On this chapter of The Queerest Things I Watched Last Week, after binging Ratched season 1 in a day, I’m not sure “enjoyed” is the word I’d use for it, but one thing is definite — Sarah Paulson was phenomenal.
- Ratched – Season 1 [Streaming]
I was really looking forward to Ratched. I loved the concept: the origin story of Mildred Ratched 15 years before she worked at the Oregon psychiatric hospital we are familiar with from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Plus it’s a Ryan Murphy production led by queer fave Sarah Paulson with Cynthia Nixon playing her love interest. What’s not to like, right? A binge later, words like “love” or “enjoy” are not ones I would use to explain how I feel about the show, but it definitely had an effect on me.
A few minutes into Ratched season 1 I realized this was going to be twisted and gory American Horror Story Ryan Murphy, not Hollywood Ryan Murphy. That’s okay, I like AHS and I can handle some gore. Mildred Ratched arrives at Lucia State Hospital in 1947 Northern California where she manipulates her way into getting a job and eventually becoming head nurse. The reasons why are slowly revealed throughout the season as we learn more about her life and backstory. I won’t spoil those details here.
Meanwhile, the head doctor of Lucia, Dr. Richard Hanover (real name Dr. Manuel Bañaga) uses new and unsettling experiments to treat “mental illnesses,” such as Lily Cartwright’s lesbianism.
Lily, along with a few other patients, are part of a hospital event where Dr. Hanover is going to perform lobotomies which he is presenting it as a revolutionary miracle cure in front of the press. That was horrifying. I had to have my hands up in front of my eyes for a lot of it while I thought about what a twisted f*ck Ryan Murphy is. The patients were getting the procedure for lesbianism, “melancholia” (depression) and “dreamyness” (ADHD). It was brutal to watch people be tortured for “conditions” that are not at all bad or treated in a completely different way now.
The press stunt was intended to impress the Governor of California to help support his “war on mental illness” so they could secure more state funding. Cynthia Nixon plays Gwendolyn Briggs, the Governor’s political campaign manager. She meets Mildred in the hospital lunch room and lets her know “she’s not into sausage.”
Is “I don’t eat extruded meats” 1940s code?
Gwendolyn is a lesbian in a marriage of convenience with a gay man named Trevor. For some reason Gwendolyn is drawn to Mildred and talks her into abandoning her bologna to accompany her for an oyster dinner. Is asking a woman out to eat oysters 1940s code?
The dinner had Big Carol Energy.
After helping Mildred “make love to the ocean” with her mouth, she naturally senses a vibe and takes her to a secret “women’s bar” in the woods.
Well, that didn’t go as planned.
Back at the hospital, the lobotomies didn’t go as planned either. It brought out gayness in one of the other women which Mildred discovered when she caught her and Lily together. After that they put the women through “hydrotherapy” which consisted of trapping them in a metal tub and making the water hot enough to cook the gay out of them.
The brutal conversion therapy, creepy gory violence and weird sex stuff was all very hard to watch. I was around six episodes into Ratched season 1 and I still wasn’t sure if I liked the series or not. I was also on the fence about Mildred. Are we supposed to be sympathetic to her? She did have a traumatic childhood, but she wasn’t a good person. She commits a lot of unforgivable crimes along the way for a questionably altruistic goal. Should I be shipping her and Gwendolyn? Gwendolyn seems like a really nice lady and Mildred comes with a ton of scary baggage.
At some point I gave up and figured, “This is Ryan Murphy and I need to accept the show for what it is.” I threw my hands up and gave in to the general awesomeness that is Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon.
Things I did love about Ratched season 1
The performances were phenomenal. Sarah Paulson was perfectly intense and controlling one minute and timid the next. The entire cast did such a good job. The actors are what kept me the hitting “Next Episode” button.
The sets were GORGEOUS and I absolutely loved the colors and how the shots were framed. Also I love me some Hitchcock-style split screens.
The witty one-liners were hilarious. Even though this series was dark as hell, there were still some funny moments. I had to stop everything and make a Gif after Nurse Bucket said this.
This show has stayed with me since finishing it and I guess that’s a sign of its merit. I do give it the official “worth watching” flag, but only if the viewer is okay with gore and graphic depictions of barbaric gay conversion therapy.
Watch it to learn Mildred’s backstory and to find out why people are using the peach emoji 🍑 when they Tweet about it.
Ratched Season 1 ended on a “to be contributed” moment, so it looks like there will be a season 2.
This week: Wow, I need something fluffy to watch after that! LA’s Finest to the rescue!