Ottawa Citizen


Uzo Aduba makes In Treatment's return a striking story of undoing


In Treatment has always felt a bit like work.

The HBO series about therapy drops multiple episodes per week. It features chunky, occasional­ly hard-to-swallow language, a reminder that the therapeuti­c process is one in which the patient grapples toward the truth, and that said grappling can be painfully laborious. And it asks the viewer to do something complicate­d — draw nuanced truths about a doctor from their interactio­ns with their patients — with some very simple tools.

Uzo Aduba's Dr. Brooke Lawrence sees three people, each broadly drawn personalit­ies built around rudimentar­y “twists.” They present one way, and we quickly and easily see that they're really something else — often the opposite of how they seem.

And yet there's something fundamenta­lly satisfying about the series. In Treatment, in its fourth season (its first since 2010), does not hit the heights of insight into human nature for which it aims, does not justify airing four episodes a week. But it makes the case for its own existence thanks in substantia­l part to the performanc­e of Aduba, who is proving to be one of the essential performers of the 21st century. For the first time in a TV lead role after Emmy wins for Orange Is the New Black and Mrs. America, Aduba makes In Treatment a success by force of will.

Its producers have made clear they consider a fundamenta­l fact about the character of Brooke to be a spoiler. This fact is so central to her character that it's hard to write about her, or Aduba's performanc­e, otherwise. Suffice it to say that Brooke is a hard-driving pro who, in the wake of a loss, attempts to deal with various unresolved relationsh­ips in her life — including with an on-andoff boyfriend (Joel Kinnaman) and, enigmatica­lly, with Gabriel Byrne's therapist character from the first three seasons.

The show serves up the cliché that therapists are the ones in need of healing with so much zeal that it's hard to be annoyed: Aduba's own therapeuti­c process, which she undergoes in the fourth episode each week with a character played by an extremely strong Liza Colón-Zayas, is one defined by Brooke's prickly defences and her skill at lying to herself.

In her own sessions, though, Aduba is the show: Her performanc­e is an event, an operatic piece of work that fearlessly tracks each swerve in the life of a woman coming undone. Unlike the more recessive Byrne, Aduba doesn't consistent­ly feel like a therapist, which is the point: Her willingnes­s to confront her patients is a sign of her profession­al resourcefu­lness, unless it shows us that she's stepped beyond profession­alism entirely.

The most intriguing detail in this flawed, ultimately worthwhile show is that Brooke is working out of her home not because that is where work traditiona­lly happens for her, but because — especially in the time of the COVID pandemic — she is unready to face the outside. And if Brooke is exhausted, we're right there with her.

 ?? HBO/CRAVE ?? It's a cliché that therapists themselves need healing, but Uzo Aduba's performanc­e makes it worthwhile to spend time In Treatment.
HBO/CRAVE It's a cliché that therapists themselves need healing, but Uzo Aduba's performanc­e makes it worthwhile to spend time In Treatment.

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