What would you do if you woke up in a bed that wasn’t yours, in a house you’ve never been in, and on top of that realising you’re chained to the floor? Personally, I’d do like Steve Carell in his new thrilling drama, The Patient, and scream my lungs out.
This new series from Disney+ is a dark, 10-episode thriller in which Carell plays Alan Strauss, a psychotherapist held prisoner by his patient Sam Fortner (Domnhall Gleason), a serial killer desperate to be cured of his urges.
That is easier said than done, and Strauss - who is also having to deal with recently becoming a widower - believes that his only chance of getting out alive is not by curing his patient but by escaping, and he starts doing everything in his power to buy himself the time to do so.
Another key player in this story is Fortner’s mother. The two of them live together in what we can assume is the serial killer’s childhood home - but this is no Norman Bates scenario. Despite Carell’s character being literally chained to the floor, Candace Fortner, played by Linda Edmond, is who I felt most sorry for in this series as the family’s backstory emerges.
Another strand to the tricky parent-child dynamic in the show is Strauss’ relationship with his son, over the latter becoming Jewish Orthodox. Can he really be developing more empathy for a serial killer than his own son?
It’s nice to see Carell flex his dramatic muscles, and he is moving and believable in The Patient. (There are even a few – much needed – comic asides sprinkled here and there, and who better to deliver them). But the real star is Gleason. His multi-dimensional performance will actually turn somefeeling empathy towards a serial killer.
This is a thrilling, and sometimes quite moving, series dealing with themes including forgiveness and faith, but the pacing felt slow at times – it could easily have been cut down to eight episodes.
And while the flashbacks and the dream sequences broke up the scenes of Strauss chained to the basement floor, it didn’t always feel necessary. The tension was built so well, and the chemistry between Carell and Gleeson so captivating, that the series could have been even more powerful if we didn’t end up getting time off via the refuge of Strauss’ imagination.
That said, claustrophobic as I am (and intense as the series ended up being), maybe that was for the best.