When you watch Ratched’s finale on Netflix, you may start feeling surprised. As the minutes tick down on the episode, “Mildred and Edmund,” all of the remaining mysteries in the period piece’s first season are solved ahead of a looming season 2. Mass murderer Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock) isn't put to death for his crimes because Charlotte Wells (Sophie Okonedo) breaks him out of jail during a dissociative identity disorder episode. Now that Charlotte is a confirmed murderer — R.I.P. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones) — she has found a kindred spirit for her darkest moments. Edmund even learns that Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson), his adoptive sister, planned to “euthanise” him — or murder him — to save Edmund from the violent indignity of the electric chair.
Despite the horror of Ratched, the finale confirms Mildred is able to grab onto a little slice of happiness. With the money she got from Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone) — another Ratched fatality whose plotline is tidily dealt with by the end of season 1 — Mildred is able to flee to Mexico with girlfriend Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon). In Mexico, the pair secures the best cancer treatment available for Gwendolyn.
Everyone in Ratched is where they are supposed to be. That is because the finale's goal isn’t to ramp up the intrigue around Mildred Ratchet — it’s to set her on an open collision course with her brother for season 2.
While many Netflix shows write their first season finales unsure of their future, Ratched does not have that problem. When the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel was first announced in 2017, it arrived with a two-season order, The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time. Paulson reconfirmed Ratched’s future during a September 2020 press conference for the drama, telling journalists, “By the way, it is not a limited series, it is an ongoing series … We are doing a second season.” This is important information, since the COVID-19 pandemic has dashed the fates of multiple shows — like Netflix’s now-cancelled The Society and I Am Not Okay With This — that were previously on track for more episodes.
We can predict that Ratched season 2 will have up to 10 chapters, since Netflix initially ordered 18 episodes of the two-season series. Ratched season 1 only took up 8 episodes of that request.
It sounds like Ratched’s team knows where they’re going in season 2. As Paulson told Oprah Magazine’s digital team, “We have an end game. There's an end to the story as we know it, culturally.”
The closing minutes of “Mildred and Edmund” give us a hint of what that “end game” could be for Ratched. In the final act of the episode, Mildred has a nightmare that Edmund has found her in Mexico with Gwendolyn. In the dream, Edmund plans to murder Mildred and then die by suicide, putting a permanent end to their trauma. When Mildred wakes up, Gwendolyn assures her this fear is just her imagination. However, the reality of the situation is much more bleak. A newspaper story that day reveals someone has murdered seven nurses in Chicago. At the start of Ratched, Edmund killed four priests — including his rapist biological father — to exorcise his demons over his perceived fatherly betrayal. Since Edmund’s believes Mildred, a nurse, also betrayed him, it seems obvious to her the Chicago nurse murder was meant to catch her attention.
Mildred is correct.
In Mildred's final shot of the episode, Edmund calls his sister to confirm his part in the Midwestern massacre and its intended message for her. “It was a clue,” he says. While it’s unclear what, exactly, that means, it is possible the number of women Edmund killed — seven — correlates to the number of days it will take him to get to Mildred. Mildred may have just a week to prepare to face Edmund. Because the one fact Mildred knows is that Edmund is coming to kill her. She, however, has a plan that promises a bloody battle is ahead for season 2.
“Let me tell you something, little brother. You are the one who should be afraid. Because I am coming for you, Edmund,” Mildred says, unaware that Edmund has lots of backup. Charlotte is still riding shotgun so many years later, and the pair has added “jazz baby” Louise (Amanda Plummer) to their deadly drive. Louise, we’re meant to assume, joined the group — and informed them of Mildred’s whereabouts — after Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis) admonished her for forcing creepy dolls on Lucia Hospital patients. Considering their desert locale, and the American flag one can spot on their season-ending drive, it appears Edmund, Charlotte, and Louise are somewhere in the States between Chicago and Mexico.
Come Ratched season 2 — whenever it premieres — it’s likely this terrifying trio will have arrived in Mexico, primed to rain chaos down on Mildred Ratched. But we all know who survives — and it’s not Edmund Tolleson wreaking havoc in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.