In Treatment’ is back almost a decade later, and the timing couldn’t have been better. The pandemic we’re experiencing is having widespread and very diverse consequences. Some are visible and as such, very obvious, while others are less noticeable even to the trained eye, with the latter proving more difficult to remedy precisely because of the risk of going unnoticed. Studies have long confirmed something many have suspected since the beginning of the pandemic: that the number of cases of depression has increased and we are seeing a general deterioration in mental health, especially among younger and older populations. In this context, recovering a series focused exactly on mental health problems by inviting audiences to take a seat on the sofa is indeed a truly wise call, not to mention an excellent way to bring the issue to the forefront and contribute to making it visible through fiction. To reinforce this context, the new episodes are set in the current moment and the pandemic is often mentioned. In consequence, the universe in which the characters move is constantly connected to our own, which constitutes one of the principal traits of the original series, which gave audiences the feeling they were in the same room as the characters, witnessing therapy sessions first-hand.

The other reason is that the format of ‘In Treatment’, based on the dialogue between two characters and with minimal additional staging, also making it the perfect series to shoot in compliance with the safety protocols aligned with COVID-19. From this perspective, the return of the show is similar to that of ‘Talking Heads’, in that the two series had worked very well years ago and whose simple formula has made them ideal for dusting off and recouping at a time when the logistics of filming are more relevant than ever. The format of one episode assigned to each patient has been conserved, and remains innovative (the merit of this idea, remember, is the original Israeli series, ‘BeTipul’, created by screenwriter Hagai Levi), although this time series creators are releasing episodes in batches of five, leaving it up to viewers to assign a weekday for watching, as was the case with the  broadcast of the original series, or to choose another formula. However there are also several novelties this time around, the most relevant being the change of protagonist. The first three seasons of the series featured a therapist played by Gabriel Byrne, while season four features a fresh-faced therapist (connected to our previous character via a photograph in the first episode) played by actress Uzo Aduba.

Uzo Aduba and John Benjamin Hickey. ‘In Treatment’.

This choice is by no means accidental and the fact that the psychologist is an African American woman allows the series to build upon a fresh perspective from the previous stage of ‘In Treatment’ that also facilitates exploring issues that had not previously been explored or had been approached differently. Subsequently, racism and gender play have a pivotal role this season, thereby hooking into prevailing concerns and recent social movements, although these are not the central themes of the series, which continues to focus principally on mental health issues as its central point of interest. That said, there are moments when a patient seems more representative of a group, as is the case with one privileged white male played by John Benjamin Hickey, rather than one single individual attempting to resolve specific psychological issues.

Also, the use of technology has made things feel a tad colder at times, especially in the episodes featuring patients doing online therapy. In addition, our therapist is more belligerent with her patients and doesn’t always have the purest of intentions. As the series progresses, more and more is revealed about our new therapist’s background story, which ends up becoming a mystery in itself that develops in parallel with her patients’ therapy, providing even more reasons for watching this latest stage of ‘In Treatment’ and whose timing for its return has been impeccable.

Toni de la Torre. TV series critic. Toni works in ‘El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio’, El Temps, Què fem, Ara Criatures, Sàpiens and he also collaborates in TV3 magazine show ‘Tot es mou’. Author of several books on television series and a lecturer at the Barcelona Screenwriters and Showrunners school and in his free time, he likes to give conference on series. Highlights include Premi Bloc de Catalunya 2014.