Making its debut on Disney + in Canada and FX/Hulu in the US this week is a new weekly series that hopes to cash in on audiences’ fascination with unravelling the mind of a serial killer, The Patient. The show features Steve Carell and Domnhall Gleeson going head to head in a closed environment. It keeps the scripting to very minimal locations to allow the interplay between the two to become the focal point. But surprisingly for a TV drama, the episodes only average 30 minutes in length over the course of the series (the finale is the longest episode). And the weekly release schedule will mean that audiences must be patient while the series unravels.
The series opens with Dr. Alan Strauss (Carell) waking up in a basement to discover he’s been abducted and his leg is chained to a bolt in the floor allowing for minimal movement. We soon discover that his patient Sam Fraser (Gleeson) has taken him for the sole reason of making him cure his need and compulsion to kill people. Sam has a hairline trigger, meaning if he feels offended or put upon in any way his compulsion makes him kill the offender, even for the smallest of slights. Sam’s put-upon mother (Linda Emond) knows of his compulsion and is the major force behind Sam’s wanting to be better. But Alan himself is also working through his own issues with the recent passing of his wife (Laura Niemi) and the wedge the ordeal has put in his family.
The formatting decision for the series starts to take more light once you realize the number of twists and turns that the creators are attempting to package here. In fact, if Dinsey packaged this a 2 1/2 hour long movie it would likely become more tedious much faster, as the episodic nature allows for natural breaks in the story to allow new developments to breathe. That said, I still believe it will take audiences some time to adjust to the formatting, and perhaps banking a couple of episodes to watch all at once and then trying to keep up week vs week may be a better strategy.
Carell and Gleeson are of course more than up to the task here, the pair duelling each other acting-wise being the utmost reason for audiences to tune into this. Carell has the unenviable task of being confined to essentially a box for the majority of his scenes, outside of the flashbacks inserted with his family before the passing of his wife. And Carell manages a certain level of pathos and level headedness, through infrequent flashes of rage, that keep the proceedings on course and engaging. Gleeson gets more to do here, as his Sam is even first introduced under a different assumed name and always seems to be holding back most of his cards while still trying to work therapy. It’s a cagy performance that expands as the episodes go further and we peel back more and more layers.
The biggest drawback here is the repetitive nature of the show in general. Even with the episodic nature of the show, there are many scenes that are repetitive by nature and in some cases wholly unnecessary. Plus the direction is hampered by the use of a main unremarkable setting and the directors do little to change up camera angles or shots to bring some extra life to the proceedings. So much of the responsibility for this show’s success is dropped squarely on the shoulders of Carell and Gleeson, and while they deliver the series itself fails to raise to the level of its leads in the end. A watchable series that most audiences will enjoy, The Patient sadly is also something that could have been a lot more.
- Release Date: 8/30/2022