The Patient, a 10-episode limited series, that is on Hulu is the prime example of why limited series are getting out of hand. Episodes ranged from as short as 21 minutes with credits to as long as 46 minutes with credits. This is about five hours of a series that could’ve very easily been squeezed into a two-hour movie with the same effect.
The concept borrows a lot from Misery, the Stephen King novel and film adaptation by Rob Reiner. Alan Stauss (Steve Carrell) is a therapist who is grieving the death of his wife, Beth (Laura Niemi), from cancer. He’s in a complicated relationship with his adult children. His son, Ezra (Andrew Leeds), became estranged with his parents after becoming a strict Orthodox Jew at college. Alan equates it to Scientology. And there’s sibling rivalry with his daughter, Chava (Amy Handelman).
One day, Alan is kidnapped by a younger man, Sam Fortner (Domnhall Gleeson), who is a restaurant health inspector but also has homicidal impulses and has killed several people previously. He’s divorced from a marriage and lives with his mother, Candace (Linda Emond), who is aware of Sam’s previous murders as well as the kidnapping of Alan. Keeeping chain by the leg in the basement, Sam is hoping Alan will help him with his homicidal urges.
This could have been a good premise if it was handled better. We see flashbacks of the tension between Sam and Beth and Ezra. We also see snippets of Alan interacting in his mind with his own therapist, Charles Addison (David Alan Grier), who has long died. Sam is a Kenny Chesney fan who also has an ability to hold his bladder that he repeatedly urinates at great length off camera. Why is this in the series? I’m not really sure if only for a crucial scene.
A stickler for the regulations, Sam reveals he was heavily abused by his own father as a child and Candace knew about it but couldn’t stop it. After some hesitancy at first, Alan agrees to have therapy sessions with Sam learning more about him. But these sessions really go nowhere because the series goes nowhere. It just repeats itself over and over. And not to give much away, but you know where the series is heading.
It basically makes Sam a weak person about to crack and two of the murders he commit more or less can be traced back to him rather easy. Also, Sam’s choice is to strangle people, which in film and TV terms, means he’s actually causes them to pass out. But after building the series up to some grand finale, it instead just fizzles out with some depressing ending. Gleeson and Carrell try their best with the material and it’s a shame they didn’t get a better series. You can see how Gleeson is the type of person who had an awful set of circumstances that led him to this point in his life. Gleeson adds some humanity and depth to the role.
As for Carrell, I felt the whole family drama should’ve been included in a different series or story. There’s too much going on for his character but Carrell does his best to keep it together. He’s more resolved in this role playing the straight person to Gleeson’s madman. I know the flashbacks and the meetings in his mind are to take Alan out of the basement, but it diverts from the claustrophobia rather than adding to it. Therefore, there’s not really the tension that needs to be there.
All episodes are written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg who also are executive producers. Weisberg also created the hit series The Americans. I had never seen that, but it’s success should have inspired something better here. I’m just wondering if this was a script he had written with Fields years ago that he couldn’t get made until the success of The Americans.
The series might be great for background noise for a weekend when you’re doing things around the house. But I was expecting each episode to build on each other but they don’t. And the ending is so abruptly and lazily handled, you feel you’ve been cheated for having watched all this time.
What do you think? Please comment.