FX on Hulu’s psychological thriller series ‘The Patient’ revolves around Sam Fortner, a serial killer who abducts a therapist named Alan Strauss and holds him captive. After committing several murders, Sam wants to put an end to his killing spree and he seeks Alan’s help to do the same. Even though Alan initially lets Sam know that they cannot do psychotherapy in an unsafe environment, the therapist eventually realizes that he should change Sam’s mind to stop him from possibly killing people, including himself, in the future.
As the show progresses, we get to see an exploration of Sam’s psyche, making us invested in the character. Naturally, the viewers must be wondering whether the serial killer has a real-life counterpart. Here’s everything you need to know about the same!
Is Sam Fortner Based on a Real Serial Killer?
No, Sam Fortner is not based on a real serial killer. The character was conceived by creators of the show Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg. Fields and Weisberg wanted to do a show about therapy but with a thriller element driving the narrative forward so that it will not be just “people talking to each other.” “We [Fields and Weisberg] thought, ‘Is there a way to add a thriller element that ratchets up the stakes and makes it fun but doesn’t knock out the realism and truth about therapy?’” Weisberg told USA Today regarding the origin of the show.
Fields and Weisberg, to raise the stakes for the protagonist Alan, conceived Sam. Even during the primary stages of the creation of the show, they thought about a serial killer character “who wanted to get better” and has “normal” characteristics. Through such a character, they were able to combine the psychological foundation of the show and the aforementioned thriller element. As an essential character, Sam dictates the stakes of Alan’s actions as he most likely will kill Alan and several others if the therapist won’t or can’t stop Sam’s compulsions to kill. Through Alan’s exploration of Sam’s mind, the show depicts the potential and potency of psychotherapy as well.
Fields and Weisberg weren’t inspired by any particular real-life serial killer to conceive Sam. They were even concerned whether a serial killer with several normal attributes and a desire to get better was “a real thing or something ridiculous” they created. Still, Sam is not outrightly distanced from reality. Like several real-life serial killers, Sam also had a traumatic childhood due to his abusive father. Like numerous killers who succeeded in hiding their vicious selves from the public, Sam also does the same as a restaurant health inspector. However, these similarities are all that connect Sam to real serial killers.
As far as co-creator Weisberg is concerned, Sam’s relevance seemingly lies more in his belief in therapy rather than his identity as a serial killer. “If you have a lot of therapy, the idea of cyclical anything becomes very obvious. […] That’s also what makes it powerful and interesting to do a story about somebody trying to break out of that cycle. Whatever it is that you’re repeating — […] — it’s very, very courageous to be the generation that’s going to try to change and try not to follow in those footsteps. And in a way, that’s exactly what Sam is trying to do,” Weisberg explained to TheWrap.
Sam Fortner is a serial killer character who stands apart from the numerous serial killers we have seen in films and TV shows. While typical serial killer films/shows focus more on the portrayal of serial killers’ horrendous displays of cruelty, ‘The Patient’ explores the possibility of redemption through Sam.
Read More: Where Was The Patient Filmed?