TV Review: Ratched (S1) | Nice Crescendo but Starts to Crumble in the End

I have watched Ryan Murphy shows before I knew who he was…is? It started from Nip/Tuck to The New Normal, Glee, and more recently 911, Pose, and 911 Lone Star. I’ve bypassed some of his shows because I’m just nit that interested but this one caught my eye.

The fictional character this show is based around is not one that I grew up on. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey was not required reading for me, and I’ve never watched Miloš Forman‘s 1975 film adaptation. I am aware of the cultural phenomenon Nurse Ratched is, which is why I’m interested in her “origins.” The cast is filled with familiar faces from the many shows Murphy has produced. Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, 12 years a Slave) leads and she’s joined by Finn Wittrock (Unbroken), Cynthia Nixon (Hannibal, Sex and the City), Jon Jon Briones (American Crime Story), Judy Davis (Feud, The Dressmaker), Charlie Carver (Teen Wolf, The Leftovers), Alice Englert (Top of the Lake, Beautiful Creatures) and Sharon Stone (The Laundromat, Basic Instinct) rounds out the main cast but the show has some amazing guest star.

Premise: In 1947, Mildred arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On a clandestine mission, Mildred presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she begins to infiltrate the mental health care system and those within it, Mildred’s stylish exterior belies a growing darkness that has long been smoldering within, revealing that true monsters are made, not born.

Review: At one point one character says about what’s essentially torture but here called medecine “it’s simple and elegant”, and that’s how the show is. Refined, sophisticated. The production design is gorgeous, the sets, cinematography, and costumes are incredible. The score is haunting, it sets up the atmosphere of the episodes well and very much help to suck you into the story.

The opening scene alone is surprising, but they made makes sense in a way that humanizes the character involved. It also raises enough questions to keep you glued to your screen, waiting for the story to unfolds. As for Mildred Ratched, she had one hell of a first day. They don’t waste any time in showong you how resourceful she is, inserting herself where she wants to be using people’s sense of decorum to force their hand as much as she can. It’s impressive to watch and nicely conveyed by Paulson’s performance.

The story is very gripping, captivating at first, the slew of characters in play keep things interesting. Many times during the begining of the series I wondered if Ratched was an avenging angel, or an angel of death, turns out she’s another kind entirely. The series use the location, the asylum, well to broach on what was considered mental illness, and what were the “treatments” back them. However the show really took a turn toward the end, becoming something else entirely, just like some characters do this season. It was a tight five to six hours that started to crumble without completely falling apart.

One thing that I both appreciated and yet confused me, was the diversity – which I enjoyed, Sophie Okonedo is a again real stand out here. But it first struck me as odd when I saw the black priest and there were no hint of racism or segregation. That is weird for a show set in 1940s in USA, even if it’s California. It didn’t need to be the focus but I wondered if they were just going to ignore it. They didn’t, it showed its ugly head without over-taking the show. However, I wonder if it is accurate for the era and location. The same goes for the lgbt representation.

Ratched is enjoyable series with great actors and a few “plot twists” to pique your interest.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

The book behind Mildred Ratched:


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