Why The Patient should be your next box set
Ivan Radford | On 04, Dec 2022
This review is based on the first 6 of 10 episodes.
“Sometimes, when we wait, people don’t say what we think they’re going to.” Those are the sage words of Alan (Steve Carell) in The Patient. Alan is therapist who is working with a new client, Sam (Domhnall Gleeson), who poses a unique challenge: Sam is a serial killer and enlists Alan to stop him from killing again.
It’s an attention-grabbing premise, and The Patient wastes no time in making the stakes clear: we begin the series with Alan waking up to find himself being held prisoner by Sam, leaving him with few options other than to actually try and help him. The result is a two-hander that, due to its confined setting, leaves the show with no other option than to drill into both characters with an unflinching, absorbing level of detail.
Alan, we soon learn, has enough on his plate, as he’s still mourning the loss of his wife, Beth (Laura Niemi), and trying to navigate the estranged relationship he now has with his increasingly orthodox son, Ezra (Andrew Leeds). Sam, meanwhile, is still dealing with the breakdown of his marriage to Mary (Emily Davis), lives with his mother, Candace (Linda Emond), and had a harmful relationship with his father.
There’s a lot to unpack on both sides and The Patient is at its best when simply letting its leading men sink their teeth into those complexities. What might have been a relatively shallow recipe for a thriller adds more and more nuance to the mix. That’s in no small part thanks to the central pair of performances. Steve Carell once again proves his ability to be remarkably understated as Alan, a man who is capable of staying calm and professional, even as his darting eyes convey his panicked survival instincts. Domhnall Gleeson, meanwhile, is brilliantly creepy as the troubled Sam, but never loses sight of his humanity either, whether it’s his clenched jaw and perma-uncomfortable state or his unexpected passion for fine dining.
They’re fascinating to watch together, as the duo each try to upend their power balance – Alan directing the conversation and instructing his patient, only to be left breathless as he watches Sam demonstrate the violent threat he poses – while also grappling with feelings of empathy and compassion.
All these tensions are juggled impeccably by writers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, who previously gave us similarly claustrophobic, character-driven drama in The Americans. Unlike that milestone of TV, though, The Patient benefits from a flexible runtime, with episodes expanding to 45 minutes when needed before tightening to 20 minutes to keep the pace taut. The result is as intimate as it intense, a boiling pot of suspense that has the patience to quietly wait and see what its characters will say next.