Series Review: ‘Ratched’ mirrors ‘American Horror Story’

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Netflix’s original series “Ratched,” released Sept. 18, features familiar “American Horror Story” cast members Sarah Paulson as the lead and Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson. (Illustration by Kyiesha Chavez)
By Kyiesha Chavez

A popular literary villain got an origin story on Netflix’s new show “Ratched.” 

The eight-episode season premiered Sept. 18 on the streaming platform.

The show was directed and produced by Ryan Murphy, who is most known for projects such as FX’s “American Horror Story” and Netflix’s “The Politician.” It also stars “AHS” lead Sarah Paulson as the main character.

“Ratched” is based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and tells the story of nurse Mildred Ratched, set 15 years before the events of the book. 

Ratched works at a psychiatric hospital in Lucia, California, under Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones) and head nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis). Ratched embodies the ideal image of a post-war nurse and wins the trust of her fellow hospital employees, except nurse Bucket. 

Meanwhile, murderer Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock) arrives at the facility after killing several priests. Ratched seems eager to work specifically with Tolleson, but the motive isn’t clear until the end of the first episode.

Paulson nails the role, depicting the right amount of vindictiveness and mercy, as well as pride in one’s career. However, Murphy’s decisions for the show leave much to be desired.

Technically, “Ratched” was created by Evan Romansky, who wrote the pilot script as a film school graduate. 

“I was really just trying to think of some sort of intellectual property that I could reimagine as my own and would have a title that people would recognize and actually want to read,” Romansky told Vulture on Sept. 16. 

Through the development process, the script found its way to Murphy and he was then brought on board as a showrunner with the hopes of extending “Ratched” past the pilot into a full season. He then managed to get Netflix to approve a second season before the public had even seen the show. 

As an avid reader, I was excited to hear nurse Ratched would be brought to life in another way. But when I heard that Murphy was attached to it, I became skeptical. 

Murphy has a strong affinity for the horror genre that we have seen since 2011. He has a specific style for his storytelling that has become predictable at this point.   

For anyone who’s an avid fan of “American Horror Story,” this show will be right up your alley. 

The color schemes, psychiatric hospital and mentally unstable cast are mirroring the second season of “AHS,” appropriately named “Asylum.”

While I enjoyed the eight episodes, I would have liked to see more of an obvious difference between the two. 

I don’t think it helped that even some of the same cast members have acted in some or most of the seasons of “AHS.” Paulson and Wittrock have been in eight and four seasons, respectively. If these roles had been given a different face, I think I would have enjoyed it more because it would have shown an attempt at uniqueness. 

When a horror-thriller show like this comes out, I always wonder what it would be like had it been developed by someone else. I assume it would be much different if it had been overseen by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) for example.

The show gives a fairly good representation of a nurse Ratched origin story, but fails at breaking the mold that Murphy has put himself in as a creator.

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