An unprecedented and innovative series sees HBO at its best
As technology becomes more readily available so too do its benefits. In film and television more advanced computer generated imagery, cameras and editing suites allow for more ambitious projects and everything tends to increase monstrously in scale. I suppose that’s one of the many reasons I found In Treatment to be so utterly refreshing in that it doesn’t try to do anything technically special but rather, boils drama down to its absolute purest elements, whilst trimming the surrounding and unnecessary fat. It probably has more in common with theatre than any modern television show and lets it face it; a lot of theatre is exceptionally boring. This makes it all the more remarkable that two people sitting in a room, talking for half hour ends up being so captivating.
As implied by the title, In Treatment is a show about people undergoing psychological treatment; our main character is psychologist Paul Weston, played incredibly well by Gabriel Byrne. It’s format is quite unique; five episodes aired per week, one every week day. Each episode would cover a single session with one of Paul’s patients. This resulted in a staggering 43 episode opening season, a tremendous workload for all involved. The show is based on the Israeli series BeTipul, so the foundations had already been laid for the team yet it was still a colossal task, placing a huge strain upon the writers and actors in particular.
Each character is so wonderfully developed and I found myself feeling immediately attached; it’s hard not to when you, as a viewer, are given what seems like a totally real and genuine insight into the inner workings of person, their positives and negatives. In the wrong hands, In Treatment would have been an absolute disaster. After all, let’s not forget that the show is essentially two people talking to each other for half an hour straight; there is no filler, there are no throwaway lines of dialogue. Everything counts. Thankfully HBO manged to assemble an all-star cast, both on-front and behind the camera. Of particular note is youngster Mia Wasikowska, an actress most of you will unfortunately know from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Here however she puts on one of best performances I’ve ever witnessed in any dramatic piece, whether it be TV or film, one which made me feel truly connected to her character. The rest of the ensemble cast is almost as spectacular, each one of them of easily award worthy.
It seems like, after three seasons the show has run its course, with HBO so far opting not to renew. It’s understandable, crafting a show of such complexity and elegance is no doubt a difficult task. While I bemoan the fact that we’ll likely never get new In Treatment, I feel like the way last season ended acted as a perfect series finale and was a logical stopping point. There’s nothing worse than seeing a show you love, with characters you care about, dragged through repetitive and increasingly uninteresting plot-lines only because some lazy executives want to continue maintaining their viewing figures. Few shows have the luxury of ending how their creators want them to and so while it has left a gap, proper closure in the world of television is such a rarity, I’m glad a show as mesmerizing as In Treatment was allowed an ending as poignant, thought-provoking, and affecting as the 105 episodes that came before it.