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In Treatment: Season Two - dramatic television series DVD / drama DVD review
IN TREATMENT: SEASON TWO Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, Hope Davis, Alison Pill, John Maloney, Aaron Grady Shaw
  Studio: HBO Home Video
DVD release: 12 October 2010   Runtime: 870 minutes
(7 discs)
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, Closed-captioned, NTSC
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo - Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish)

Gabriel Byrne and Aaron Grady Shaw in *IN TREATMENT: SEASON TWO*Season two of In Treatment has done something unusual for a television series: it has outstripped the first season with its writing. The actors are in better possession of their characters, the scripts are incredibly well done, and the mysteries that fuel the ongoing story and relationships are so well thought-out that there is rarely one that doesn't have surprising twists. These aren't your average predictable whodunits.

Irish-born actor Gabriel Byrne heads up a diverse cast as the "shrink", Paul. Mia (actress Hope Davis) is the lawyer who feels she was abandoned by him in her early 20s and has a hugely toxic personality. April (Alison Pill) is the college student who comes to his office because she's got cancer and doesn't feel that she can tell anyone. Oliver (Aaron Grady Shaw) is a sixth-grader whose parents are divorcing, and they've brought him in to try to help him handle the changes - their story is like a train wreck in the making, with two selfish parents who don't want to be parents and a neglected caboose of a kid stuck in a lousy situation that only continues to worsen. CEO Walter (John Maloney) reluctantly appears at the request of his wife and gradually spills that he isn't sleeping but is drowning in extreme stress and unresolved childhood issues. Dr. Weston's week wraps up with a session of his own with his mentor and fellow psychologist, Gina (the incomparable Dianne Wiest). These experiences are peppered with tidbits about the case against him, and his role of responsibility in the ex-patient's death - Paul's depositions, his fears, his worry that he may have actually contributed unintentionally.

These are the nuts and bolts of the show, but those words really say nothing about the interpersonal relationships that are painstakingly constructed. Each week, Paul has a brief period of time in which to listen, learn, and try to earn the trust of his patients to ease their suffering. What we learn in his sessions with Gina is how broken he himself is, and how painfully important it is for him to help his patients - and how uncertain he is of his own ability to be of use to them. In one session with Gina, he mentions a time in his youth when "everything in my house felt like a movie," when recounting a time with his high school sweetheart, a time when his father was leaving home and his mother was severely depressed. It is fascinating to see the therapist in therapy. Paul's life goes through some events that make his life unrecognizable for a time and which deeply affect his patients as well as his estranged family. Gina sees him through all of this, including his concern that, because his life is not in order, perhaps he should not be a psychotherapist.

Subtleties abound in the way he communicates with his patients. The physical acting gets under the skin while watching, evoking a primal response. When Paul experiences a life-changing event of his own, he seems to visibly age, appear worn, exhausted, sagging. Byrne is simply an incredibly accomplished actor who truly owns the character he puts on. His Irish accent grows thicker, stronger, as he becomes emotional - in the sessions when he is the therapist for his own patients, he barely has a discernible accent. It is very interesting to see another side, a more human view, of him as he loses that control in his own sessions. They delve into issues of mortality and his own childhood, although these are the very issues he stubbornly hates to examine. These episodes are the hardest to watch, and make us think the most.

The two main settings - his office/apartment and Gina's place - are meticulously constructed, right down to the last chaotic, personal detail. The blanket on the back of her sofa is crooked in some episodes. The knick-knacks in his office are somewhat unorganized, as does he appear to be - and then shocks patients with his nearly perfect recall. Her office is brightly lit; his is very dim. It's all very serious and profoundly intense, delving into the most complex, immoral, unstable or shameful emotions that we, in society, are taught to hide. In these spaces, the characters must unlearn that skill and lay themselves bare.

No special features are offered, but there are subtitles. In Treatment's second season stands alone, for better or for worse, with nothing but the music woven through it to offer explanations and hidden meanings. . The set-up is excellent - we get to see seven weeks of therapy. Each disc is a week, and each week sees one day of each patient.

While In Treatment is beautifully done, it is emotionally provoking and exhausting to watch. To watch exceptional scripting and acting is to feel, and to feel what is portrayed here is to begin to feel a bit crazy, too. Life, death, cancer, pregnancy, divorce, childhood, parenting, sex, friendships, families - life is messy, and with it, the emotions are messier. The natural ebb and flow of life is brilliantly evident through In Treatment. if hopeless. Gina offers one bit of near-optimistic wisdom: "Love is the only thing that has a chance against death."
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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