Patrick Melrose: A Review

By: Sarah Brill  |  November 1, 2020

By Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor 

Trigger and Content Warning: This article contains content with mention of sexual and substance abuse and suicide.

“Patrick Melrose”, a mini series that aired in 2018, depicts the life of a privileged and abusive drug user named Patrick Melrose. “Patrick Melrose” is a limited series based on the acclaimed novels by Edward St. Aubyn. The story takes place from Patrick’s childhood in the 1980s, through his middle-aged years in the early 2000s. Each episode takes place in a specific year. Writer David Nicholls brilliantly depicted the piece in a chronological succession of events showing the mental regression to progression of the protagonist through the series. Patrick, played by the outstanding actor Benedict Cumberbatch, starts the series off as a struggling addict. Many times he attempted to give up his addiction, but has failed. 

Throughout the first episode, we are introduced to the dead dad of Patrick, David Melrose, (played by Hugo Weaving) who, as we would find out, has a complicated relationship with Patrick. Later, the viewer learns that David had an intimate abusive relationship with Patrick, leading to his drug abuse. This episode concludes with him almost committing suicide leading to the slightly sober seasons to follow. 

The episodes to follow take place in the ritzy lifestyle that Patrick Melrose leads. Being from a wealthy family, he is granted privileges to attend balls and even spend summers in his father’s old house in the South of France. Unfortunately, while the audience believes that Patrick quit his addiction to drugs, they soon find out that he has taken on substance abuse in the presence of his children. 

His substance abuse throughout the series is in retaliation to the sexually abusive memory of his father. This fluctuation from abuse to withdrawal to sobriety back to abuse couldn’t have been pulled off without the brilliance of Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting. 

Cumberbatch portrays this character with elegance and poise. Cumberbatch really made the character who he was. Every eye movement or gesture was intentional and elevated the character to another level. It is really unsurprising, to say the least, that Cumberbatch was able to pull off such a mentally tasking character, having taken on characters such as Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s “Sherlock” (2010) and Khan in “Star Trek into Darkness” (2013). He also stated once, in a 2014 Reddit interview, that the character he would most like to play would be Patrick Melrose, so it is far from surprising that he was ready to take on this character with the gusto that he did. 

This show moves through tragedy, addiction, abuse, and love with ease. Being able to tackle all the elements of a truly brilliant TV show, “Patrick Melrose” remains a beautiful piece of underrecognized theatrical art that longs to be watched. 

Please note that this TV show contains more substance abuse than mentioned above as well as a pattern of suicidal themes throughout.