By Angela Mo
As someone who’s familiar with the various works of Ryan Murphy, I was hesitant at first to watch the Netflix show “Ratched,” which debuted on Sept. 18. After seeing several teasers floating around on Instagram, I thought this show was going to be a ripoff of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” complete with Nazi doctors and psychotic nuns. But after watching the entire show over one weekend, my assumptions were proven wrong.
“Ratched” was originally adapted from the 1962 book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. This book, told in first-person, expresses the experience of being in a psychiatric hospital, focusing on Nurse Ratched, a controlling nurse with questionable methods. The Netflix series is meant to be an origin story detailing the life of Nurse Ratched before her career and the troubling events she experienced that turned her evil. The show was picked up by Netflix back in 2017, and news of its production was kept relatively quiet until 2020.
The show begins with the story of the murderous Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock). The details of his killings generate roaring public controversy on his sentencing, and he’s placed at Lucia State Hospital until deemed fit to stand trial. His sentencing later becomes complicated with the intervention of a power-hungry governor and his female campaign manager.
At Lucia State Hospital is Nurse Mildred Ratched, who is played by none other than Sarah Paulson herself. Nurse Ratched is relatively new to the hospital, and her manipulative ways garner tension between her and the head nurse, Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis). They compete for the trust and affection of Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), the head of the hospital, and praise the medical practices and procedures he offers his patients. He seems to have a genuine longing to help others, although sometimes he does more harm than good. The show mainly focuses on Mildred’s interactions and relationships with these characters, and the story becomes intricately complex and emotional as Mildred’s curious past unfolds.
Although the plot is exciting and enjoyable, it is the cinematography that ties the whole show together. From the very first episode, it is clear that certain colors have great meaning in both setting the mood and foreshadowing. From the color of Nurse Ratched’s lipstick to the wallpaper of a certain room, there is intricate detail in where colors are placed throughout the show. Green, red, and blue appear to be the most prevalent, although yellow makes frequent appearances.
It is truly amazing how much effort was put into the set and costume design, and I found myself pausing the show at random moments, marveling at the wardrobe and scenery and how colors make their appearances in both subtle and strong ways. The wonderful cinematography is accentuated by the soundtrack, which is mainly composed of orchestral works.
Finishing this show made me excited for its second season, which is set to explore more of Mildred’s past. Although its release date is not yet confirmed due to complications from the pandemic, it is predicted that the second season should be available for viewers in 14 to 18 months. Until then, I’ll just keep rewatching the successful first season of “Ratched” and hope to find more clues in the amazing details of the show.