. Thursdays leave us with the one weak session, Amy and Jake, a volatile couple, initially seeking out Paul when the subject of abortion pops up.
Every one of these performances is amazing and real. Even Amy and Jake (Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles) are fascinating characters, despite their situation feeling like an old drama standby. As I stated before, Byrne shines with each of these changing sessions, going from the likable, but concerned child therapist, to the guarded investigator. Fridays though, Byrne shows his vulnerable side as we learn the same details of his life that he spends his working hours trying to fix for others. His sessions with Gina are intense and sometimes volatile, due to some unresolved conflict between the two. Wiest's portrayal of Gina is often brilliant, as we see traits in her analysis of Paul that Paul himself shows with his own patients. These subtle interconnections are a testament to not only the great cast, but also, the fantastic writing staff, who never seem to miss a beat, on any episode.
This first season of "In Treatment" has already been nominated for multiple awards, many of which focus on the brilliant performances from all cast members. Byrne himself, has won the Golden Globe for his role, and Dianne Wiest, picked up an Emmy herself. The show is in the midst of its second season now, and I can only imagine how amazing it must be. This series stands high on the ladder of great character dramas, and I dare say it ranks as one of the top three HBO series, even after only seeing this premiere season. If the quality continues, the series lifespan could be considerable.
"In Treatment' is presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is clear of any noticeable digital artifacts, however the overall visual look of the series is pedestrian. My suspicion is the drab, unimpressive visual style of this series is intentional, so the viewer is focused on the characters, rather than the setting.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital English audio track is what many would call unimpressive, but for a show centering on therapy sessions, it's just fine. Dialogue is crystal clear, and the system does show some life during the main title music and fantastic closing credits. A Spanish 2.0 track is included as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
"In Treatment" is a character driven series, like most of HBO's great shows, but it begins and ends with these characters. There are no great action sequences or multiple plotlines within episodes; you get great actors inhabiting roles that feel like real people and squaring off with raw, sometimes uncomfortable emotion. Some of these session arcs are so powerful, that you may find yourself wanting to revisit them sooner than you might expect. The only true disappointment with this release is the lack of extras; that aside, "In Treatment" is definitely worth your time. Highly Recommended.