Wednesday, October 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Patient' - Alan Provides a Link to Sam Between His Trauma and His Need for a Greater Purpose in 'Auschwitz'

FX's The Patient - Episode 1.09 "Auschwitz"

Dr. Strauss leaves nothing unsaid. Sam gives it another shot with Mary. An idea sparks for Sam, and everything seems to click together.

"Auschwitz" was written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg and directed by Chris Long

Alan dreams of Auschwitz. It's not immediately clear why. He definitely projects a sense of connection to that mass atrocity. He also seeks comfort in the story of a person who survived and wrote a book finding new perspective in moving forward. It provides Alan with a way to craft a meaningful argument to Sam. He rations that it's necessary for people to feel purpose. The more relationships Sam has with purpose will likely dull his desire to kill. Of course, it's all just an excuse to bring someone new into this environment. That hasn't gone well in the past. As such, the tension of this episode comes from Alan deciding if he can risk even more lives in the name of escape. He wants his freedom more than anything else in the world. In that regard, the parallel to Auschwitz is clear. Charlie offers his thoughts as well. However, Charlie is merely an extension of Alan's subconscious. His brain is trying to communicate something meaningful to him. However, it's increasingly come across as a convenient way for the show to dramatize Alan's internal conflict. His mental state is deteriorating. He always hopes to be see as a helpful therapist. He wants to continue treating Sam before he starts his sessions with his new counselor. Sam still listens too. He wants these valuable insights into how to function as a normal human being. Alan tries to teach him basic skills of empathy. These lessons should have been more obvious to Sam by now. Instead, he deflected entirely because it was so easy to become obsessed with a target and then have to kill them. That's the energy he radiates onto every situation. As such, Alan is conditioned to think that way as well. He was glib about wanting to die of old age instead of offering a more gruesome option to Sam. He wants to survive this ordeal. The last few episodes have suggested that he has to ultimately take matters into his own hands. No one is coming to save him. Those options just aren't available to him. He disappeared. People noticed that. No leads can be found though. No one knows to be looking for him in Sam's basement. Alan is now sharpening the end of his tube of foot cream. It's the one resource he can conceivably turn into a weapon. He hopes it's enough. Even then, he is continually plagued by self-doubt. He's not a killer. He doesn't have the strength and conviction to follow through on this plan. He sets it into motion. He has the perfect opportunity to do so. He has to believe Candace won't kill as well in order to protect her son. He convinces Sam to expand his environment. That opens him up to a new round of heartbreak and despair. Alan sees that as a powerful lesson. And yet, it doesn't alter the stakes of this reality. Time is running short. The show seems like it's dragging itself out instead of fully committing to whatever the climax will be.

These plotting issues are a bit more apparent here. The narrative has overcome them in the past because of how tightly wounded and purposeful every action was. That direction is still mightily apparent. However, Alan and Sam both realized they hit a dead end. The therapy wasn't helping. And now, they return to a familiar pattern because it's easier than directly confronting the harsh realities of what might happen next. The show hasn't been afraid to pull the trigger on its most significant twists. Sam dragged Elias into the basement. Alan was powerless to prevent his death. He must deliver a message to his loved ones. He needs to provide that moment of peace and closure. Alan is haunted by that. That explains why he doesn't want Mary to die as well. He would be directly responsible if that happened. Sure, he's acting under duress in everything that he does. He wants to appease Sam long enough to be rescued. It's hard for him to maintain hope after being trapped in this environment for so long. It's not working either. Alan pulls out some moves of desperation to buy more time for himself. It's successful. Sam sees the benefits of inviting Mary over for brunch. It's awkward as the family sits in silence. It's horrifying as Sam tries to recite the dark joke Alan previously made about death. It worked for Alan because it directly applied to his circumstances. Sam struggles to connect with the world around him as it currently is. He thought rekindling things with Mary was the direction he had to pursue. Alan wanted him to take a risk and receive clarity in the response. Mary sees the benefit in remaining friends and hanging out once a year. That's all she needs from Sam at this point. The story is never really about her either. It's entirely focused on what Sam will do in the basement. He observes these interactions. Two of the people involved know about his presence. As such, they are still going through the motions of what's expected. They want to behave as normal. That concept went out the window a long time ago. Alan even picked up on the clues that all of Sam's problems connect to how his father abused him. Of course, that just leads to a new fixation for Sam. He must kill his father in order to silence these urges. He must do so like the one serial killer who behaved just like him. He sees those parallels with Ed Kemper. That's not the point Alan was trying to make. He wanted his patient to truly reflect on himself and why he behaves in this way. He's stunted in his emotional growth because of what happened to him as a child. Those are the big revelations that are purposefully being withheld for the finale. Alan can't be delicate when it comes to forcing these breakthroughs. That simply teases satisfying drama for the future. This episode still has plenty of tension. But the stalling techniques are very apparent as well in a story that has tried to briskly detail what this journey provides for its two lead characters.