Note: Spoilers Below
I love Ratched Season One!
Ryan Murphy developed Ratched, which takes place in Northern California during the 1940s. Even though the television is based on the character Nurse Ratched from both the book and movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but its most influenced by American Horror Story (AHS). AHS’ influence on this series makes sense since Murphy developed the horror anthology. My favorite part of the series is the romantic relationship between Nurse Mildred Ratched and Gwendolyn Briggs, the press secretary to Californian governor George Willburn. I have a couple of issues with Ratched, but they don’t ruin the first season for me.
There are many intersections between Ratched Season One and American Horror Story. The most obvious being the choice of Sarah Paulson, who plays the lead character Nurse Mildred Ratched. Paulson is one of the regular cast members of the horror anthology series AHS. In Asylum, she also plays a Lesbian character named Lana Winters; however, that character was a patient at Briarcliff Manor mental hospital rather than a nurse. There are also similarities between the two plots. When Lana tries to escape Briarcliff, she sees an orderly having sex with a nymphomaniac named Shelley. She threatens to expose the orderly if he stops her from leaving. In Ratched, Mildred also walks in on a nurse having sex with an orderly in a patient’s bathroom. Nurse Ratched blackmails Nurse Emerson into leaving Lucia State Hospital to create a job opening.
Another significant connection between the shows is the actor Finn Wittrock, who stars in a couple of seasons of AHS: Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, and 1984. Finn Wittrock plays Mildred’s psychotic murderous brother Edmund Tolleson. In Freak Show, Wittrock performs as Dandy Mott, who’s also a psychotic murder. Dandy Mott is spoiled like Ratched‘s character the twisted Henry Osgood. Both Freak Show and Ratched have wealthy mothers who spoil their mentally deranged sons. Other similarities are that Asylum and this new show both have serial killers locked up in their mental hospitals waiting to see if they are mentally competent enough to be sentenced to death. Lastly, both Asylum and Ratched have foreign-speaking patients killed in the first few episodes.
Mildred’s romantic relationship with Gwendolyn humanizes her character. We can see that Nurse Ratched can have a pure love that doesn’t hurt anybody else. While Mildred loves her younger “adopted” brother Edmund, she kills or ruins people’s lives to protect him. Caring about what happens to her brother hardens the nurse, while her romantic feelings for Gwendolyn Briggs softens her.
At first, Mildred refuses to admit her feelings to Gwendolyn. The pair has obvious chemistry during their lunch at an oyster bar. The nurse is shocked when after dinner, Gwendolyn takes her for drinks at a lesbian bar. Then slowly, Gwendolyn’s presence in her life breaks down Mildred’s barriers. She admits that she has feelings for Briggs and invites her to a party at the mental hospital. When nursing trainee Dolly shoots Gwendolyn, Mildred becomes even more vulnerable. Mildred admits she will do anything to make the other woman happy. She agrees to go to a puppet show even though it’s trigging. Gwendolyn is the first woman that Mildred tells the whole truth about her abusive childhood, including being forced to have sex with her “adopted” brother Edmund. At first, Gwendolyn feels used by Mildred. The nurse fights to keep the press secretary in her life. Their first kiss is so powerful because they’re both so overcome with their love for one another. When Gwendolyn tells Mildred that she has cancer, the nurse starts wielding her intelligent mind to find ways to keep her girlfriend alive. She refuses to let Gwendolyn give up on life and moves them to Mexico for cancer treatment. The fact that the girlfriends are performed by queer actresses helps their love story feel genuine.
Even though I adore the first season of Ratched, as I mentioned, there are a couple of issues affecting the believability of the story. My main problem is with the way lobotomy is depicted. In the movie version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the lobotomy turns Randall McMurphy comatose. I have researched actual lobotomies from the 1940s. A lobotomy could make a person comatose, cause seizures, weight gain, emotionless, repetitive actions, and other horrible symptoms. Even the few patients who appeared fine right after a lobotomy often suffered later. Finally, the lobotomy didn’t cure whatever ailed them.
In Ratched, Dr. Richard Hanover performed lobotomies on four patients at once. I was shocked that all the patients remained perfectly normal after their procedures. Of course, none were actually “cured,” but it seems absurd that the lobotomy did not debilitate any of them. This is especially off-putting since in the source material, McMurphy, who receives a lobotomy, does become like a zombie afterward. Only Peter, the twelve-year-old patient, suffers any ill effects. Why is this? After the lobotomy, Peter claims he doesn’t feel any emotions, but his character remains the same. What puzzles me more is that later in the series, Nurse Ratched lobotomizes Father Andrews, and this time he becomes a zombie-like McMurphy. Why does the lobotomy cause Father Andrews to become comatose while the others remain perfectly fine?
Overall, I enjoyed the series, and I cannot wait for Ratched Season Two! Hopefully, we will see more of the beautiful couple Gwendolyn Briggs and Nurse Mildred Ratched.