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In Treatment Season 4 Fails to Analyze Its Therapist

Uzo Aduba provides a wonderful performance for a shallow character

Photograph by Suzanne Tenner/HBO

This article is intended for fans or anyone who at least finished In Treatment Season 4. If you know nothing about the show, feel free to watch it and come back here later. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea what I’m referencing. 

SPOILERS AHEAD 

I didn’t know In Treatment had a fan base. Hearing the series was coming back delighted me. Then I saw the trailer only to see it was a reboot. Skeptical, I approached In Treatment Season 4 from a fresh perspective. To my relief, the show worked. The patients were engaging, the central plight of the protagonist was relatable, everything seemed to work. Still, something was wrong. I never could put my finger on it until rewatching Season 4. It’s not the patients that are the problem. It had something to do with the therapist herself. And I’m not talking about Uzo Aduba’s performance, which is stellar. 

Uzo Aduba sits in a chair as the new doctor
Uzo Aduba as Dr. Brooke Taylor. Photograph by Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Where the New Dr. Works

Dr. Brooke Taylor (Uzo Aduba) isn’t what I was afraid she’d be: a recast of Gabriel Byrne’s Dr. Paul Weston. Instead, she’s an entirely different approach to therapy from the typical stoic figure sitting in the chair. Brooke oversteps her bounds as a psychoanalyst, sometimes saying more than is necessary.

Ms. Aduba’s acting brings her character’s energy far beyond what’s on the page for her. Her range of emotions flips like a light switch. Brooke will go from being calm to aggressive instantly, jarring the audience as it does her patient. Gabirel Byrne’s performance is more like a dimmer. You can see the rise in frustration from his character as his paitents attempt to antagonize him. Despite their efforts, Paul’s able to hold his emotions in a bit more than his Los Angeles counterpart. However, not always entirely successfully. All therapists don’t look or sound the same. Some take radically different approaches to the treatment of a patient. Brooke’s approach is helpful more than it is occasionally destructive.

Meet the New Patients

Eladio in therapy looks at an Apple laptop
Anthony Ramos as Eladio. Photograph by Suzanne Tenner/HBO

When treating Eladio (Anthony Ramos), Brooke offers herself to become a mother figure to him when he asks her to be one. Eventually, Dr. Taylor has to rectify the damage she caused when transferring him to another therapist. On the other end of the spectrum, Brooke’s vocality speaking on behalf of Laila’s individuality allowed Laila to discover who she is as a person, breaking herself free from the chains of her overprotective grandmother. The tenacity that Dr. Taylor unleashes on Collin exists so he can see the errors of his ways beyond the name-calling the public gives him. There’s some great stuff with the patients where the writing shines. 

When we spend time with Brooke, we learn she’s a good person living with profound guilt. Having a child at a young age, Brooke’s father convinced her to give him up for adoption so she could have a future career. Reluctantly, Brooke honored her father’s wishes and has been trying to drown her sorrows ever since. After going through rehab, Brooke’s sponsor Rita (Liza Colón-Zayas), comes to Ms. Taylor’s aid upon her father’s passing. What proceeds are scenes of dialogue that often sounds like George Lucas wrote it (“I didn’t just hear the booze; I heard your pain” is one of many examples that made me cringe). 

Where the New Dr. Doesn’t Work

Like a starting pitcher who always screws up the team’s winning streak, Rita and Adam (Joel Kinnaman) enter the picture turning a fascinating show about introspection into a daytime soap opera. Every scene with Rita plays the same. Brooke relapses. Rita explains to Brooke that she’s her friend. Then Rita tells Brooke to stop drinking. 

The relationship between Brooke and Rita is confusing. Who is Rita? I understand she’s Brooke’s A.A. sponsor, but why is she flying thousands of miles to L.A. to meet her? Why is she arriving at Brooke’s house at 4 am? Brooke told Rita to do all these things, but I don’t know the reasons. As someone who’s been in A.A., I can’t say I’ve ever seen a sponsor harass another member. You call or let them relapse so they go back to step 1: admitting you’re powerless to alcohol.

Rita sits in a chair with her hands folded on her lap
Liza-Colon Zayas as Rita. Photograph by Suzanne Tenner/HBO

Rita’s entire pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps personality doesn’t match Liza Colón-Zayas’s performance. She’s too cuddly in her personality to be convincing as a tough-as-nails mentor figure. Each word Zayas leans into feels more like a mother speaking to a misbehaving child. Was it intentional given Brooke’s adoption situation? Maybe, but it didn’t work for me. 

Despite the dull scenes with Rita, I could look over it to a certain degree. That was until Adam came along. Here, I don’t blame the actor. Once more, I blame the script. The typical scruffy musician (I’m sorry, actor) who’s a sex doll is too much of an archetype character to be featured in In Treatment. I’d find a lover boy plot in something like Dawson’s Creek or Grey’s Anatomy instead of hereAll I knew about Adam was he’s a good looking guy who’s nice to Brooke. There’s not much to examine with Adam, since he’s essentially a sexual object for the show’s plotline with not much of a human being underneath that. I wish I could say more about Adam other than, he loves Brooke, is a struggling actor, and a country boy. 

Brooke romancing Adam
Joel-Kinnaman as Adam (pictured right) Photograph by Suzanne Tenner/HBO

When I reached the show’s conclusion, I didn’t understand what had happened. Brooke has a Malcolm & Marie argument with Adam until they kiss and makeup again. Afterwards, Brooke calls Rita exclaiming “I’m ready.” The camera flies above Dr. Brooke’s head, then past her house during a golden hour sunshine, cut to black. I understand Brooke was ready to once again be a sober mother for her upcoming son but why so melodramatic with the camera work? Adding sweeping cinematography to In Treatment is like watching Michael Bay direct My Dinner with Andre. Those toys are used as a distraction for the lack of depth in the script. I’d care why Brooke was ready if every scene surrounding her didn’t sound like daytime television.  

In Treatment‘s Therapist Lacks Subtlety

There’s not enough beyond the surface with Brooke’s character to make me feel engaged. That’s not good since In Treatment is always about the therapist. Whatever problem the patients are having is a reflection of Brooke’s life. Eladio is the embodiment of the son Brooke wishes she didn’t reject. Collin is Brooke’s narcissism, choosing a career over her child. Lastly, Laila is Brooke wanting freedom from her guilt. When I spent time with the patients, I was engaged. When I spent time with Brooke, I was bored. 

What could be a reflective show tackling various personal and social issues ultimately boils down to being a simple baby mama drama. Brooke is let down by an old decision, drinks her way past the problem, and has Adam give her a new baby. There’s not much more to examine with Dr. Taylor other than that. Whatever underlying mysteries that lay dormant in Brooke’s psyche aren’t examined.

Each session with Paul from the original series we learned a little more about him as he does with his therapist. With Brooke, I learned nothing past her first episode. It’s such a disappointment considering Uzo Aduba’s dynamic performance. For In Treatment to work, the audience has to be fully invested in the doctor. Maybe it can be fixed in Season 5 if there is one. 

Written by Mike Crowley

2 Comments

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  1. Re the ending, I don’t think the point is that Brooke is ‘once again ready to be a sober mother for her upcoming son’ at all – we don’t even know if she’s going to call him. We’re led to believe she is going to call him, because she has the notes to hand when she dials: but it turns out to be Rita. I thought that ending meant: bye bye Adam, as it’s his clothes she is packing, time to get sober for myself. What happens with the son is still up in the air.

  2. It was nice to read a reflection from a fellow fan! I hadn’t caught that the narcissistic patient is a reflection of her, thanks for that insight!

    Overall the slick production sometimes put me off but I decided I respect how it reflects Brooke’s own slick presentation of self. That wide belt she wears just to do zoom calls (!!) in the first episode, the sky high heels — all hiding her secret addiction and instability. I decided the grand camera moves etc reflect her own attempt at projecting perfection. I miss the cozy intimacy of the original with Paul, but then again that vibe did mirror his own inward, “burrow” like as he tells his therapist, tendencies. And that series ended dramatically with him stepping into the sunlight and bustle of Brooklyn.

    Rita lives in LA but had been gone on an extended trip (several weeks) to help with a new grandchild. She was therefore absent when Brooke’s father died, which is perfectly reasonable but Brooke struggled to “forgive” her for. She was bringing flowers as a condolence gesture for Brooke’s dad’s death. That’s also why Rita wasn’t there to catch Brooke’s slide into drinking which I assume occurred after her dad died (though I could be wrong).

    I think Rita’s repeated failure to follow the guidelines for sponsors that you articulated, mirrors Brooke’s inability to hold her boundaries with Eladio. Rita keeps allowing their friendship to eclipse the important guidelines of sponsorship and causes her to enable instead. Your comment that this also mirrors Brooke’s mother issues was spot on and illuminating. Maybe you caught the hints sooner, but Brooke had me fooled until the self reflection episode; I was completely caught off guard that her mother was an alcoholic.

    I think you’re giving a little too much weight (like Brooke does) to the tragedy of giving up her son. As Rita tried many times to help her see, it really was probably the best choice even though it leaves her wirh unanswered questions. It’s a sign of Brookes growth that she is holding back (for now) on contacting her son acknowledging his right to not want to meet his birth parent.

    I also agree with the other commenter that Brooke was once again ending things with adam by packing his bag.

    It will be so interesting to see what comes in S5! Thanks for taking the time to write about it.

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