Those who have read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest associate Nurse Mildred Ratched with some keywords: cold, heartless, corrupt. Ryan Murphy, most notably known for “American Horror Story,” certainly took those words to heart with his Cuckoo’s Nest TV adaptation, “Ratched.”
We all know that Sarah Paulson can play the part of a heartless authority figure — just look at her performance in “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” — and she doesn’t disappoint in this series. Her overall cold personality reflects that of the original Nurse Ratched, although she still seems hollow. What’s more, it becomes increasingly clear that this is not her true personality as her moods and demeanor shift as the show progresses.
This makes sense at first simply because we’re seeing character development. However, the rapid changes in her temperament make it difficult to decipher and give an almost whiplash-like effect for the viewer. I’ll be the first to advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in media, but the relationship between Mildred and Gwendolyn was jarring due to the abruptness of its development.
In fact, to say it truly developed might be a stretch; Mildred’s feelings about Gwendolyn seemed to turn from disdain to romance with a snap of her fingers, and their relationship was immediately fast-tracked with Gwendolyn’s cancer. I’ve heard lesbians joke about how quickly they get invested in a relationship, but I think this instance can be attributed to Mildred’s impulsive, unpredictable character.
Perhaps the most bizarre relationship Mildred holds is that with her brother, Edmund Tolleson. At first, Mildred’s behavior is unexplained and ominous. But as soon as she’s allowed to visit Edmund, we see the start of her character progression, confusing and cold as it is. It almost seems that Mildred had never wanted to help Edmund in the first place, so why go through the trouble of creating a false life to do so? Why break a murderer out of a medical facility? This is probably the most frustrating aspect of the show, especially toward the end when things go south.
Overall, “Ratched” is an entertaining watch — just don’t get hung up on the details and don’t expect the Mildred Ratched you visualized in high school English class to appear on the screen. The visuals are stunning in every aspect, from the artistic lighting to the incredible set design. The storyline is easy to follow, though the character personalities are iffy. But, despite its flaws, I still highly recommend “Ratched” be checked off your 2021 watch list.