Originally most noteworthy for its scheduling structure, “In Treatment” has continued to evolve — from a half-hour on five successive nights to just four installments now, playing as back-to-back hours Monday and Tuesday. The content, however, has also improved from the first year of this Israeli format adaptation thanks in part to the influence of director Paris Barclay, becoming less self-conscious and stagey. The quartet of ongoing stories aren’t all created equal, but each proves compelling in its own way, providing a twice-weekly therapy session — animated by terrific acting — for the neurotic and those who love them.
Gabriel Byrne remains the indefatigable anchor as analyst Paul Weston, whose Job-like personal ordeals have been the constant through the program’s three cycles. This time, he’s smarting over a novel penned by his former therapist (who was played by Dianne Wiest), featuring a fictional character who Paul feels bears an uncomfortable (and unflattering) resemblance to him.
Having trouble sleeping, Paul finds a new therapist (Amy Ryan), but his “Just write me the damn prescription” approach quickly gives way to intense, soul-baring sessions with her. During those exchanges he discusses his feelings of betrayal by his former therapist, and also reflects on his three new patients: Sunil (Irrfan Khan), a sullen widower who has moved from India to live, uncomfortably, with his son and daughter-in-law; Jesse (Dane DeHaan), a gay, hostile and extremely profane teenager; and Frances (Debra Winger), an aging actress having trouble remembering her lines in a Broadway play.
The storylines, notably, are entirely original this time — crafted by producers Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman for the U.S. version — as opposed to being culled from the Israeli program. It’s a welcome wrinkle, inasmuch as grafting existing scripts onto a new continent yielded some rough patches. To the show’s credit, DeHaan also emerges as another budding star, from a show that has produced one such revelatory breakthrough every season: Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) in season one, and Aaron Grady Shaw in the second cycle.
There’s no escaping the theatrical underpinnings of the premise, but Barclay — who directed the first week of shows, working with different writers on each segment — has brought a more understated yet still-engrossing tone to the series. And while there’s an inherent cliche in Paul — the physician, in essence, who can’t heal himself — Byrne continues to do yeoman work as the caring therapist whose flashes of anger and disappointment emerge in his own sessions.
“I don’t know what you must think of me,” Paul says to Ryan’s Adele in their third meeting.
Mostly good thoughts, actually. Because while “In Treatment” isn’t perfect by any means, given its uneven start and improbable origins, it’s as good as anything with two characters yammering probably has a right to be.