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.
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.
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
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’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 here. All 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.
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.