PG Score: 7.5/10
Season 1 of the Netflix series Ratched is quite good. Creators Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) and newcomer Evan Romansky have formulated a riveting origin story revolving around the iconic character from the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1975 film of the same name. Nurse Ratched is a complex character and the circumstances that shaped her make for an intriguing binge.
The titular character is played by Sarah Paulson, who is excellent here. She expertly conveys the multifaceted psyche of Mildred Ratched and her warring internal struggle between good and evil. She is a conflicted individual with very dark tendencies but also possesses and exerts a great deal of compassion. This delicate balance and the frequent shifts in demeanor it entails are masterfully captured by Paulson. She is the driving force behind the 8 episode run and carries it across the finish line.
The supporting characters and corresponding performances are solid. Corey Stoll, Sharon Stone, and Vincent D’Onofrio are among the notable names that make up the talented cast. The standouts are Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson, Judy Davis as Nurse Betsy Bucket, and Jon Jon Briones as Dr. Richard Hanover. They comprise the bulk of the screen time alongside Paulson and all three are superb in their respective roles.
The American Horror Story comparisons are evident from start to finish and this is a positive for the most part. For one, the graphic violence here has a tone reminiscent of the earlier seasons. Secondly, many of the characters also bear a significant resemblance to some fan favorites of AHS. The aesthetic, wardrobe, and writing in Ratched are all also very much aligned with those featured in the acclaimed FX series.
While most of the dialogue is engaging, there are some notable lapses. There are a few interactions that feel a bit too over the top even in the wild universe that Murphy and Romansky have crafted. These spots had me on the verge of chuckling in disbelief, which is a shame since most of the twisty storytelling is relatively grounded. Additionally, the pacing in the middle episodes does lose some momentum. The dragging does not last too long, however, as the season finishes in full stride.
The first season of Ratched is a worthy companion piece to the classic that birthed the enigmatic caregiver. Powered by a vintage Sarah Paulson performance, it is well deserving of your time.