Here’s my spoiler-free review of the twisted yet compelling new Netflix series.
Did you ever wonder about the backstory of the Nurse Ratched character in the book and film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? I have to confess I never did. However, Evan Romansky did. He created the concept and wrote the pilot. Ryan Murphy developed the series. The result is a fantastically tense story which is over-the-top, horrific, darkly funny and emotionally involving. I found it very entertaining, even though I had to look away from the screen for one particular scene (if you’ve watched Episode 2, you’ll know what I’m referring to). The series moves away from the male-centred, somewhat misogynistic perspective of the original story, focusing instead upon the bonds and rivalries between powerful women.
There are many things I liked about Ratched. The cast is brilliant, especially Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Judy Davis and Sophie Okonedo. The sets are bright and carefully designed, with a wealth of period detail for late 1940s America. Split-screen shots increase the nail-biting factor for some scenes. I found the plot quite unpredictable, right up the end. The character development was interesting, especially in the way that my attitude towards Nurse Ratched changed as the series progressed and I was shown more of her background and motivations. The series also showed the treatments for mental illness at the time (some barbaric, some more forward-thinking), social attitudes towards same-sex relationships (classified as mental illness) and the traumatic experiences recently suffered in the Second World War.
What’s ridiculous about this series is the body count. I found the number of horrible deaths to be gratuitous. I don’t regularly watch programmes with this level of gruesomeness and so maybe I’m just over-sensitive. However, every time an important character was killed off, I was disappointed. It’s as if the writers couldn’t decide what else to do with the characters. Perhaps they’d accidentally bought too much fake blood and wanted to use it up.
A second series is on order, although nobody knows when it’ll be on our screens. I can’t wait already! Unlike one reviewer, David Craig of the Radio Times, who gave a scathing 1-star review and was fixated on the programme’s lack of realism. It’s art, David, not a documentary.