Connect with us
Ryan Murphy’s Netflix Show Ratched

TV

Ryan Murphy’s Netflix Show Ratched is Fun, but a Work in Progress

If you’re a fan of Ryan Murphy you might enjoy Netflix’s new show.

If you’re a fan of Ryan Murphy’s show American Horror Story, Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), or Ken Kessey’s original 1962 novel by the same name, then there’s a chance you might enjoy Netflix’s new show Ratched. And if you’re not a fan, well, there’s still some hope for you too. 

Ratched, created by Evan Romansky and Murphy, shines a light on the tragic origins of the infamous Nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson). The show follows her unsettling journey as she secures a job at a mental institution in California under the command of Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones) and supervision of Head Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis). While there, Nurse Ratched tries to do her best for the patients, for herself, and for her incarcerated—not to mention murderous—brother, Edmund (Finn Wittrock). In addition to her present-day traumas, the show takes us through the darker moments in Ratched’s childhood and early adult life in an attempt to help us understand the monster we know she becomes. It’s also full of blood, suspense, and horror. 

Paulson in Ratched

One of the highlights of this series is the acting, though not necessarily from Ratched‘s titular star. Although Paulson gives a wonderful performance throughout the show—the look she gives Nurse Bucket in the second episode, “Ice Pick,” could freeze fire—it’s nothing we haven’t seen from her before. If you’ve followed Paulson’s career on American Horror Story, then her portrayal of Nurse Ratched often feels like an extension of her character from AHS season eight, Ms. Wilhemina Venable. Wittrock, on the other hand, gives us something new to enjoy. Despite wearing jeans and a t-shirt for the bulk of the show, Wittrock is nearly unrecognizable. His mannerisms, posture, and even his empty stares help distance him from some of his more iconic roles, like that of Dandy Mott from American Horror Story: Freak Show or Damon Miller on All My Children

Like most Murphy-led projects, this one also features a laundry list of over-the-top characters, which can be a blessing and a curse. From boozy motel managers and horny private investigators to limbless psychopaths and murderous public servants, the characters of this show often feel like they’ve been designed for dramatic effect as opposed to good storytelling. While some of them feel fully formed and have us sympathize with their plights, others feel like quickly rendered caricatures lacking any emotional depth. For example, Charlotte Wells (Sophie Okonedo) personifies often painfully cliche and sometimes dangerous stereotypes about people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Although Okonedo plays the character masterfully, seamlessly slipping between personalities and mannerisms, the character herself leaves much to be desired from the writing. On the other hand, Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) is a woman who demonstrates the best of Murphy and Romansky’s writing. The secretary to California’s Governor George Wilburn (Vincent D’Onofrio), Briggs is a lesbian in a loveless, heteronormative marriage to her gay best friend, who falls madly in love with Ratched and turns her life upside down in pursuit of this newfound obsession. We follow her as she strives to be taken seriously in politics, to find love without becoming a social pariah, and to be brave enough to chase her happiness. Her story arc is one that leaves viewers feeling fulfilled by its climax, and invested in both her successes and failures throughout its journey. 

Ratched and Briggs
Ratched and Briggs

Like most of Murphy’s shows, Ratched includes a fair number of queer characters. As a queer woman, it was especially exciting to see such an emphasis placed on the relationships between women. Although there were some problematic moments when it came to depicting queer women on screen (mainly relying on the harmful trope that queer women are unable to control their sexual urges), there were some truly beautiful moments captured in the show. Nurse Ratched’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance, particularly when it came to her understanding of her sexuality and being open to unexpected friendships, felt sincere and resonated deeply. 

Much like the characters, the plot could use some work. Although the throughline of Ratched is technically there, it often gets lost in what feels like silly side-adventures or pointless problems. Nurse Ratched’s only objective is to prevent her brother from standing trial for the murders he committed, but the way she goes about trying to accomplish that tends to feel counterproductive. Although they try to make her seem like a clever strategist, Ratched often just comes across as the luckiest woman in the world. By the end of the first season, there are nearly a dozen times where her plans should logically have been foiled and our titular character sent to jail, and so her great schemes are undercut as simply great coincidences. 

Ratched Costumes

While it might sound like this show is worth skipping, it’s actually a lot of fun to watch. The costumes and sets are breathtaking. The music makes you feel like you’re watching an old fashioned horror film. The framing and visual effects are fresh for television, but with a retro cinematic flare. The use of lighting to set the tone is stunning, with characters frequently being bathed in ominous seas of red and teal light. The show also delivers on its promise of horror, with plenty of ominous medical treatments to go around. 

Although this Netflix original feels like a fanfiction crossover between American Horror Story and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, it manages to not be too derivative of either. With stellar performances from a talented cast, dramatic flourishes from Murphy and Romansky, and remarkable visuals, Ratched is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Written By

Caitlin Marceau is an author and lecturer living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction. Her collections, "A Blackness Absolute" and "Palimpsest", are slated for publication by D&T Publishing LLC and Ghost Orchid Press respectively in 2022. When she’s not covered in ink or wading through stacks of paper, you can find her ranting about issues in pop culture or nerding out over a good book. For more, visit CaitlinMarceau.ca.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pop Culture From All Angles

Sordid Cinema Podcast

Trending

Revisiting the 24 Best Kobe Bryant Moments Revisiting the 24 Best Kobe Bryant Moments

Revisiting the 24 Best Kobe Bryant Moments

TV

Kobe Bryant Death Kobe Bryant Death

Kobe Bryant and Greatness

TV

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

Wrestling

Calendar Girls performing in a parking lot. Calendar Girls performing in a parking lot.

Calendar Girls: A Remarkable Debut About Reclaiming Your Life

Film

Who is still alive in Yellowjackets?

TV

Archive 81, Pictured: Mamoudou Athie Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/Netflix © 2021 Archive 81, Pictured: Mamoudou Athie Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/Netflix © 2021

The Analog Terror of Archive 81

TV

For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies

The Righteous Gemstones: “For He Is a Liar and the Father of Lies” Muddies the Holy Water

TV

The Book of Boba Fett review "The Gathering Storm" Chapter 4 episode The Book of Boba Fett review "The Gathering Storm" Chapter 4 episode

The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 4 Builds and Fulfills With a Storm of Excitement

TV

All That Breathes All That Breathes

All That Breathes Shows an Ecosystem in Turmoil

Film

Censor review 2021 horror movie Censor review 2021 horror movie

Sordid Cinema Podcast #609: Why Censor is one of the Best Horror Films of 2021

Sordid Cinema Podcast

How I Met Your Father Just Doesn’t Have the Magic

TV

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho

Wrestling

Connect