Sarah Paulson Stars In Her Most Disturbing Work Yet With ‘Ratched’

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Published October 21, 2020
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Nurse Ratched, played by Sarah Paulson, is forced to perform an inhumane treatment to "cure" a patient from homosexuality. Photo courtesy of Netflix

From the creator of “American Horror Story,” Ryan Murphy brings unbelievable twists and turns in the new Netflix original series, “Ratched.”

“Ratched” is an eight-episode prequel to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a film released in 1975, based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel of the same title. Nurse Mildred Ratched, played by Sarah Paulson in the Netflix show, is a manipulative woman who works in a mental hospital. This new series, released in late September, gives fans insight into what her life was like before the time of the film.

Regarding the 45-year-old question of why Nurse Ratched is the way she is, the show gives hints throughout the early episodes, leading up to the one that explains it all.

Going into this series, it seems that the entirety of the season would follow Nurse Ratched, from her childhood to her education and teenage years, and eventually to her career. However, the writers took a very different route than expected.

Instead of merely focusing on Nurse Ratched, there are multiple main characters who each have their own personal dilemmas. For almost all of the characters in this show, Nurse Ratched forcibly inserts herself into their lives, just to mentally destroy them. Like a manipulative, sticky web, her goals and motives are woven into the lives around her.

Nurse Ratched’s number one goal throughout the show is to save her brother, the only family she has left, even if it means murdering and tormenting others to do so. Despite this cold-hearted side, mercy lies beneath. She has sympathy for patients who are wrongly mistreated and helps them to escape, while at the same time, letting other people burn to death.

Nurse Ratched does everything in her power to manipulate situations and control the end result. As the viewer watches the series, they will realize that whenever Ratched formulates a big plan, someone comes in to do the exact opposite, whether it is to her disadvantage or benefit. This show is full of twists and the outcomes are unpredictable.

Paulson’s character is vibrant, confusing and indecisive. Her morals are all over the place, which is what makes her a well-written character. No human possesses completely perfect or imperfect morals, and the fact that she is so split makes her character likable and relatable.

While viewers grow to enjoy Nurse Ratched and her eventual honesty, “Ratched” is the most disturbing show I have ever watched. Those with weak stomachs may be better off looking away during gory scenes. On the bright side, it does answer a lot of questions leftover from the film.

Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon sit side-by-side as their characters in Ratched, viewing a children's puppet show, much to Mildred's distress. Photo courtesy: Netflix

“Ratched” is a prequel to the 1975 film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Speaking to the writing of the show, there are many layers to this plot, making it interesting, but unrealistic. Some of the plot lines are so extreme and intertwined that it feels fake, yet the writing does a fantastic job of keeping viewers interested.

Some things may not make sense as the viewer watches them, but by the end of the season, every subplot fits into the main plot, which is essential for any show or film.

Trigger warning: Above all, this show is intense and disturbing. It opens up in the 1940s and reflects the attitudes and prejudices of the time period. Certain scenes could be triggering to racial minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ community, due to certain language and actions used in the show’s script.

Not to spoil too much, but at the end of episode one, there is one scene that could be triggering to those with mental health struggles, specifically those with suicidal ideation or suicide survivors. Victims of sexual or physical abuse may also be triggered by the scenes in episode six, where viewers learn about Nurse Ratched’s childhood.

The show definitely nods to a second season, and I know I am not the only one on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what happens next.

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