Why Domhnall Gleeson’s killer is so refreshing | Pretty Reel

There you have it, the latest series of cat-and-mouse serial killers have fallen. FX’s new show, The Patient, is an alluring new entry into the all-too-familiar genre, starring Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson in unprecedented roles. Carell is totally transformed into a 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 up in his basement.

If the above sounds like spoilers for the series, viewers should be sure we learn all of this information in the very first episode of The Patient. It’s one of the many things that separates this series from its predecessors; he 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 take on so many shows from the past that sees one-on-ones for seasons between kidnapper and killer, or killer and captured. Here, the chase is bypassed entirely, and we are left with only the meaty substance of endless confrontation. It’s like the black, comical love child of Good Will Hunting and The Silence of the Lambs.

Because we spend so much time with him, on what we assume is his own turf, The Patient brings us a mystifying new serial killer permutation. Gleeson’s performance as Sam Fortner is terrifying in its banality and distance – unlike Dexter, we never quite know what we’re getting with him. The enchanting enigma that is Sam leaves us wanting more and plays exceptionally well with the goodness and hidden trauma of Steve Carrel. Patient takes one of TV’s most overused tropes and steers it in a fruitful and refreshing new direction.

The patient refuses to glorify his killer

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For some reason, which seems both obvious and infinitely disconcerting, Hollywood has a thing for glamorous serial killers. Even though their violence is shown in all its depravity, there is a concentrated seduction in many of TV’s favorite killers. Hannibal Lecter might bite into the forbidden fruit, but we’d be damned if he didn’t look good in a three-piece suit. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” the Netflix series Ted Bundy, appears to be about three women in their twenties living in New York City. Many people, even if 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 bizarre sex appeal in Sam Forner. He doesn’t wear three-piece suits, talk confusing riddles, or view murder as an art or a science. Sam is irrational, insecure, and to the outside world, you 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 – as much of the outside world as of his own impulses. In Gleeson’s words, “There’s a deep pit of pathetic self-loathing there that’s really at the heart of what’s going on. »

Have you considered seeing a therapist?

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Maybe Domhnall Gleeson’s character isn’t all that different from Bill Murray’s in What About Bob (minus some neuroticism and the fact that he kills people). Both have the ability to recognize their behavior and compulsions as abnormal. The two are looking for help. Both “imprison” their therapist, in one way or another.

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

The patient keeps Carell and the audience from gnawing on these questions, and maybe Sam doesn’t even know the real answer himself. But one thing that’s certain about The Patient is that the doctor-patient relationship is at the heart of the show. Series co-creator Joe Fields commented, “It really started with our mutual interest in therapy and the value of self-reflection, as a tool not for navel-gazing, but rather to find meaning in his relationships in his own life. life. »

Tiptoe towards humanity…maybe

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It might seem silly not to think that a serial killer show and one about “meaningful relationships” are mutually exclusive. But if there’s anything The Patient challenges us to do, it’s to forsake the sharp line that divides these genres — for just half an hour.

From About Time to Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson has played many hopeful young men throughout his career, with ambition and an oversized heart. The patient gives us another kind of hope for his 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 in the distance indicating his possible reintegration into society. It’s utterly ridiculous to many, the idea that a serial killer can become “human” again – if they ever were. But it’s Sam’s human qualities that could lead him away from depravity, as much as they directed him towards it.

Why Domhnall Gleeson’s killer is so refreshing | Pretty Reel