Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was turned into a film in 1975, is a classic for a reason and over the years, we’ve found ourselves rereading and rewatching the masterpiece.
The film, which was based on the novel, takes place in an Oregon psychiatric hospital and starred Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, a new patient at the mental institution and his struggle to rise up against the evil nurse, Mildred Ratched played by Louise Fletcher.
Ryan Murphy and Evan Romansky’s Ratched gives us an origin story of the infamous Nurse Ratched. Sarah Paulson plays the title role and we see her deceive her way into Lucia’s State Hospital which is run by Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones). This is truly just the beginning of Nurse Ratched as she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. It seems as though she has no moral compass—she engages in blackmail, importunes a suicide, and poisons a patient, just to make her way into the nursing staff at the mental hospital. And did we mention all of this happens by Episode 2?
Throughout the eight-episode series, we see that Mildred Ratched has a purpose for all of her nasty behaviors, and what seems to guide her is her love for her brother, Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock), who’s a patient at the hospital after killing three priests and traumatizing a fourth.
We also see that Ratched did not have an easy childhood and that much of what she does may be a result of her less than perfect formative years. We learn that Mildred grew up as an orphan and was placed in the system with another child, Edmund, who she views as her brother. While in the system, they were tortured by all their caregivers and asked to perform sexual asks on one another before Edmund decides to murder his last set of caregivers.
While Nurse Ratched has a clearly evil side, we also see her softer side when she mercifully kills badly injured soldiers while she’s an army nurse after they beg her to end their pain. She also starts a love affair with Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) and will do anything to make sure that her lover is cancer-free, healthy, and happy.
Nurse Ratched refers to herself as an “angel of mercy” which begs us to think is there such a thing and is Nurse Ratched really that bad? Honestly, after seeing Ratched we’re kind of rooting for Mildred, but we know that she returns to her evil ways when she returns as head nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
We’re hoping there’s a second season to Ratched so we can continue to learn more about Mildred Ratched and how she becomes a head nurse at the Oregon psychiatric hospital.