Hulu’s “The Patient” is traumatically good, a review

Elijah Nix

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“The Patient” is an FX Hulu Original thriller in which a patient kidnaps his therapist in hopes that he might be cured of his compulsive murdering habit. The show follows Dr. Strauss (Steve Carrell) as he attempts to heal Sam (Domhnall Gleeson) while also brainstorming ways to escape his captivity—often blurring the lines between the two efforts. 

Many are familiar with Steve Carrell’s fun and playful roles in shows like “The Office” but may not be familiar with his more serious work in content such as “Beautiful Boy”. I recommend these weightier pieces, as Carrell excels at both comedic and dramatic roles. 

There are two specific categories in which “The Patient” stands above many other shows. First, its characters are striking and complex, and second, the tension of the show is constant and captivating through each moment. These two categories intertwine and have subcategories that will be explored.


In many shows and series, characters can sometimes fit the mold of a specific archetype, and though this is not always bad, it can lead to uninspiring characters and plot–see my She-Hulk review. 

However, the characters in “The Patient” are entirely unique and cannot be neatly placed into archetypal boxes. Our protagonist, Dr. Strauss, for example, is a wise and soft-spoken therapist, but his grief and anger mixed with his primal desire to escape brings out a far more human and original character. 

One of Strauss’s unique traits is his necessary and frequent shift from professional to honest and personal when he is around Sam and when he is alone in his own head, respectively. It is an interesting shift that leaves the audience wondering whether Strauss’s efforts are for Sam’s true healing or merely a way to improve his chances of escaping.

Sam, the show’s antagonist, is a compulsive murderer and a kidnapper, but he is humanized by his desire to heal from his compulsion, his love for Kenie Chesnie and different foods, and–ironically–his sense of justice, as skewed as it may be. 

Something I found interesting about Sam’s choice to kidnap his therapist was that, on some level, viewers might be inclined to share this desire. Mental health and trauma awareness are growing in our culture. Many of us have demons we want exercised, and therapy is perhaps our best option. We sometimes wish we could always have a therapist with us, and Sam’s choice is this desire fulfilled.

It is also interesting that as the show progresses, we are shown that Dr. Strauss is wrestling with his relationship with his son, while Sam is wrestling with his relationship with his father. This creates a unique dynamic and theme that speaks to family trauma and reconciliation. 

Thrilling Tension 

Another category “The Patient” excels in is its consistent and dynamic tension enabled by the weight of character choices, Dr. Strauss’s potential escape methods, and the tortured hope of viewers. 

Something that makes “The Patient” so gripping is that several characters have the power to change the entire direction of the show with one simple choice. Dr. Strauss, if he chose, could attempt to strangle or disarm Sam to escape. If he chose to do this, everything would change. The same is true for Sam.  

If Sam were to come to his senses and just turn himself in, or–on the other side of the spectrum–kill Dr. Strauss, everything changes. Another character who has this power is Sam’s mother, Candace. If Candace were to be swayed by Strauss’s rhetoric and just turn her son in, the story would resolve. 

The show also presents Dr. Strauss with diverse ways in which he might escape, whether it is by using his limited resources to attack Sam or through spontaneous events that present unforeseen opportunities. How Dr. Strauss responds to these situations fuels the show’s tension and leads viewers to wonder about what they might do if they were in a similar situation. 

As these many choices and situations arrive in the show, the audience’s question of how Strauss will escape is poked and prodded with each episode, making the outcome appear bleaker and bleaker with time. The answer the finale presents will toy with your emotions and even possibly trigger your fight-or-flight response. 


On a scale of 1-10, I give “The Patient” a 9/10 for its incredible story, incredible tension, and its thought-provoking themes regarding family and trauma. “The Patient” is a must watch for any fan of thrillers or shows that delve so deeply into good shows. 


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