The Patient stars Steve Carrell as Alan Strauss, a Jewish therapist and recent widow, and Domhnall Gleeson as Sam Fortner, a serial killer who is a patient of Strauss.
With creators and frequent collaborators Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields running things, The Patient has a lot going for it (Weisberg and Fields won the 2018 Emmy for outstanding writing for a drama series for the final season of The Americans). On-screen, there’s potential too: Carrell, known for his iconic comedy roles such as Michael Scott in NBC’s beloved comedy, The Office, has made a seamless transition into dramatic roles like Foxcatcher, and Gleeson with great turns in Ex Machina, The Revenant, and True Grit.
The episode begins with Strauss (Carrell) captured in an isolated house, chained to a bed. Before we get any answers to Strauss’s stressful predicament, the episode backtracks Strauss’s life shortly after his wife’s death. As he tries to adjust to his life alone, Strauss’s new patient, Sam Fortner (Gleeson), admits that he is a serial killer and wants help stopping his compulsions, eventually revealing that Fortner is the one who kidnaps Strauss.
Fortner explains that he met with three other Jewish therapists before Strauss and that Strauss is the best and the only one who can help. Strauss contemplates his situation realizing that he has no other way out. Carrell and Gleeson make for an unexpected duo that works well together. Carrell’s familiar and comfortable presence and his role as a therapist offset Gleeson’s ice-cold serial killer demeanor, making for an interesting and complex dynamic.
The episode relies too much on the score to create a creepy and disturbing atmosphere when it would’ve benefitted from having silence to strengthen the uncomfortable conversations between these two characters. The episode also felt incredibly short. It’s difficult to critique the pacing after only the first episode, but from beginning to end it’s pretty rushed; however, the ending leaves enough anticipation and promises to keep viewers interested in the journey of these two characters.