Jesse Abandons “Treatment”: The Season in Review

Dane DeHaan as Jesse

In Treatment finished off its third season this week, and we said farewell to Jesse (Dane DeHaan) during his emotional final session with Paul (Gabriel Byrne).

Jesse was the show’s first openly gay patient, but his storyline isn’t particularly gay-centric, and this may actually be to the show’s credit. This could easily have been yet another angsty coming out story, complete with bullying and parental reactions and awkward first kisses with closeted jocks. Well, okay, there is maybe a thing with a closeted jock. Funny how that character seems to get around.

But Jesse’s fling with Nate is more of a side dish. The main course is his mixed emotional state surrounding both his adoptive parents and the recent first contact of his birth parents. Initially ambivalent at the prospect of discovering where he came from, biologically speaking, Jesse ends up arranging a meeting with the birth parents, but becomes further distraught when he discovers that they have other children.

Jesse begins to question his own value, who he really is and where he truly “came from,” and continues to push both sets of parents away. He seems to seek love and acceptance from Paul, and there are some particularly heart-wrenching scenes between them (because In Treatment is usually such a laugh riot).

In the end, though, Jesse pushes Paul away as well. Just like in real life, the patients on In Treatment don’t
always conclude the season with their problems all neatly fixed. Sadly,
under the advisement of his father, Jesse ends up leaving therapy with
most of his issues unresolved.

Paul expresses concern that Jesse will end up burying the issues that
they’ve been working to unearth. We get the sense that Jesse is trapped
in a vicious cycle, searching for a sense of home and self only to
sabotage his relationships with the people around him. Not exactly a
satisfying resolution, but if you’re looking for happy endings, you’re
probably watching the wrong show.

DeHaan with Gabriel Byrne as Paul

Much like United States of Tara’s Lionel, Jesse is something of a bad boy. He does drugs, he has sex with older men, and he swears up a storm. With all of the dark elements in Jesse’s life, his story gives the impression of being very, well, adult compared to teenage gay characters on other TV shows. That likely has a lot to do with the sort of show that In Treatment is.

But at heart, Jesse is dealing with issues related to his parents, and that’s not too different from just about any gay teen we’ve seen. Justin from Ugly Betty had trouble coping with the death of his father, Marshall from United States of Tara had angst surrounding his mother’s multiple personalities, and even Kurt from Glee had perceptions that his dad liked Finn more than him. Jesse’s issues are just dealt with in a much more stark and brutal matter.

It might have been nice to get a little more insight into Jesse’s relationships with Nate and older couple Josh and Rafe, but if this arc proves anything, it’s that young gay characters don’t need to be defined by their romantic and sexual endeavors.

And it’s refreshing that In Treatment’s first openly gay patient was not only complex and compelling, but deeply personal to Paul himself. They shared a close relationship (maybe too close, as Paul’s therapist Adele might argue) and Paul seemed to draw a connection between Jesse’s issues and his own troubled relationships with his father and son. It’s sad that we couldn’t end Jesse’s arc on a high note, but it seems likely that he’s at least taken something positive away from his therapy with Paul.