Last Friday, Netflix released Ryan Murphy’s latest creation, “Ratched,” as the third series in his $300 million deal with the streaming giant. With Sarah Paulson playing the titular role, “Ratched” tells the origin story of Nurse Mildred Ratched, the infamous warden of the psychiatric hospital in Ken Kesey’s 1962 classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The villainess has since been made more iconic following the release and success of the 1975 film of the same name.
Louise Fletcher, who plays Nurse Ratched in the film, won an Oscar for her role, leaving big shoes for Paulson to fill. Paulson gladly accepts the challenge and perfectly embodies the complex character. She is by far the standout performance of the show and provides the perfect blend of horror and relatability.
That being said, while Paulson’s talent shines bright, the character created in the series cannot hold a candle to the Nurse Ratched of the film. This comes down to writing and is not meant to take away from Paulson’s performance. While both Ratched’s are ruthless and manipulative, the film leaves an element of mystery to the character. Ryan Murphy’s character, on the other hand, comes out and tells you every aspect of her life in odd monologues throughout the season. There is no room for interpretation, rather there is one single way the writers want the audience to view her.
Quite possibly my favorite aspect of the show is the world in which the story is set. Like with any Ryan Murphy production, you can tell that a tremendous amount of the budget was given to the set designers, costume designers and hair stylists. The series truly captures the post-WWII era feel, immersing the audience in a world that is overall aesthetically pleasing. The costumes of Nurse Ratched are neat, tidy and elegant, adding to her sinister demeanor. The nostalgia of 1940s California contrasts very well with the gruesome murders and barbaric psychological treatment.
The visually appealing world, however, is part of the story’s problem. It did not seem very original, but rather a mixture of every previous Ryan Murphy project. The costumes and set pieces, albeit stunning, seem borrowed from the set of “Hollywood,” which was also set in 1940s California; the big name actors like Cynthia Nixon and Sharon Stone remind us of the slew of A-listers who worked on “The Politician;” and, of course, the sheer amount of gore and sex is all too familiar to fans who have watched all nine seasons of “American Horror Story.” (AHS) Look at who was cast! Murphy didn’t even stray further than the cast of AHS for his female lead and a handful of featured roles.
While “Ratched” is undoubtedly entertaining, especially with Halloween just around the corner, it is certainly not impressive. For those of you looking for your fix of “American Horror Story” in wake of the show’s 2020 hiatus, this is certainly a must-watch. For those of you who loved reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in high school and can’t wait to hear the backstory of your favorite villain, this is definitely something to skip. Paulson reported in an interview that the character of Randle McMurphy won’t be making an appearance until the show’s fourth season. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be watching long enough to see it.