Patrick Melrose airs Saturdays on Showtime for US audiences. It is a 5 part limited series event with Episode 2 airing Saturday May 19.

Based on the book series by Edward St. Aubyn, Patrick Melrose is a semi-autobiographical work, with each episode of the series translating one of Aubyn's novels. The titular role is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has returned to the small screen after just participating in the biggest opening blockbusters of all time. As much as Cumberbatch is excellent in studio films like the Hobbit Series and as the Sorcerer Supreme, it is the small screen where he shines the most. In Episode 1, we see shattered fragments of a man dealing with a horrific past through an unshakeable addiction to heroin.

The series premiere does an excellent job of subverting expectations. At first Cumberbatch portrayal of Melrose is quick-witted, challenging and charming to a certain degree. But that quickly dissolves into hazy delusion as we realize the extent that Patrick is broken. His remarks and quips quickly become drug-fueled rambles and Cumberbatch manages to portray Melrose as a man who tries to keep up appearances no matter how obvious it is that he is falling apart. The series begins with a phone call, Patrick's father has died. Patrick seemingly doesn't care that much but makes the trip to New York to collect the ashes, as well as attempting to make a change and quit heroin. His method to quit is to do every other drug available to him. At first while watching it is easy to assume that the addiction is Patrick's problem that the series will deal with addiction as the core theme. But as the drugs cause schizophrenic delusions, it is clear that the heroin isn't the only voice in his head.

The show is shot beautifully, casting New York and London in bright colours. It gives the show a farcical tone easing the tension of what could have been steeped in misery. As in Episode 2, the setting of the Southern France Manor House is mesmerizing, though those who are staying there have forgotten it's beauty altogether. This fits into a mantra coined by Patrick's Father, "only the best or nothing at all." These material possession owned by the Melrose family are by all means the best money can buy. A wealthy life is seen by many as the brightest position you can find yourself in. However, material positions cannot detract from the demons implanted inside of Patrick. Which is perhaps why he has turned to drugs as it is the only thing money can buy that is guaranteed to affect your mood. Though the substances may distract for a moment, Patrick is never too far from a horrific reminder of his past.

These first two episodes subtly set up Patrick Melrose’s character and his relationship to those around him. In the first episode we see glimpses of Patrick’s fear of his father, Hugo Weaving really gives this character a sense of cold logic masking something much more monstrous. It's episode 2 where we are really introduced to the Melrose dysfunctional family in a flashback to 1967. David Melrose is a man who controls those around him through psychological warfare. The episode opens with his maid shaking in fear while simply greeting him in the morning. His presence is felt throughout episode 1, but episode 2 is where we begin to see the depth of his complicated but tyrannical rule over an empire of dirt. He seems to reject any advice or action based in compassion and instead takes a dutiful amoral approach to parenting. He stops Patrick's mother from tending to him. Eleanor Melrose is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and she fears David just as much as anyone else. Her trepidation exists to the point where she'll never take any moment away from him for granted, being hours early to pick up dinner guests just to get out of the house.

Of course, the reason we are shown this glimpse into the past is to come to terms with the event that has given Patrick his shattered personality. Though it is not shown, it is easy to gather that Patrick went through more than just physical punishment from his father, being also sexually abused. As well as being based on very traumatic real events, the show seems to take every chance it can to show the amorality and apathy that financial success can bring in these first two episodes.

It is easy to assume that sick and twisted acts only come from those born with mental barriers to sympathy, but the ability to afford anything and everything will inevitably lead to a deeper boredom than most will ever experience. A boredom that will let you sit with your demons and either become them or try to drown them through narcotic distractions. Patrick Melrose has set out to be a character study of a broken man, but the rest of the season will tell whether it will have more to say about a broken society.