How Evil Operates: Review of "Dr. Death"
In order to understand human nature fully, we need accurate portrayals of unexcused human evil.
Today, all too frequently, we see dramatic antagonists motivated by a malevolence explained by early-life circumstances. What we don't see nearly as often are villains explained by nothing other than their own errors of thought, and their unwavering, unyielding commitment to those errors despite nearly overwhelming evidence.
The evil man's mantra is: "There is no way I'm wrong about this." The evil man cannot (without great personal cost) admit his own error. The degree of evil is the importance of the uncorrected error.
Self-deception is the act of accepting a false belief which serves to flatter one's own image or situation. It can be as minor as "I'll call him back tomorrow" when one actually has no such intention, or as major as "He deserved to die" after committing a murder. It can be as modest as "I have more important things to do" to get out of an unpleasant task, or as grand as "I'm more than human" in excusing virtually every transgression against actual humans. Persistent, unwavering, uncorrected self-deception is the essence of evil. It's the hallmark of an evil soul.
Hubris, or conceitedness, is to uphold a false, favorable image of oneself. Hubris is a necessary attribute of evil. Evil cannot face itself as such. It paints itself as virtue.
I just finished watching Dr. Death on Peacock, NBC's streaming service. It's based on a true story, so its value is not in the plot.
The value of Dr. Death is in its convincing portrayal of real evil, and the inspiring portrayal of those who fight it. This is not melodrama, where the evil is so exaggerated that we can feel safe about it. This is drama, where the evil was real, and where we can relate to it, if not in degree, in method.
We are always making errors. The issue is, how fundamental are those errors, and do we seek to correct them, or do we uphold them because we cannot face a world in which we have erred?
In Dr. Death, Joshua Jackson (as Surgeon Christopher Duntsch) convincingly shows us how evil operates (pun honestly completely unintended—really).
Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin do a great job portraying the heroic surgeons who seek to stop him.
AnnaSophia Robb convincingly portrays the heroic assistant district attorney who builds the case against Duntsch.
Carrie Preston plays Duntsch's defense attorney, who comes across to me as likeable and sympathetic.
Dr. Death is an enlightening pageant of characters, some heroic, some mixed, and one horribly depraved.