Take a deep dive into the mind of a serial killer and his reluctant therapist in The Patient, a ten-episode psychological thriller that puts Domhnall Gleeson and Steve Carell‘s dual performances in the limelight. It follows Sam (Gleeson), a serial killer, who abducts his therapist, Alan (Carell), in an attempt to cure his homicidal urges.
This is a pensive, slow-moving thriller that doesn’t rush to its conclusion. Every episode is spent slowly unraveling exactly what makes Sam tick, all while Alan is attempting to sway him away from his urge to kill. The narrative is largely set within one room, with these two brilliant actors going back and forth. It immediately invokes a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere and holds that tone right through to its climax. Putting a serial killer at the forefront of the show helps inject an unpredictable edge to the story. You never really know if or when he’s going to snap, and that gripping tension is what keeps you locked in.
I say ‘largely set within the one room because the series takes time to flesh out Alan’s backstory, depicting his history with his wife and kids. As much as there’s some worth to these scenes in becoming more emotionally invested in Alan, they take away from the tension each respective episode is building. It’s a bit of a give and take scenario – gain some emotional weight but sacrifice tone. Comparing it to Criminal: UK, I much prefer how that sticks to its confines a lot more than this does.
That being said, I can’t say I was ever bored by this series. I love a good slow burn, so I appreciated how it really stuck to its guns and spaced out its key moments enough to always feel like it’s making progress. It could have maybe been tightened up to like eight episodes and not lost its pacing, but it’s not a major criticism. As is the nature of the story, it’s a very dark series with next-to-no moments of levity, so if you’re checking this out, make sure you know you’re in for a grind that deals with some confronting content.
Domhnall Gleeson brilliantly embodies the behavioural aspects of a somewhat subdued serial killer. It’s astounding how he both looks like himself while also looking nothing like himself. At first I didn’t recognise that it was Domhnall, that’s how well he disguises himself as the character. He delivers a chilling, nuanced performance, completely disappearing into the role. Despite being incredible, he’s almost out-shadowed by Steve Carell, who nails this rare dramatic turn. Sure, you feel for his character simply due to the situation he’s in, but it’s Carell’s powerful and sincere performance which elevates the role.
In the end, The Patient is a great ride that’s tense throughout, with a few key moments where it’s especially spine-chilling. The narrative is strong, but it’s Domhnall Gleeson and Steve Carell’s incredibly powerful performances that make this such a worthwhile watch. It’s not perfect, but it’s a suspense-packed psychological thriller that’s well worth it for fans of the genre.