“Mildred Ratched you are an angel of mercy.”
Nothing is more frustrating than being left with a cliffhanger episode at the end of a binge-worthy series. You keep looking for the ‘Next Episode’ icon at the bottom of the screen but cannot find any. Why would Ryan Murphy do that with Netflix’s brand new show Ratched? The answer is simple. He wants to drive us raving mad like the residents at Lucia Hospital to help us fix an appointment with the iconic villainous Nurse Mildred Ratched. The series has received mixed reviews but, mostly, the critics have stayed on the side of favourable opinion. The final episode not only keeps the viewers on the edge of the seat waiting to know more but also raises questions as to whether there would be a follow-up season. Read on to find out.
Who is Nurse Ratched? The classic villain of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and of the subsequent eponymous adaptation in 1975, Nurse Mildred Ratched is a notorious and heartless tyrannical nurse in a psychiatric treatment centre (Salem State Hospital) whose unique psychotherapy includes degrading and humiliating the patients into doing her bidding. A chilling portrayal by Louis Fletcher led to the actress winning an Academy Award. Jack Nicholson starred as the defiant and ungovernable Randle McMurphy whose arrival at the hospital shook Ratched’s institutional beliefs as he flouted her rules, inspiring other patients to follow suit. This portrayal won Nicholson an Academy Award as well.
The Netflix series which debuted on September 18, 2020, however, is a prequel to the iconic movie. It is set in 1947 and follows Mildred’s journey and evolution into the malicious and barbaric nurse. Portrayed by the uber-talented Sarah Paulson, the series attempts to delve deeper into the nurse’s twisted psyche in an attempt to understand what led to her reign of tyranny in the film.
Paulson, who initially hated the Nurse, however, became sympathetic after getting to know the struggles faced by the wicked nurse in her childhood; loneliness was a driving force in her life. Paulson has described the nurse’s journey as “a pursuit of survival and of finding some sense of home”, despite the “potentially selfish need” at the root of her questionable treatment methods.
The series creator Murphy has said that the nurse “became almost like a catchphrase for any sort of institutional abuse of power. What was interesting was trying to create an emotional character from a reputation that’s very cold…trying to figure out every little detail about her childhood, her relationships, her sexuality. Because when people think of Ratched, they think of her as shutoff and cruel and uncaring.”
The eighth episode of the series ends with a brutal cliffhanger where Mildred’s brother, Edmund Tolleson, rings up her and her lover Gwendolyn (Cynthia Nixon). He threatens to kill them and the level-headed Ratched retorts that she would kill him first.
“You’re going to tell me that I’ve betrayed you and that you’re coming for me and that I should be very afraid … Well, let me tell you something. You are the one who should be afraid because I am coming for you, Edmund.”
The chessboard is set for season two with an impending game of cat-and-mouse chase. According to Sarah, Ryan Murphy plans to bring the series to the 1970s setting of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. However, season two will not be enough to do so and it would need a minimum of four seasons for the corrupt nurse to reach the familiar Salem State Hospital ward.
As Paulson, herself confirmed: “But I don’t know that we would ever go into the hospital, simply because—and this is me saying this, I don’t know what Ryan’s plan would be—I certainly don’t want to see me acting opposite a computer-generated Jack Nicholson. I don’t think that sounds like a good idea. So I think if we end up in that era, it would be more about what Nurse Ratched’s life was when she turned the key in her white uniform, coming back into her house from those days at the hospital with all those events that happened there.”
Although Netflix has confirmed two seasons of Ratched, it is unclear as two when the second season will be released given the stalling of shooting for an unprecedented time period due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Paulson further teased the premise of the second season by saying: “I think what you do see at the end of this season is that, once Mildred realises that the very thing she has spent her entire life governed by has betrayed and forsaken her—which is her brother—and has now brought harm and more mayhem by taking the lives of seven innocent women, who are also nurses, she says, ‘I’m coming for you’. What you’re probably going to see is a Mildred who has now become even harder, because the thing that kept her soft was the part of her that was engaged in the love and the protection and the desire for absolution, as it pertained to her brother. Now that that’s gone, I don’t know who she’ll become. But further and further away from her heart and her humanity, I can be pretty sure about that.”
Fans are waiting with bated breath to see the epic face-off between the siblings that will have repercussions on Mildred’s psyche, leading further to the evolution of the character. Until we get further updates, you should read the novel and watch the film before binging on the series once again to brace yourself for the hurricane of emotions and psychological terror that is about to hit you soon!
“All I was guilty of, was showing these men mercy when no one else would.” – Mildred Ratched