American Horror Story is a loved series and while there is debate over which season was the best and worst of the collection so far, it was unique particularly when the series first began. It made room for the fantastical as well as the macabre, and that mixture was sorely missing at the time. Ryan Murphy crafts worlds of color and weird and while many initially loved it, it’s now a love/hate relationship. Murphy’s vision is fine when the world is created by him, but when it’s a world already started, he doesn’t pull back to allow the world to breathe. Rather, he firmly submerges that world into his own. Unfortunately, this is the feel of the new series on Netflix, Ratched, which feels more as though the world exists within the pantheon of AHS rather than its own entity.
Style, Colors and Setting Is Murphy Unleashed
First lets talks set. Naturally Ratched, as Ryan Murphy’s vision, excels in set design and costume. Colors are vibrant and bring urgency to many scenes but again, this feels reminiscent of AHS. Unsurprisingly, the costume designers for Ratched—Lou Eyrich and Rebecca Guzzi—were also designers on AHS: Apocalypse and it’s easy to see the similarities between Sarah Paulson’s attire (and character!) in that season and the styles and colors in Ratched. While stunning visually, the stark similarities detract from the series as they again call to mind American Horror Story instead of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest which is the book where the character of Nurse Ratched originated. For those who remember the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson that was based on the book, there will be few similarities between the Nurse Ratched of the film and the one in this series.
Little Character Development
The acting is fairly good and Sarah Paulson as Nurse Mildred Ratched naturally shines. Unfortunately, most of the characters, rather than having an arc, end as they begin. Oftentimes, the dramatic scenarios they find themselves in feel like it’s for the audience rather than development. It has all the sensationalism of Murphy’s imagination, with the hollowness some seasons of AHS have been guilty of—*cough* Roanoke. Still, if Murphy is your idea greatness, you may enjoy this series and it is entertaining if you are not looking for depth. Similar to a Michael Bay film, you would not see Transformers if you wanted something deeper than a bit of razzle-dazzle.
The sound effects during scenes feel more comical than dramatic, but perhaps that’s the intention. Or I at least hope it is, as many scenes made me laugh at the level of “dun dun dun” vibes I got. Not all the music is bad. But it is extravagant and; oftentimes, borders on excessive. Couple that with dialogue that may have you rolling your eyes more than once, and this may be a pass.
But it will depend on what you want. If you want a character that feels like it’s set in the world of Nurse Ratched, reminiscent of how Bates Motel felt to Psycho, this will be a pass. But, if you want the nurse cast into the visionary wonder of Ryan Murphy, you may really enjoy this show. It’s visually stunning, comical (accidentally or intentionally—take your pick), overblown with Sarah Paulson at the helm. For me, it was entertaining, but not a beloved show. Still, if they have a second season, I will likely watch. Partly because I have to know what happens next and partly because I am genuinely interested.
*Photo above Saeed Adyani/Netflix © 2020