During the past decade, FX has been one of the most incredible production companies on television. The network has been able to produce classics such as Sons of Anarchy and Justified, and so far, in this new age of streaming, they are able to continue their quality production at a good pace. Hulu, which is able to stream most of this content, must be really appreciative of having such a marvelous story factory. This is a review of The Patient, the new FX/Hulu TV show.
The Patient is a TV limited series created by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg. The series stars Steve Carrell, Domhnall Gleeson, and Linda Emond. The series tells the story of Alan, a successful therapist who has recently suffered the death of a loved one. Nevertheless, things don’t get better for Alan, as he is kidnapped by one of his patients, Sam, who confesses that he is a serial killer and needs Alan’s help to stop his killing compulsion.
Joe Weisberg already proved himself to be an amazing showrunner and storyteller by having created The Americans, also for FX. The show is one of those jewels of this golden era of television, so we can feel confident that Weisberg and the rest of his team are going to be able to deliver something of quality for this new show. In the first couple of episodes, you can feel that this is going to be special, not only because the premise is quite attractive, but because the actors are just doing such an incredible job.
Carrell who began his road to fame by being funny in The Office and in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, has in this second phase of his career shown that he can also be an excellent dramatic actor. Carrell was nominated for an Oscar for his work in the film Foxcatcher, so his aptitudes are not in doubt. Here, he plays the role of a man that hides in work, which he is very good at, but who is avoiding fighting his own demons.
On the other hand, Gleeson, while younger, has also proven in a very short time that he is just as good of an actor as his legendary father. The actor has been going around here and there in many shows, episodes of some anthologies, and, of course, in film, where we can find the majority of his work. Gleeson is able to be both charming, tender, and also equally terrifying. His amazing range is used to a degree here, as he moves between scary and remorseful with ease.
The entire season consists of ten episodes of around 20-22 minutes in length. So, it could be said that the series is perfect to binge-watch once it has been released completely. The first two episodes should already be available, with the following episodes being released once each week, up to the end of October. The short length of the episodes makes you feel like every single thing that is on-screen is important. There is really no time for filler here; all scenes develop characters or move the plot forward.
At the start, you might feel like The Patient is all about these two people talking. But as the story moves forward, you will be presented with twists in the story and even in the presentation that will keep things moving along quite nicely. This need to create episodes that run for exactly one hour feels sometimes like a strange mandate. Especially when some of those episodes don’t have enough story to fill them up completely.
For example, seasonal anime series are able to create characters and present amazing stories that feel complete in episodes that are just about 20 minutes in length, and they have been doing that for decades. It is great that in the west, live-action television is also realizing that you don’t need extensive episodes to create the depth you want the characters to have. Less is more, most of the time, and if the writers and directors agree that every single thing in the episode should be important, the length should not matter.
If there is something that could hurt the show, it is the way the show is being released. Will the audience make itself present every week for a 20-minute episode? Animation is able to do it, but live-action hasn’t really been able to cross that threshold. The worst-case scenario is that people just forget about the show as the weeks pass by. Maybe two episodes each week would have been a better strategy. It is possible that people will discover the show later when the entire season is available to watch.
The Patient is a fantastic show. The release strategy might hurt it a bit in front of the audience, but the writing and the acting are just top-notch. It is great to see that live-action television is able to jump into this kind of structure and presentation for its shows, and we can only hope people can discover the show in time. Carrell and Gleeson are on fire, and it would not be surprising if they got nominated for something when awards season comes closer.