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Must-watch performance: Irrfan Khan on ‘In Treatment’

SunilIf you want to see pure luminescence from an actor, you must see Irrfan Khan’s weekly performances on HBO’s “In Treatment.”

While Oscar-winning actress Debra Winger has gotten most of the headlines of the HBO drama’s third season (such as they are for the little-seen program), it has been Khan who has stolen the show.

Though Khan’s face and abilities should now be familiar after several film roles (including “Slumdog Millionaire” and “A Mighty Heart”), his work in “Treatment” as reluctant expatriate Sunil has been revelatory: his character so bittersweet, his presence nuanced as finely as any smallscreen performer on today. Each moment with Khan feels precious.

Khan’s excellence has one downside: making everything else on this year’s “In Treatment” seem as subtle as a sledgehammer by comparison. Dane DeHaan is kinetic as Jesse, though his habitually angry, lying character demands a great deal of patience even as he evokes sympathy. Even Winger hasn’t entirely disappeared into her role of self-absorbed, memory-challenged actress Frances; despite her well-documented preparation, there are times when Winger still seems to be straining in search of her character.

Meanwhile, as Paul’s new therapist (replacing Dianne Wiest), Amy Ryan has the poker face down pat, but the sessions are so numbingly morose that as interesting as they might be, they might not really be worth the grief.

Heading into the fourth week of the season, I’ve been tempted to reduced my four-episodes-a-week watching of “In Treatment” to one. As it happens, I’m enough of a compulsive “In Treatment” viewer that I’ll stick with them all, but this much is clear: If you haven’t been watching Khan at all, you need to start tonight.

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