“We had a saying in the Corps: Save one life and you’re a hero. Save a 100 lives—well, then you’re a nurse.” Each new iteration of Nurse Ratched reveals a bit more about the character: Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest established her as unflinching and controlling, while Miloš Forman’s adaptation gave her a first name in 1975. But that wasn’t nearly enough for Ryan Murphy, whose latest Netflix series Ratched is a deep dive into a character whose had all kinds of interpretations projected onto her: A villainous stooge of institutional power; a woman whose competence makes her an emasculating threat; or an early cinematic anti-heroine. Now Ratched presents itself as the origin story for “one of the world’s most iconic characters,” who seems to have gotten her start on an actual battleground.
Murphy’s usual tricks were on display in the first-look photos Netflix released last week, including a glamorous ’40s aesthetic that makes us wonder just how old he and series creator Evan Romansky think Louise Fletcher was supposed to be in Forman’s film. The first trailer for Ratched, which premieres September 18, is now out, and it offers the reliable mix of camp, horror, and Ryan Murphy repertory players, including Sarah Paulson, who stars as the eponymous character.
Paulson’s Mildred Ratched arrives at a supposedly cutting-edge mental health facility run by Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), and immediately has run-ins with her colleague Nurse Betty Bucket (Judy Davis). There’s also Finn Wittrock as Edmund, a patient who may or may not be in Ratched’s direct care. Vincent D’Onofrio makes an appearance as Governor George Milburn, a guy who looks like he enjoys capital punishment. As the trailer flies through the different archaic treatments, including hydrotherapy and lobotomy, a sense of dread builds. Ratched appears to be both the calm before the storm and the storm itself: “You deserve someone to show you mercy—how different I would be if someone had.”
Look, we’re just going to say it: It actually looks kind of promising. Murphy and his frequent collaborator Ian Brennan haven’t had the best run at Netflix, but maybe Romansky’s template will rein in some of their worst impulses? Yes, it practically screams “We all go a little mad sometimes,” but Paulson looks up to the task. The supporting cast includes Cynthia Nixon, Sophie Okonedo, Liz Femi, Charlie Carver, Corey Stoll, Rosanna Arquette, Vincent D’Onofrio, Alice Englert, Amanda Plummer, and Sharon Stone, who seems to be making all of her TV appearances with a monkey these days.
Ratched premieres September 18 on Netflix.