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The One Element Of Serial Killer Stories Domhnall Gleeson Wanted To Avoid For The Patient

Any movie or TV series about a psychopath has its work cut out for it. Psychopaths have been some of the most memorable characters in movie and TV history, so any new depiction of one will have a lot of history looming over it.

That's the case with the FX series "The Patient," which premiered on Hulu on August 30. In it, Domnhall Gleeson stars as Sam, a serial killer who kidnaps and imprisons his new therapist, Alan, (played by Steve Carrell). With a set-up like that, it's difficult not to think about Stephen King's "Misery," but Sam's motivations are much different than Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes. Sam wants to curb his murderous urges, see, and he needs the help of a sympathetic therapist to do it. Of course, the central irony with Sam is that while he does seem to want to change, he can't do it without inflicting yet more harm on someone.

Domnhall Gleeson is a veteran actor who's been appearing onscreen since 2001, starring in everything from, "Ex Machina" to the most recent "Star Wars" trilogy (via IMDb). Gleeson was well aware of the baggage that comes with playing a murderer, and he was very deliberate with his approach.

Domnhall Gleeson didn't want to glamorize another serial killer

As Gleeson explained to The New York Times, he didn't want to present Sam as a darkly compelling figure, like many serial killers in media. Hannibal Lecter comes to mind, but a more recent example would be Zac Efron's depiction of Ted Bundy in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile."

"I understand where the fascination comes from, but they end up getting put on some strange pedestal, where they're fascinating," Gleeson explained. "It's like the bad boy at the party: Everybody's interested in, 'Who's that guy?'" he added. "In real life, it's really disgusting, pathetic."

Gleeson expanded on these thoughts in an interview with The Wrap, in which he gave a deeper analysis of the character. For Gleeson, at the heart of Sam is a "deep well of pathetic self-loathing," which is what drives him to change.

Gleeson tried to avoid a common pitfall that comes with serial killer depictions: making them likable. For Gleeson, there's nothing to root for with Sam. Sam's desire to change isn't genuine. To Gleeson, if Sam truly wanted to change he would turn himself in.

"The Patient" boasts an 87% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes among the critics, and an 83% Fresh score among the fans. The review site says "The Patient" offers "arguably career-best work" from its two leads. So, it sounds like avoiding the common serial killer tropes has paid off.