Monday, June 21, 2021

REVIEW: 'In Treatment' - One Therapy Session Has the Potential to Unpack All of Brooke's Internal Turmoil in 'Brooke - Week 5'

HBO's In Treatment - Episode 4.20 "Brooke - Week 5"

Brooke nervously prepares for a visit she's avoided for months. Later, there's nowhere to hide as Brooke stares down the barrel of past trauma to confront the root of her pain.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's In Treatment.

"Brooke - Week 5" was written by Jennifer Schuur and directed by Karyn Kusama

Brooke knows exactly what Paul would say if they sat down and had a therapy session together to address her inner turmoil. As such, there is no need for that to actually occur. The season is perfectly fine teasing this connection with Paul, who was previously the lead character for the first three seasons, without actually delivering a return appearance by Gabriel Byrne. It's disappointing only because the frequent mentions of Paul set up the expectation that that could actually happen. This episode is still effective as a therapy session full of realizations and breakthroughs for Brooke. It is more of a stunt though because it's Brooke talking with herself. One version is the therapist while the other is the patient. It actually presents the argument that a therapist's job is to facilitate the examination of a person so that they can realize things that they already fundamentally know. It's a conversation meant to state these facts bluntly. Sometimes it's simply easier for another person to see those concerns and vocalize them. It's easy for Brooke to blame all of her problems on her father. It's easy for her to relapse using his death as permission. Her life is much more complicated than that. She was sober for ten years. Her life has evolved dramatically since she made that decision. It was vital and necessary for her to do so. And yet, she can still uncover new details about her relationship with alcohol and its effect on the people around her. It's simply easier to imagine a therapist telling her all of these things directly. A person who operates with the same fundamental truths and awareness. The therapist doesn't have to dig around and try to figure out what's important. Brooke already knows where she wants this conversation to flow. It may only happen because Paul decides to cancel their meeting at the last possible second. Brooke is excited to see him again. She is thrilled to learn more details about her son as well. She is pursuing these things because she believes they will make her happy. She is no longer fulfilled just being a therapist. But again, it was easy for her to relax into that life and feel completely content with it. Her father's death made her realize that she yearned for more. She sought comfort and relief in drinking. It's the same decision that her mother made throughout her life. Brooke has always lifted her mother up as the good parent. She was always there for her as a child. She didn't set impossible standards for her to achieve. And yet, her mother failed Brooke in other ways. The child was responsible for the emotional well-being of the parent. That burden wasn't fair. As such, it has warped the way in which Brooke has conditioned herself to be with other people. She believes she has to dim her light in order to be worthy of love, respect and friendship. She doesn't have to do that. She doesn't need alcohol in order to cope. She must face these traumas from her past. She has to stop living in the fantasy she has created in her head that makes it easier to understand the trajectory of her life. It doesn't have to be as linear as that. Meeting her son won't magically fix all of her problems either. She too is setting her expectations too high. She is choosing to live in the fantasy. She is capable of sharing so much love and genius. She should have the freedom to do exactly that. This entire episode highlights the many ways in which the struggles of her core patients this season also reflect back in her personal life. She has to shine brightly in every aspect of her life no matter what others think just like Eladio. She has to face the truth and accept her responsibility in causing others pain just like Colin. She also has to stop believing that her fantasies are the only acceptable form of reality just like Laila. All of this may not justify the amount of time and hardship she has spent with each of these patients this season. It still doesn't forgive all of the bluntness that typically dictates the Brooke-centric episodes. It still serves as a profound declaration that should ultimately pivot her entire life moving forward. That won't ensure that the future is easy. She is simply given the clarity to acknowledge the truth within herself. She can't hide behind the walls she has built up. She is deserving of so much more. She must accept that and lead with it in everything she does from this moment on. It will be difficult. That's why one session probably can't unpack all of these issues. It's Brooke addressing them herself before willing to apply these lessons with others. That insight is valid and meaningful. What happens next will be just as crucial to see if she can correct any of the damage done.