WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
In 1947, Mildred Ratched begins working as a nurse at a leading psychiatric hospital. But beneath her stylish exterior lurks a growing darkness.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
It's been a while since I stepped into the world of a Ryan Murphy production. The last American Horror Story season I finished was Asylum, which has parallels to Ratched - it's set in a mental institution, and it stars Sarah Paulson.
Just like that show, Ratched also gave me nightmares, it's not easy viewing, and I will be honest, I was tempted to tap out at episode four because some of the scenes were just too much for me. I am glad I held out, because there was a shift in the somewhat violent storytelling in the latter four episodes. It moves away from the torturous world of the mental institution to a deeper exploration of who the characters are beneath their perfectly styled clothes, which I enjoyed.
The main cast of characters is lead by Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched, a nurse who makes her way to Lucia State hospital with ulterior motives. The other characters include Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones) a shady, searching-for-glory head doctor of the facility, Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) a follow-the-orders head nurse and Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock) a murder accused who has been sent for observation to see if he is fit to stand trial.
Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) is the press secretary for the governor of the state (Vincent D'Onofrio) who's a misogynist campaigning for re-election and Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone) an heiress looking for vengeance.
I have not read or watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so this was my first introduction to the Nurse Ratched character. For me, what Sarah really brought to this character is humanness. It's a complex, complicated, conflicted character and as more layers are revealed about her, you can see why she is the person she is and why she does the things she does. This is Ratched's story, and as the lead, she carries the story well.
The supporting cast each give great performances. A must mention is Sophie Okonedo as Charlotte Wells, a patient who has a multiple personality disorder. She is captivating to watch as she transforms into each different personality - from a soft-spoken woman, to a raging egotistical musician - you won't take your eyes off the screen when Sophie is on.
In terms of the themes, the show has a dual purpose as it uncovers and gives strong social commentary about the "evils" of mental health breakthrough treatments. It also gives a voice to women in a time when they are pushed aside - it's a strong female-centred story. While set in 1947, it is still relevant for our time.
With that said though, this series has all the trimmings and trappings of a Ryan Murphy show. There is hardly anything new to see here in terms of its storytelling techniques, and even its appearance. It really does feel like you're stepping into an American Horror Story world. And I guess that's okay too if you're a fan of his work.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: