Prequel series Ratched disappoints devoted fans

Photo courtesy of @PaulsnBlanchett on Twitter
Even with its captivating scenery and all-star cast, new show Ratched
fails to overcome distracting elements that inhibit the shows success.

2020 marks 45 years since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was released. The film introduced Nurse Ratched, one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history. 

Netflix adapted a prequel series that is supposed to delve into how Ratched became evil. While the show has a great cast and aesthetically pleasing scenery, the plot holes and infidelity to the character of Nurse Ratched in the original film are impediments that cannot be overlooked.  

The show starts with a young Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) gaining employment at a psychiatric ward shortly after World War II.  

It does not take long for her to develop a rivalry with her superior, Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis). They are employed during the peak of controversial hospital treatments, and the procedures are performed by Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones). 

The series quickly progresses into a series of subplots that detract from the character of Ratched, and most of these subplots are not resolved until the final episode. 

The design may be the best thing about the series. The sets are gorgeous. They are extensive and pay homage to the 1940s in almost every manner imaginable. Some scenes are bathed entirely in red and green as part of an artistic choice.

 This show was primarily filmed in coastal California, so the pleasant scenery is not much of a surprise. The nurses have turquoise gowns and the hospital has a multi-colored lounge that looks more like something out of a five-star hotel. Ironically, the actual hospital is anything but pleasant.

If you want the hospital from hell, you definitely have one here. The nurses have sex with the patients. Lobotomies are performed, and patients are dunked into scorching hot water for the sake of “treatment.” 

Patients escape the ward in seemingly every other episode. The employees have just about as many qualifications for their job as Donald Trump has to be president. 

Ratched features Ryan Murphy as a producer. Murphy created American Horror Story, and although he is not listed as a director past the first episode, his creative imprint is present. The film resided within the drama genre, but Ryan Murphy chose to make this one part of the horror genre. 

Ratched relies on body horror over psychological horror in a similar manner to American Horror Story. A story apparently cannot be a story without amputating limbs, drilling into skulls and slitting wrists. If you do not have a strong stomach, I would not recommend watching this. 

The Nurse Ratched that we see in this series is very different from the Nurse Ratched that is in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the film, she is portrayed as cold, emotionless and  wanting everything in order. 

In this Netflix series, she delights in chaos, drives people to suicide and blackmails people in order to get what she wants. Then, in the final few episodes she suddenly changes from being cold to being emotional and having a romantic relationship. 

She suddenly cares about the wellbeing of others, which is very contrary to what the film envisioned. This series is not a descent into monstrosity like Netflix advertised it. Instead we see the opposite, and the beginning that shows her as a monster.

Paulson excels in the lead of Ratched. Given the genre of the series and the fact that she is a regular on American Horror Story, I do not think that there is a better actress picked for the lead role. 

She does not just act out characters, but she envisions herself being put in their shoes. Ratched is portrayed as unstable throughout the series and she adopts an appropriate persona for that. 

Unfortunately, it does not matter if a captain of a ship does a good job as a leader. If the ship is not well built, it will sink, and we see this here. 

Perhaps the series would be more enjoyable had I not had a film to compare it to. I would not recommend watching the film prior to this show because it will ruin your perception of the series. 

American Horror Story fans may find delight in this show since it is essentially a carbon copy of it. Other people may be disappointed with the product. 

The show is not my favorite per se, but it was enough to keep me watching and thinking about a second season.