‘In Treatment’: America’s Next Top Gun

Blair129Good give and take between Paul (Gabriel Byrne) and Alex (Blair Underwood) in Part II of the week-long series premiere of “In Treatment” on Tuesday.

The session’s main victory was to take a character that almost none of us could relate to at the start of the episode – an elite Navy fighter pilot who espouses no remorse over the fact his mission led him unknowingly to bomb a school and kill 16 children – and break just enough of him down to reveal that his issues might intersect with us everyday Joes. We’re talking about issues of control, of vulnerability.

Underwood handled this transition and these nuances rather deftly. He was able to be confident, businesslike, occasionally thoughtful but not too thoughtful, which was right for someone in a fair amount of denial. His impatience was a virtue. And the plotting provided a strong finish. We all have places to be, but Alex had something huge and potentially devastatingly self-destructive in mind.

There were few false notes in the episode, though one that comes to mind was when Alex talked about losing consciousness, then compared that directly to his father viewing everything in terms of profit and loss.  That’s the kind of overly conscious overwriting I worry about when I said earlier that “therapy scenes are dangerous.”

But Underwood seems like someone who we can trust in the face of danger.  And Byrne, through two airings, seems to have his role down pat … which is to say he’s no robot. He doesn’t ooze confidence – he clearly struggles to form his next question sometimes – but when he sees an opening, he goes after it hard. There are moments where I think his character talks too much and others where I think he doesn’t talk enough, but overall the good doctor is keeping things moving at a fine pace.

– Jon Weisman