In Ryan Murphy's newest project, Ratched, the origin story of one of the horror genre's most iconic characters is revealed. Mildred Ratched (of the 1962 Ken Kesey tale One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) is notorious for her terrifyingly tyrannical rule over an Oregon mental hospital, but she wasn't always pure evil personified. According to the forthcoming Netflix project, Nurse Ratched wasn't born evil — her particular strand of depravity is a result of nurture, not nature.
Ratched takes horror fans back in time to Nurse Ratched's very first gig as a nurse in a California hospital that specialises in curing (read: terrorising) people deemed mentally ill. Of course, the story plays out in the 1940s when literally everything was considered a mental illness; as part of the "mental hygiene" movement of the time, people were admitted to the hospital and forced to undergo inhumane medical treatments just for being queer, sexually active, or rebellious teenagers.
Sarah Paulson's impeccably coiffed Nurse Ratched shows up at the Lucia State Hospital ready to work alongside the institution's staff as they conduct a series of new experiments on their patients' brains. The work is shady and no doubt unethical — tranquilisers, lobotomies, and setting people on fire — but Nurse Ratched wholeheartedly believes in the hospital's cause. To her, the staff at the hospital are actually helping their tortured patients by giving them a chance to live a "normal" life.
"The doctors and nurses here, they want to give you hope that one day, you can leave here," she tells a patient in a disquieting voice. "That you deserve someone to show you mercy."
"How different I would be if someone had," Nurse Ratched adds tearfully.
As the new nurse rises in the ranks at the Lucia State hospital (to the dismay of her patients, co-workers, and boss alike), flashbacks allude to the circumstances that may have shaped her disturbing demeanour: a traumatic childhood compounded by her time working as an army nurse on the frontlines of World War II. Slowly but surely, Nurse Ratched's barely concealed nefarious side fully emerges, plunging the institution and its occupants into darkness. This is her playground now, and everyone on it has to play by her rules.
Paulson stars as the eponymous villain, but the staff and patients of the Lucia State Hospital are equally as important to this chilling tale. The Murphy staple is joined onscreen by Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon, Sophie Okonedo, and Vincent D'Onofrio. Jon Jon Briones, Corey Stoll, Judy Davis, and Finn Wittrock also star.
You may think you know everything there is to know about Nurse Ratched, but there's so much more to her story than meets the eye. The nightmare unfolds on 18th September, only on Netflix.