Patient Review – Steve Carell offers deadly therapy in intriguing series | American television

OWith less commercial restrictions on the length of most TV episodes thanks to the streaming swell, writers have taken full advantage, going rogue for better or worse. This has led to seasons that stretch and tighten depending on the episode, less pressure to streamline storylines into the most advertiser-friendly format, allowing freedom but also leniency. How many hour-long Netflix seasons have felt needlessly and painfully bloated, but how many shows have benefited from the Skittles ad story?

There were plenty of reasons why the first season of Sam Esmail’s elegant Amazon thriller Homecoming was this year’s best – a fit Julia Roberts, an elegant and surprising direction, which borrowed the score brilliantly – but the key part of its success was the rare decision, for a drama, for each episode to be around 30 minutes long. It was tight and unexpected at a time when so many shows were anything but, but since then only a handful of other dramas have opted for something similar. In FX and Hulu’s ten-part thriller The Patient, American screenwriters Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg limit their episodes to 21 minutes and, for the finale, 46 minutes, a decision that works until it’s gone. not the case, when the intrigue begins to turn into frustration.

Steve Carell, continuing to focus more on his dramatic side, plays therapist Alan, who wakes up chained to an unfamiliar bed. Sam, played by Domhnall Gleeson, one of his recent patients, decided he wanted his sessions to be a bit more intimate, kidnapping him and keeping him at his house. Sam is a serial killer who wants to stop killing and Alan is the guy in charge of stopping him.

It’s a neat little premise for a confined thriller – high-stakes therapy sessions with a murderous psychopath – and Fields and Weisberg make a concerted effort not to derail their series into an easy schlock, keeping it all grounded and sometimes banal, a sensible story about a crazy person. Rather than taking a zodiac-level spree, Sam is driven more by the daily slights, the odd look of someone at work or the perceived rudeness in a restaurant, someone who can’t stop killing because the society can’t stop forcing him to the edge. It’s one of the series’ many lived-in details, from Sam’s obsessive interest in the best new restaurants to Alan’s flashbacks to lengthy family arguments, and with two textured characters at its center, unfolding piece by piece. as the episode progresses, it’s kind of a spectacle done with thought and care.

Alan is as plagued by misfortune and remorse as Sam, as a widower and as the father of a son whose change from Judaism to Orthodoxy has caused deep, perhaps irreparable damage. The unusual specificity of this relationship (her son bringing pre-prepared food to dinner at his house for the children while later refusing to respect his mother’s agency as he once did) feels a fresh and tense dynamic. about religious difference usually going to extremes (from, say, Christianity to a dangerous cult) rather than within the same religion, but the script works so hard to give Alan and his family such depth that ‘we often wish it were just them. In trying to weave two character studies into one thriller thriller, Fields and Weisberg often make us crave each other more or less, depending on the episode. Stories like this, of captive and kidnapper, are usually unpacked quickly in a short duration and The Patient feels like it could have been told more effectively as a movie. The tension dissipates, conversations repeat, and while some flashbacks hit, other dream sequences (involving Alan and Auschwitz) really don’t and too many episodes feel overstuffed, slowly winding their way to conclusion then that he should rather rush there.

It’s surprisingly perfect territory, however, for Carell, whose more serious work hasn’t always convinced, his character’s enforced calm and the way he talks to others allowing his excesses to barely emerge. Carell’s dramatic extreme often sounds too much like his comedic extreme and it’s only when he screams at full volume on odd occasions here that he slips into the ham. Boasting a storyline that tackles a tough character with tough empathy, Gleeson is an effective sparring partner, selling the character’s unpredictable creepiness while reminding us of his humanity. The therapy sessions feel grounded in reality, as do Alan’s survival strategies and the ending deserves points for being unexpected but also a bit unsatisfying, one that will provoke extreme reactions when it airs later this year. .

The patient, like its central killer, is as fascinating as it is frustrating, the unusual format turning a dramatically juicy thriller into something a bit repetitive and poorly paced. It’s a ten-part show about therapy that could have benefited from being told in one long sitting.

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