18 September 2020 14:40
Ryan Murphy's long awaited One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest prequel is finally available on Netflix, revealing the twisted origin of coldhearted Nurse Ratched. Fans of American Horror Story will be right at home here, as the new series stars Sarah Paulson and a number of other familiar faces from Murphy's creepy saga. The story takes place decades before One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, picking up with Ratched in her younger years as she infiltrates a psychiatric institution and quickly clashes with the head nurse. As the new series intends to turn Ratched into an edgy new antihero, co-star Cynthia Nixon compared her to the likes of Walter White and Tony Soprano in an interview with Radio Times. She said: "In shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, we can have male figures who are problematic to say the least, but we still love them.
"At the centre of Ratched is a woman, played by Sarah Paulson, who is as much of an anti-heroine as a heroine. Paulson has expressed interest in returning for multiple seasons of Ratched, although that will rely on how the series is received by Netflix subscribers in the coming weeks. Here's everything you need to know about the new series, streaming on Netflix now. Get Netflix and on demand news and recommendations direct to your inbox Sign up to receive our newsletter! Sign up to get alerts on Netflix and on demand services and receive TV and entertainment email newsletters from our award-winning editorial team.
Rather than taking place in the 1960s, as was the case with the popular film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ratched is set in 1947. The prequel series follows a younger Mildred Ratched, a nurse who eventually prides herself as the cruel ruler of an oppressive psychiatric ward. As the Netflix synopsis says of the show: "The series is set to be an origin story of sorts taking us back to before Nurse Ratched had evolved to the monster by exploiting people in the mental health care system." Joining the staff at Lucia State Hospital, the early trailers have alluded to her manipulating the staff and patients, as she attempts to wrestle away control. Will Ratched connect with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? The first season has no direct connection with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but there are plans to slowly build towards it in the future. Star Sarah Paulson told The Hollywood Reporter: "Ideally, by the time we're in season four, we're in that story of the Cuckoo's Nest." However, that relies on Ratched actually getting renewed by Netflix, which is no certainty given the streaming service has cancelled many shows in recent years. Netflix unveiled the first trailer for Ratched at the beginning of August, which you can check out below: The following month, Netflix dropped the second Ratched trailer, which seems to take on a more serious tone than the first. Ratched is available to stream on Netflix. When Ken Kesey introduced Nurse Ratched in his acclaimed 1962 novel, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," she became an archetype for cold, cruel and heartless women, seemingly unfeeling and unmoved by normal human emotions — at least according to the novel's deliberately unreliable protagonist-narrator and the other patients in the ward. The character known as "Big Nurse" was portrayed in much the same fashion in Miloš Forman's film adaptation of Kesey's novel just over a decade later, with Louise Fletcher bringing the joyless woman to life. Neither, however, offered readers or viewers any understanding of Mildred Ratched herself or of her motivations; her depiction in the 1960s and the 1970s was completely one-dimensional — an Oedipal authority figure into which the unreliable narrator and sympathetic audiences had little insight and whose physical, sexualized humiliation they cheer. Netflix's "Ratched," created by Evan Romansky and produced by "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy, magnifies the character of Mildred Ratched in colorful and sinister splendor — proving once again that women make the best, and most interesting, monsters. The series is set in 1947 — before the events of the novel — and Sarah Paulson's Mildred Ratched isn't the woman you might remember from that Oregon mental institution who wore her anger and rage on her face (and, perhaps, had found the freedom to do so). Instead, Paulson's character works diligently to hide both the monstrous elements of herself and of her past. And as a single woman living in the 1940s, Mildred has had a lot of practice when it comes to sublimating her emotions and putting on a pleasant face. On more than one occasion, she is sexually harassed by California Gov. George Milburn (Vincent D'Onofrio); belittled by a prospective suitor, Charles Wainwright (Corey Stole); and underestimated by Head Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) — and more than that, as viewers eventually come to learn. And as she plays into others' desires, Mildred hides her true motives behind a leading lady's picturesque gaze, like many women did in some of Hollywood's timeless films noirs. What Romansky posits with his series, then, is that, after experiencing sexism and objectification throughout her life, Mildred pushed to reclaim her identity and sense of self through monstrous acts. And, though it is not the most defensible choice, she expresses her cruelty in much more exciting and tightly controlled ways than the male villains in the series, who had never been forced to check their emotions or behavior. In films of the era portrayed in "Ratched" — like "Gaslight" (1944), "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and "Double Indemnity" (1944) — the audience often overlooked women characters as the antagonists or villains because women were (and still are) so often seen as innocent and non-threatening, and the motives for female villains often went beyond the typical tropes of greed, jealousy and ambition. While Mildred thrives despite her continued descent into evil, the men in "Ratched" become increasingly unhinged. Mildred isn't the only woman in the series who has mastered the art of relentless ambition. But while Mildred's intoxication with the horrific pops up only every now and then, Lenore's wealth and status allow her to wear her cruel intentions on her sleeve. Too often — both on and off screen — women are underestimated, and, in "Ratched," the screenwriters allow Mildred to reclaim her story and identity without becoming the diabolical "Big Nurse" who has been etched into popular culture. And, instead of being haunted by her past, Mildred becomes the hunter. Ryan Murphy's lavish new series delves into the origin story of cinema's scariest nurse. It's a bold move, however, to call Ratched a One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest prequel. Taking place shortly after the end of the Second World War, Ratched is set 16 years before the events in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and comes with all the cigarettes, men's braces, big hats and repressed sexuality you'd expect from the period. Mildred Ratched could be around 24 in the show Louise Fletcher, who played Mildred Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, said that she imagined the character as a 40-year-old virgin. If this is accurate then Ratched should be 24 in the Netflix series. Sarah Paulson, who plays the character, is 45, and seems to play Nurse Ratched as older than 24, but the character's age is never specified. It takes place in Lucia, California Whereas the psychiatric institution in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is in Oregon, North America, Ratched sees the protagonist take a job at the Lucia State Hospital, an altogether more idyllic setting. Ratched's sexuality is never specified in either the novel or the film, but Ratched casts her as a lesbian who ends up having a relationship with Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon), the press secretary for Governor Wilburn, a vile populist politician whose signature can dictate the fate of the hospital. Though we learn that this is not quite what it seems, prior to working at Lucia State Hospital Ratched tended to wounded soldiers in World War Two. The show couldn't look much more different to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a series executive-produced by Ryan Murphy, the colours and clothes in Ratched are something to behold. Ratched's back story for the title character is that she was orphaned and sent to a series of foster homes with a boy called Edmund Tolleson. Though Ratched does some awful things in the series, the length of the show allows the viewer to see her in far greater depth than in the film. Crucially, however, she almost always does so in an attempt to help people – notably her foster brother Edmund Tolleson, who is sent to the psychiatric hospital and expected to be executed after killing four priests. At the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Jack Nicholson's character, Randle McMurphy, has a lobotomy performed on him. Lobotomies were fairly commonplace in the 1960s but in 1947, when the series takes place, they were less so – the first had been performed 11 years earlier by Walter Freeman and James W Watts. Dr Hanover, the head of Lucia State Hospital, tries to perform four in 15 minutes on patients who are still awake, though slightly sedated. 'Ratched' is streaming on Netflix now