The Big Box Theory (or not)

Since a lot of discussion about In Treatment’s form has been done and dusted here before I could join the bandwagon, I instead shall start by seeking to look at how In Treatment provides a layering of narrative. If I were to create a shape out of In Treatment’s layering, it would perhaps be a trapezoidal prism. In each episode you have a ‘curve’ that gets meatier and fills in disproportionately with more reveals coming towards the end of the episode (when the stupid music pops up its head to warn you beforehand: Mini-Climax on the way). It is like stacking up of quadrilaterals, disproportionately with bigger ones on top. Then, you have the weekly curve, with the fifth episode being the meatiest in terms of narrative (I even feel that about the individual episodes, but since it is debatable, let us leave it out.). That is stacks of boxes layering over stacks of boxes, with the new stack layers being bigger.

But what does such a layering do? In my opinion, it builds up continuity well and leaves the scope for sustained intensity by habituating the viewer with its form, which doesn’t lend well to every type of TV show. For example, It is something that a sitcom would find tough to do. But for a theme as ours, we can be subjected to new reveals layer by layer rather than showing a character in one go and we won’t feel out of place. After all, In Treatment also has the advantage of not having to give away anything extra by putting characters in real-world situations very often. As the dialogue is the only outlet, such reveals coming in later stages don’t feel as artificial as they would have, if we were told some fundamental truth about a character in the latter part of any other show. Here, the creators can play with the character and with comparatively less baggage then a series where we have already seen the character performing in 20 different situations and locations.


Also, What seem like 4 distinct stories (building up to the Gina episode) felt much more connected to me. I think one big connection is that all those four issues impact Paul’s own life in one big complex web. While Laura’s case is obvious, Alex’s inability to face and handle his own feelings mirror the lies Paul tells himself. Sophie is not only disturbed due to her equation with a much older male, something which Paul finds himself struggling, but more importantly, her interaction with Paul demonstrates the distance between Paul and his family. And finally, we have an unhappy, always-fighting couple in which the male is doubtful of the female’s faithfulness. All these situations seem to have been chosen to speak directly with Paul’s conundrums.


Another thing that I found interesting was that Paul seems to be indulging in the very same mistakes that his patients do. He hides the truth from himself and the therapist, knowing fully well that she is going to find it, just the way he does with his patients. Why does he, of all people, whose job is to uncover it, do this? Does he do this in order to go through the long winding therapy procedure and delay unmasking what is deep inside him for as long as possible? I think he hasn’t internalized what he practices. His over-the-top assertions that he is good at his job only add to this point of view that he is insecure, especially with his work. What do you think?


P.S.: I could have started with one dimension, but stacking up points to form a line doesn’t cut the visualization expectations.

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