Created by Evan Romansky and Ryan Murphy
Starring Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock, Cynthia Nixon, Jon Jon Briones, Judy Davis and Sharon Stone
Netflix has long been the saving grace for many of us who prefer to not have to leave our beds for quality entertainment. This sentiment is no more relevant than during 2020, and Netflix has once again delivered an excellent original series which offers a delightfully dark, binge-worthy thriller.
Ratched is the series created by Ryan Murphy and Evan Romansky, which is adapted from the classic novel turned film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The series chronicles the sordid backstory of one of film history’s most despised characters. Sarah Paulson stars as the younger rendition of the sadistic Nurse Ratched alongside a star-studded cast.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest portrays Nurse Ratched as cold, authoritarian and sadistic, acting as the antithesis to Randle Patrick McMurphy, the protagonist, who pushes against the inherent institutional corruption within psychiatric wards. Murphy and Romansky have created a backstory for the iconic character which involves delving into the path that led her to being the matron of terror that audiences have known and hated for decades.
Paulson performs exquisitely throughout the series demonstrating another facet of her impressive repertoire that includes iconic characters often created for Murphy’s various other hit original shows. Paulson’s performance creates a depth of coldness and bitterness albeit with moments of warmth and humanity, nuances that have never before been gifted to the character. There are also standout performances from Cynthia Nixon, Jon Jon Briones and Sophie Okonedo, which demonstrate the breadth of talent and power this show offers.
The set is stripped-back yet bold, reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s pastel, symmetrical scenography – which lavishly extends throughout Ratched’s varying locations. Interestingly, Murphy and Romansky avoid many typical tropes that we have come to see with asylums, such as the representations in American Horror Story Season Two. If you enjoyed the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then you will enjoy this reimagined, fresh set design that pays homage to clinical asylums with plenty of indulgent organza-clad offices and mint green surgical suites to boot.
The perfect use of lighting in the film hails back to a Hitchcockian classic technique of exploring the inner mind through the use of colours and lighting as symbolic manifestation. The deep greens used throughout delves into emotions of pure envy and toxicity that play out on-screen. The hues of crimson foreshadow danger and inner turmoil, and the cohesion of these choices with set design help to create an excellent sense of tone and mood.
As thoroughly binge-worthy as this series is, the plot does become convoluted and surreal at times – but that’s half the fun of watching a Ryan Murphy production. The limits of creating a prequel like Ratched is that you have set material to honour and must eventually come back towards the original plot. Ratched takes a unique divergence from the evil character that audiences are familiar with, as Paulson’s Nurse Ratched must undergo some drastic changes before she becomes the embittered villain we know her as.