As you know, Gabriel Byrne’s brilliant television series In Treatment was rebooted last year, with the amazing Uzo Aduba taking her turn as the troubled therapist, this time in a world blind-sided by a pandemic, unsettled global politics, and, in the USA, healthcare policies that were inequitable and difficult to parse.
I wanted to watch Season 4 of In Treatment, but I did not.
I was afraid I could not move past the unscalable barrier that is my absolute and utter devotion to the original, both story and actor. I love Uzo Aduba, I truly do, but even her mighty presence in this reboot was not enough to make me scale that wall.
Josh Johnson, Gabriel Byrne GIF and screencap maker extraordinaire, was undeterred, however, and here is his review of Season 4. I may not agree with everything he says here (Season Three was Appointment TV!), but he’s got a very good take on the series and I know you’ll appreciate it.
Thanks, Josh, as always! heart
Should I watch In Treatment Season Four: a not so definitive essay
By Josh “TheJCube” Johnson
Roughly one year ago, May 23, 2021, In Treatment Season Four premiered on HBO in the United States.
For many, the revival of the beloved series was tempered with an obvious question, “Will he or won’t he?” He being Gabriel Byrne, whom, I assume, requires no introduction, who portrayed Dr. Paul Weston in the Emmy winning first-incarnation of the series 13 years earlier, long before the pesky little COVID-19 Pandemic was even a glint in the eye. So, should you watch it? Since there isn’t a Buzzfeed quiz to answer this (although I’m sure you can find out what salad topping you are…crouton…trust me, I know, it’s that picture with the spiral staircase, that’s why) you’ll have to bear with me for a bit.
Amongst Byrneholics and many casual Byrners, In Treatment had a beloved three season run. Perfectly cast as Dr. Paul Weston, Byrne delivered an iconic portrayal of a doctor working to help others while battling his own personal demons. When the revival was first announced, many Byrneholics were left either dancing in the streets or their living rooms, depending on the pandemic restrictions at the time.
Ultimately, the pandemic, still raging at the time of writing, looms large over the revival, possibly more than anyone would like to admit. While many are upset we won’t see a fifth season, featuring Weston’s erstwhile replacement, Dr. Brooke Taylor (Uzo Aduba), the news was pretty predictable, despite an Emmy nomination for Aduba.
The revival, after all, was a product of the pandemic many have done their best to move on from. When first announced, television and movie production was largely at a standstill. Those that did forge ahead were prone to delays and other headaches. Cast members testing positive, 14 day quarantines, social distancing and restrictions were headaches for anyone in the entertainment industry. The idea of reviving a television program that required only two characters and the chance of zoom scenes likely seemed a godsend and there’s a reasonable chance that this was the ultimate reason for the revival.
After all, the idea of an actor of any stature putting themselves through the strain of being on-screen 100% of the time for any type of sustained run is pure and simple wishful thinking, particularly with other less grueling roles presenting themselves. It’s not a sustainable format, but when push comes to shove and there’s a pandemic raging, why not move ahead with a project of this type. Fortunately, it fared much better than other past revivals, New WKRP and Murphy Brown reboot, I’m looking at you. There were many rumours that Byrne himself suffered from burnout and was reluctant to continue the first time around.
As someone who binged the original series back-to-back, the burnout was really apparent, not necessarily in Byrne’s performance, which remained outstanding, but in the plot and the writing. While Season 2 and 3 as stand-alones are fine television, they’re nothing compared to season 1. The first season of In Treatment is one of the finest pieces of television ever concocted. It ran 43 episodes, which would be two or three seasons by today’s standards – a length when even some great shows can begin to burn out . . . and burn out they did.
Seasons 2 and 3 of In Treatment are very good on their own, but they’re not great. The first season was something special. Only a handful of shows — Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Black Sails, to name some contemporary series — can match the intensity of the Paul/Laura (Melissa George) Arc. The casting is near perfect and even the characters who irritate, Alex (Blair Underwood) and Jake (Josh Charles), play crucial roles in plot development and have moments that make you appreciate what they’ve been through. The plot lines are interwoven, performances are uniformly excellent, in particular Mia Wasikowska as Sophie, and the writing is superb. If viewed as a stand-alone series, Season One of In Treatment is one of the finest pieces of television I have ever witnessed. Season Two and Three? Not as much.
That’s not to say Seasons 2 and 3 are poor. They’re very good to excellent. If Season One did not exist, they’d likely be considered near-great. Watched again a couple years after watching the whole series consecutively, without viewing the first season, they were much better than I remember, but not quite the caliber of the first.
That brings us to Season Four.
Is it good? Yes.
Is it first season good? No.
Is it second season good? Not quite.
How about third? Possibly, but probably not.
As Brooke Taylor, Uzo Aduba is fantastic. Much like Paul Weston, Brooke is doing her best to help people under difficult circumstances. Taylor-made, pun intended, for pandemic shooting, a revival of the series makes perfect sense, but judged against the original, it’s not quite there.
More a spin-off than a continuation, the fourth season likely would have done well with a name change. “Brooke,” perhaps. Aside from the occasional reference to Dr. Paul Weston, the two portions are largely disconnected. Same format, similar issues, but not the same. It would be like calling Chicago Hope a continuation of St. Elsewhere, although those two shows are absolutely not related.
The new In Treatment isn’t the old show. Nor do I think the producers ever intended it to be. Lasting 24 episodes, it is half the length of season one, and considerably shorter than the other two. This leaves us with less time to get into each character, learn their back story, and really see what makes them tick. At the same time, it often seems like too much time is spent with many of these characters. While we have fewer patients – Eladio (Anthony Ramos), Colin (John Benjamin Hickey) and Laila (Quintessa Swindell) – we have a larger cast of supporting character’s, including Laila’s grandmother (Charlayne Woodard), Brooke’s friend Rita (Liza Colon-Zayas), and love interest Adam (Joel Kinnaman).
In Treatment Season 4 Screencaps by Josh
Unfortunately, other than Laila, and maybe Eladio, there’s really nobody you’re left wanting to see more of. Adam is an ass (trust me, I’m being generous) and Colin is a dick sandwich, hold the mayo and the bread, double the dick. Unlike Alex in the first season, you’re not really given a reason to like or even tolerate their existence.
From an actual writing perspective, Season Four is strong enough to pull you through the entire series, but not quite good enough to make you demand more, and there’s nothing wrong with that. On the whole, it’s better than most of what’s out there, but it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors. It’s more The Simpsons after about the 15th season.
So, after all these words, should you watch it? If you’re sufficiently detached from the original run, absolutely, it’s pretty damn good. If you’re just finished In Treatment Season Three and are looking for more, give yourself a break. Watch Little Women 30 or 40 times and then give it a go. If you’re looking for a Gabriel Fix? Hang a picture on your wall, ignore a few emails, maybe smoke something and do a little macrame, and then watch him in No Pay, Nudity. Because damn, that’s a great movie that isn’t given enough love.
Thanks for reading.