Why Domhnall Gleeson’s Killer is So Refreshing | YTS YIFY

ytsfreeSeptember 19, 2022

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There we have it – the latest serial killer cat-and-mouse series has dropped. FX’s new show The Patient is an enticing new entry into the all-too-familiar genre, starring Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson in roles unlike any we’ve ever seen them in before. Carell is totally transformed as the cardigan-wearing Dr. Alan Strauss, an attentive therapist who thinks he’s seen it all over the years. But he meets his match in Gleeson’s dead-eyed (no pun intended) serial killer – a man who, shockingly, might not be beyond saving. He just needs some good therapy – so he locks Dr. Strauss in his basement.


If the above by any means sounds like spoilers to the series, viewers should trust that we learn all of this information within the very first episode of The Patient. That is one of the many things that separates this series from its predecessors; it drops us off right in the middle of the action, with Carell chained to a bedpost and already grimly assuming the role of prisoner. The Patient is a fresh new take on so many shows of the past that see seasons-long tête-à-têtes between captor and killer, or killer and captured. Here, the chase is skirted entirely, and what we are left with is the meaty stuff of neverending confrontation. It’s like the blackly comic love child of Good Will Hunting and The Silence of the Lambs.

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Because we spend so much time with him, on what we assume to be his home turf, The Patient brings us a mystifying new permutation of serial killer. Gleeson’s performance as Sam Fortner is terrifying in its mundanity and aloofness – unlike Dexter, we never quite know what we’re getting with him. The rapturous enigma that is Sam leaves us wanting to know more, and plays off exceptionally with Steve Carrel’s do-goodness and hidden trauma alike. The Patient takes one of television’s most overused tropes, and points it in a fruitful, refreshing new direction.

Related: Best Movies About Women Serial Killers


The Patient Refuses to Glamorize Its Killer

For some reason, that feels simultaneously obvious yet infinitely perplexing, Hollywood has a thing with glamorizing serial killers. Even if their violence is shown in its full depravity, there is a concentrated seductiveness to be found within many of TV’s favorite killers. Hannibal Lecter might bite from the forbidden fruit, but we’d be damned if he didn’t look great in a three-piece suit. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” the Netflix Ted Bundy series, sounds like it could be about three twenty-something women living in New York. Many people, even if they were locked in his glass box, would still find a way to have a crush on Joe Goldberg.

In The Patient, there is no mythology or weird sexiness to Sam Forner. He doesn’t wear three-piece suits, speak in befuddling riddles, or view killing as art or science. Sam is irrational, insecure, and, on the outside world, one might say a loser. He dons drab work clothes and is perpetually holding a large cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. He is alone and afraid – just as much of the outside world as he is of his own impulses. In Gleeson’s words, “There’s a deep well of pathetic self-loathing there which is really at the heart of what is happening.”

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Maybe Domhnall Gleeson’s character isn’t so different from that of Bill Murray in What About Bob (minus a few neuroticisms and the fact that he kills people). Both have the ability to recognize their behavior and compulsions as abnormal. Both seek out help. Both “imprison” their therapist, in one way or another.

The shades of self-awareness to Gleeson’s character are what push The Patient to its peak interest – and also what makes it so funny. One of the first things to come out of Gleeson’s mouth to a terrified Carrel is “I know this sucks.” But to what extent is that performed empathy just that – a performance?

The Patient keeps Carell and the audience gnawing away at these questions, and perhaps Sam doesn’t even know the real answer himself. But one thing that’s for certain about The Patient is that the doctor-patient relationship is what’s at the heart of the show. Co-creator of the series Joe Fields offered commentary on this, “It really started with our mutual interest in therapy and the value of self-reflection, as a tool not to navel-gaze, but rather to find meaning in one’s relationships in one’s life.”

Related: 12 Best Psychological Thrillers, Ranked

Tiptoeing Towards Humanity… Possibly

It might feel absurd not to think of a serial killer show and one about “meaningful relationships” as mutually exclusive. But if there’s anything that The Patient challenges us to do, it’s to forego the stark line that divides those genres – for only half an hour.

From About Time to Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson has played many hopeful young men throughout his career, careening with ambition and an over-sized heart. The Patient sets us up with a different sort of hope for its character. While it’s never clear when Sam is lying, or if he means what he says about wanting to get better, there is a light somewhere far off in the distance pointing to his possible rejoining of society. That is totally ludicrous to many, the idea that a serial killer might become “human” again – if he ever was. But it’s Sam’s human qualities that might point him away from depravity, as much as it pointed him towards it.

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