Tuesday, August 30, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Patient' - Alan Is Forced to Engage with Therapy According to Sam's Extreme Terms in 'Alan Learns to Meditate'

FX's The Patient - Episode 1.02 "Alan Learns to Meditate"

Sam delves more deeply into the reason he entered therapy, but he encounters resistance from Dr. Strauss as he attempts to continue their sessions. A gathering sense of not being alone leads to a revelation about the house. 

"Alan Learns to Meditate" was written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg and directed by Chris Long

Alan is no longer Sam's therapist. He is his prisoner. He no longer operates in a safe environment. He can no longer speck objectively. Every action he makes in a session is even more tentative. Anything could drastically shake up this new dynamic Sam has created. Sam doesn't think Alan believes him. He has to show off the trophies of the people he's killed. He needs to outline how the police have no idea who he is. He isn't connected to any of the murders. He has even been titled the John Doe Killer. He's infamous. He has established that notoriety. Something is different with the latest compulsion. Sam presents the case of the man he wants to kill. He hates it when people treat him as inferior or as if he doesn't understand how the world really works. A lot of it is his own projection. It also manifests in these urges to commit epic acts of violence. Alan agrees to continue the therapy mostly because he has no other choice. Resistance to the process may only end his life. Engaging with Sam on his terms may offer the possibility of freedom one day. It's still a slow moving desire. One where Alan can never feel secure in any aspect of his life. He's trapped within his own thoughts too. That once dictated the terms of his marriage and family. He reflects back on the times when he struggled to connect with his loved ones. He couldn't engage with them on their terms. He was still treated as a trusted member of the family. However, the events were happening around him. And now, all he has is time to meditate and remember. Sam offers Alan a watch to keep track of the time. Alan doesn't want any reminder of the horrifying acts his captor has already committed. The two can't be in session all day long either. The therapy occurs basically on the same time table as before. It's only a few brief interactions each day. It's whenever both of them decide to submit to the process. The rest of the time Sam is at work and Alan remains chained to the bed. It's agonizing and slow. Alan has no way to escape either. Of course, he may not be alone in the house. That's another mystery introduced. He hears footsteps from above. He calls out hoping to be answered this time. The episode concludes before offering the satisfaction of answers. That could be frustrating. Right now, it's an exhale of relief. It's meant to build up the overall anxiety of this environment. It's been a couple of days for Alan already. A routine has been established even though he's refused to engage with Sam on his terms. Sam tries to make the approach several different ways. He's acting similarly to a therapist dealing with a client who refuses to open up. That resistance is palpable. The mood still shifts. All of this is unavoidable. Alan has to go through the motions. It's still all happening the way Sam wants it.

Sam absolutely has the freedom to be furious too. Alan is terrified for his life. He fears how his patient will react. He is meant to push the boundaries to get his patient to become aware of his behavior and the patterns that led up to it. Sam repeats how dangerous he is. And yet, he expects Alan to act as the sensible one. He is required to acknowledge all the lethal actions without fearing for his own life. Sam can't make those promises. He can barely agree to talk with Alan before he decides to harm anyone else. He says he'll try his best. That offers no satisfaction. No one can sleep easy knowing he's trying to improve himself. That's not reassuring. Alan notes the time table of how all of this developed. Sam entered therapy as Gene after he chose not to kill the restaurant owner who belittled him. Alan wants to dig deeper to understand why Sam could stop himself in that moment and reach out for help. It provides some curiosity. Alan engages with the situation because he is forced into it. He is told to be curious. And so, he has to examine more intensely than ever before. That radiates throughout every aspect of his life. Those details can't be ignored. That's true both in the past and in the present. Alan can't ignore the noises he hears and how Sam conducts himself as he's rushing out the door. In fact, those reveal who these people are. It's frustrating because Alan can't escape. He's trapped in this vicious cycle no matter what he does. A plastic fork isn't going to successfully pick the lock that keeps him chained. He can't cover up the evidence either. Sam knows right away how desperate Alan still is to escape. That too could threaten the bond he hopes he has with his prisoner. Sam knows he is acting irrationally. He doesn't particularly care. He is excited whenever it comes to talking up the food he brings home. As a health inspector, he knows all the details of how the local restaurants prepare their food. He knows who is doing things right. He hopes to conduct himself without any bias. He knows when things are a big deal that require a conversation with management. He also has to accept being overruled by a corrupt boss. It's not a pleasant life. Nor is Alan completely involved with every single detail. He is expected to be though. Sam feels the need to show off to his therapist. He has to prove just how dangerous he actually is. Alan has the capacity to change throughout this experience. It forces him to fight back harder than he has ever had to do for anything. It's all pointless. He has to continue the therapy. It's the only way any of this is going to work. It's inevitable. Resistance is futile. Alan must submit. He needs things though. He has to investigate to engage critically. He needs that freedom even though it's all held together with the thinnest of strings. Physically, that's not true at all. Psychologically, all of this teeters on the edge of sanity which propels every moment forward with such anxiety and dread no matter what Sam is actually talking about.