REVIEW: ‘The Patient’ Offers Up Short Bursts of Genius

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The Patient - But Why Tho

The Patient is a psychological thriller from Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, the minds behind FX’s The Americans. This FX original series, airing exclusively on Hulu, it stars Steve Carell, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Niemi, Andrew Leeds, Linda Emond, and Alex Rich. It’s written by Fields and Weisberg and is directed by Chris Long, Kevin Bray, and Gwyneth Horder-Payton. Steve Carell already proved his dramatic acting chops in Foxcatcher. In the years since The Office ended, Carell has also taken challenging roles that pushed him outside the comedic comfort box and surprised me, to say the least. The Patient offers up another role for Carell to stretch his acting muscles and man, he succeeds in showing his depth.

For his part, Carell plays Alan Stauss, a therapist with a less-than-perfect home life. When his new patient Sam Fortner scours the city for a Jewish therapist to confide in, Alan wins him over. But, this patient isn’t just looking for an ear to listen. To keep out of trouble, Sam kidnaps Alan and holds him hostage in his basement. Sam has an unusual therapeutic demand for Alan: curb his homicidal urges.

Alan finds himself trying to survive while also trying to keep Sam from killing again, but the patient isn’t very cooperative. Alone in captivity, Alan can’t help but reach into his past and through flashbacks, we see Alan unsurface sessions with his old therapist, Charlie. The interesting thing here is that Alan may be his own worst enemy, as he begins to have to tackle his own repressed grief and fear around the recent death of his wife, Beth, and the painful estrangement from his religious son, Ezra.

As if the physiological elements aren’t enough to keep you engaged, The Patient is also packed to the brim with twisting elements that never feel too exaggerated to unnecessary. Over the course of his imprisonment, Alan uncovers not only how deep Sam’s compulsion runs, but also how much work he has to do to repair the rift in his own family. The Patient could easily be a single-note thriller, but instead, the 30-minute episodes provided short bursts of genius. Whether it’s through their acting or the narrative itself, there isn’t a single failure found in The Patient. The genre also doesn’t carry the series. While there is thrilling tension, there are also phenomenal story beats capturing the complexity and guilt that comes with family, for better and for worst.

Additionally, despite its weekly release schedule, The Patient is firing as fast as it can consistently. A stress-filled story, the series manages to capture the chaos of Alan’s craze and the anxiety of Alan’s position through expert and fast pacing. So much happens, and yet, we’re given small moments of silence and reprieve in it all as well.

I’ve already praised Carell’s acting in this series, but here I go again. His raw emotion and fear are present throughout, with an ability to make the audience feel just as scared as he is. It’s Carell like we haven’t seen him before and I’m thankful for it. That said, Gleeson doesn’t allow himself to be upstaged. In another performance that is absolutely brilliant and different than what we’ve seen before, Gleeson is a completely different human on the screen. Not only is he a great actor when it comes to delivering his lines, but his entire identity has changed for The Patient. His body, his mannerisms, his voice, everything has been altered and, in truth, this execution of an identity shift alone makes his role as Sam all the more unnerving.

The Patient is a well-executed thriller that does in 30-minute episodes what others need an hour to do. The series is packed with emotion, twists, and is carried by its two actors who embody their roles so completely you can’t help but feel unsettled by the events on screen. The Patient is perfection.

The Patient is streaming exclusively on Hulu.


The Patient
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

The Patient is a well-executed thriller that does in 30-minute episodes what others need an hour to do. The series is packed with emotion, twists, and is carried by its two actors who embody their roles so completely you can’t help but feel unsettled by the events on screen. The Patient is perfection.

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