Ask Matt: The Controversial ‘Patient’ Ending, ‘Cabinet’ Curiosity, a ‘Rookie’s Revealing Uniform

Steve Carell in 'The Patient'
Suzanne Tenner/FX
The Patient

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist” — Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)

One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and some Fridays.

A Controversial Climax for The Patient

[MAJOR Spoiler Alert – Skip if you haven’t finished The Patient or don’t want to know how it ends]

Question: I loved The Patient on Hulu (from FX) and then was SO angry at the last episode. Why did they think this was a fitting ending when we had been so emotionally invested in these characters? Dr. Strauss had to survive. There must have been a less shocking and upsetting ending the writers could have planned. — Alice N

Matt Roush: I’ve read several post-mortem (so to speak) interviews with the series’ writer/producers, who also ended their brilliant series The Americans on a less-than-happy note, and they insist they discussed every conceivable ending before deciding this was the only one that felt true and real. I tend to agree. If The Patient had ended with Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) heroically freeing himself and reuniting with his broken family in a kumbaya moment, that might have been temporarily satisfying and we would probably forget the series as soon as it was over. With this ending, involving a beyond-the-mortal-coil reconciliation through Alan’s letter to his family and killer Sam’s startling decision to imprison himself in the basement as he had done his therapist, it’s likely to haunt viewers who are more open to a more artful, ironic conclusion. Devastating for sure, but I’m not aware of any professional critic who felt the end of the series was dishonest or cheapened the experience of this exceptional psychological thriller. Viewers, however, are another matter.

Comment: Just finished watching The Patient and left feeling the same urges as its protagonist — what was the point to this series? This is becoming a frustrating trend these days with so-called “limited” series: they go nowhere. Without giving away spoilers, the ending was very frustrating and made the whole series quite pointless. Nothing happened through 10 episodes. I kept waiting for something and at times they put in a couple of moments but never expanded on them. It’s a shame as I loved the concept and it had great potential. I actually kept hoping it would go into The Silence of the Lambs territory between the two leads, but again, nothing. And then that ending which was done more for shock value than keeping with the narrative. The two leads also made wrong choices in how they were portraying their characters: a subdued Steve Carell felt phony in his low-key voice throughout and Domhnall Gleeson may be the most boring serial killer ever. Conversely, I did like Linda Emond’s mother a lot. There is way too much content out there so I feel like the time spent here could have easily been spent on something which actually had something going on. I know you are anti-Criminal Minds, but I would rather watch a repeat of that over and over than whatever this pretentious nonsense was. – Sean

Matt Roush: I would agree that if you were expecting a Criminal Minds-style wallow in surface psychopathy, The Patient would appear slow and unsatisfying. But to suggest nothing happened during this cat-and-mouse game is way too dismissive of the shocks and sustained tension the series produced along the way, including the terrifying sequence in which Sam brought one of his (still alive) victims home and the fallout from that. And Sam boring? When have you seen a serial killer on TV who expressed such a desperate and conflicted desire to be cured, putting his therapist in this no-win situation? I fully expect the performances of Carell, Gleeson, and (if there’s justice) Emond to be nominated in all of the upcoming awards races. There are legitimate criticisms to be made (most, for me, involving Dr. Alan’s internal fantasy sequences), and I always suspected the series would be controversial, but it was hardly pointless.

Let There Be More Drawers in That Cabinet!

Question: Wow, I discovered Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix by accident at a friend’s boring party! What a gem, and so much excellent writing! I love the Hitchcock vibe. Any chance of Season 2? I want more Lot 36 (love the morals) but hey, loose end alert, there’s a certain female unbound now! Tell Netflix I will sign up if there’s a Season 2 because eight episodes is NOT enough! — Wilson B

Matt Roush: Maybe del Toro himself could even direct one of the episodes next time if there is a next time. (He did contribute a few original story ideas.) I agree with those who found some of the stories more stylish than suspenseful, and having cut my teeth on The Twilight Zone, felt they didn’t all need to go on for nearly a full hour (the Netflix bloat problem). But in general, I’m game for a spooky horror anthology that really goes for it, influenced by Guillermo del Toro’s florid visual style. So far there’s no word about a second season, but this is the kind of creative partnership Netflix craves, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more.

No Cover-Up for This Fed

Question: I love The Rookie: Feds and love Niecy Nash-Betts. HOWEVER, why does she have to wear those revealing tops?!! No one else on the show does that. In reality, you would never find a Fed in something that is not only unprofessional but is demeaning. I’m a woman and the thing that stands out the most on the show that you can’t avoid is her chest!! The only time she is presentable is when she’s wearing the bulletproof vest. I know she’s supposed to stand out because of her age, and her wisecracking humor is also a big draw but is diminished by the revealing tops. And I am no prude. The ladies on the original Rookie don’t dress that way! Maybe if the show’s powers that be see this, they might make a change? It’s way too much skin! Can’t these types of shows at least try to represent the profession they are portraying? — Michele

Matt Roush: I’ve been trying to ignore this subject since the Rookie spinoff premiered, feeling that many of the comments I was seeing leaned too heavily into body shaming or worse. But Michele’s complaints stress the main argument that most are making, that Simone’s wardrobe just feels too unrealistic, distracting enough to take viewers out of the show’s drama. Which leads to the following observation:

Question: Is The Rookie: Feds supposed to be a comedy? — Chris M

Matt Roush: No comment.

Repeats Already?

Question: Why is it that the TV shows came back on in the fall after having a summer break for just a couple of weeks and then we have reruns of the shows for another few weeks? Example: The FBI trilogy, which aired new shows for three weeks and now last week’s and this week’s episodes are repeats once again. — Alice P, Ft. Myers, FL

Matt Roush: To be precise and fair, the FBI series aired five consecutive episodes before hitting pause with repeats, which is a bit earlier than usual. (I’d ascribe this week’s repeats to them choosing not to go up against a World Series game, which could drain some of the core audience, and next week, Nov. 8, is Election Night, so almost no major network is airing new programming.) Generally speaking, most broadcast network shows try to air as many new episodes as possible from late September or early October through to early December, but since the pandemic, I’d cut them some slack because it’s taking longer and costing more to produce these episodes with the various testing and safety protocols. Sometimes shows also need to slow things down just to catch up with post-production, which could result in a week or two of in-season repeats earlier than used to happen. With the exception of those shows that air mostly straight through with the intention of leaving at mid-season, you’ll see lots more repeats in the back half of the season. And an occasional repeat now means there may be more fresh material to enjoy in the winter and spring.

And Finally …

Comment: I’ve been trying not to complain about the Grey’s-verse this year, but there was a ghost on the wrong Thursday show last week. On the Oct. 27 episode of the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Station 19, Jack (Grey Damon) is literally seeing and talking to the ghost of Rigo (Rigo Sanchez), the firefighter whose death he felt responsible for a couple seasons ago, while sleeping with his wife. I know it’s a Halloween episode, but this was really bad. Did they learn nothing from the Denny incident on Grey’s? Ghosts is why I watch Ghosts, not its time-period competition. Ugh. — JL

Matt Roush: Didn’t see it — blame my spinoff aversion — but sounds like a legitimate gripe. Let’s just hope the ghost doesn’t become a recurring character the way Denny’s was for far too long. I agree there’s only room for one show about spirits from beyond on Thursday night, and that’s the delightful Ghosts.

That’s all for now. We can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter @TVGMMattRoush. (Please include a first name with your question.)