Hulu’s “The Patient” is the only show to perfectly “execute” serial killers


Serial killers have always seemed to fascinate people. Their stories have always been intriguing, with viewers finding themselves trying to piece together the parts of the killer’s life in order to explain away their heinous actions, the murders themselves being only a fraction of the interest. Hulu’s series, “The Patient”, tries to attack both sides of the story, showing the audience the point of view of the killer, and the helpless victim who is trying his best to help him. 

Written by Joel Fields, “The Patient” follows the story of Dr. Alan Strauss (Steve Carell), a therapist who is later kidnapped by one of his own patients — Sam Fortner (Domhnall Gleeson), a serial killer who desperately wants to stop his immoral “hobby”, but cannot seem to do it himself. Throughout the story, Sam is convinced the only way to “be fixed” is through therapy, Dr. Strauss attempts to help Sam as he secretly plans ways to escape. The psychological thriller shows us the mind of Dr. Strauss as he slowly falls into insanity trying to make sense of a killer’s actions.

To be completely honest, I didn’t have high expectations going into the show. Many shows focused on a fictional serial killer tend to fall flat–either due to making the person seem like the coolest murderer on the planet or having him be Sherlock level of intelligence, both of which take you out of the show immediately. “The Patient ” does neither, which was a pleasant surprise. It sets Sam up as a normal, awkward guy–an average person you wouldn’t expect to be violent or capable of doing what he does in the show. This is what makes his character so much better than other TV murderers. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth knowing you could meet someone like Sam and never know what they do behind closed doors. What makes the story even more intriguing is that the writers begin to make you feel bad for Sam as they slowly reveal his backstory. He has an overwhelming guilt for what he does, him having no intention to kill, but instead having a need for it. It left me rooting for Sam to get better, with hope that he could recover from this incessant need to kill, until the show brought me back to the perspective of his victim, Dr. Strauss, and suddenly I remembered he is a dangerous person who couldn’t be helped.

Despite Dr. Strauss attempting to help Sam get over his need to murder, Strauss is still a victim and acts as one. Forcefully being assigned as Sam’s therapist, Strauss begins to learn more about Sam’s past, namely the abuse his father put him through, which leads Dr. Strauss feels an odd sympathy for Sam despite being the one holding captive. Strauss even begins to rethink his own choices in life, realizing his own faults in life. Strauss then continuously lashes out in anger or sadness, even hallucinating his own therapist to help him throughout the situation. This left me with such an uneasy feeling for Dr. Strauss, hoping he is able to escape yet knowing that seems nearly impossible. Each episode I found myself on edge waiting to see if Strauss’s plan would fail and lead to his death, and sighing in relief everytime it didn’t. 

 Steve Carell does a beautiful job of conveying his emotion to the viewer; time and time again I found myself tearing up watching his character go through pain. Carell may be known for his comedic role in “The Office”, but “The Patient” proves he can take on more serious roles and do wonders with them. I could truly feel the conflict going on within Dr. Strauss as he is trying his hardest to be sympathetic, but also realistic, about Sam’s actions. Damhall Gleeson also does an amazing job at playing Sam’s character and portraying the unnerving presence he emanates. Gleeson is most known for his work in the movie “Ex Machina”, where he plays a timid man who is constantly being manipulated by those surrounding him. Seeing such a change in character for Gleeson was fascinating, as he goes from victim to villain. I truly hope to see him take more darker roles in the future.

 “The Patient” was honestly a fascinating show to watch and left me biting my nails nearly every episode. I was able to get invested so quickly watching both characters interact with each other, wondering when one would attack the other. Each episode left me on the edge of my seat as the realization that someone had to die dawned on me, but not knowing who kept me watching for more. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in thrillers or stories of serial killers. If you are considering watching, the show is available on Hulu and all the episodes have been released.