As you wait for ‘Ratched’ season 2, here’s all you need to know about the original tyrannical nurse

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'Ratched' is a prequel to Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest', and the 1975 film of the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Williams (as the original Nurse Ratched).

Did you binge-watch Ratched when it was released in 2020? If you did, you must be waiting for season 2, which we are hoping will be streaming soon.

Ratched is an American psychological thriller television series created by Evan Romansky, developed by Ryan Murphy and starring Sarah Paulson in the title role. It is a prequel to Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the 1975 film of the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Williams (as the original Nurse Ratched).

The series depicts the life of Mildred Ratched prior to the events portrayed in the novel and the film. Season 1 of Ratched is now streaming on Netflix.

The good news is, season 2 of Netflix’s Ratched is definite. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic bringing normal life to a halt, it could be a while before season 2 starts streaming.

However, we know for sure that psychological thriller Ratched will return on Netflix.

Nurse Ratched as portrayed in the series

In 1947, Mildred Ratched arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital. The hospital, despite its good reputation, is a place where barbaric experiments are done on the human mind. 

Ratched presents herself to be the perfect nurse, dedicated to her profession and full of perseverance. However, beneath the stylish exterior lies a growing darkness, an evil that haunts the hospital, revealing that true monsters are not born, but made.

In the book, the characters, and also the readers, often wonder why Ratched is so evil, but never get a definite answer. The series tells us exactly how.

Who is the original ‘Big Nurse’ Ratched?

Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest shows the rise and fall of Nurse Ratched. Big Nurse, as she is called in the novel, reigns over Oregon psychiatric hospital. She sparks fear among the patients, punishing anyone who dares speak up against her.

However, her reign of terror is shaken with the arrival of a new, disruptive, unruly patient — Randle Patrick McMurphy. They both engage in an infamous power struggle, with the literary world coming to know Ratched as one of the most loathsome antiheroes.

We learn about Ratched and McMurphy’s war through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute patient of the hospital. While talking about Ratched and how she spreads panic among the patients, the narrator describes the colour of her fingernails: “Funny orange. Like the tip of a soldering iron. Color so hot or so cold if she touches you with it you can’t tell which.”

Ratched’s tyrannical rule and scary personality stem from when she was an army nurse during World War II.

McMurphy is the protagonist of the novel, one of literature’s most-loved characters. In a hospital that is enveloped in terror, McMurphy laughs and winks and sings, injecting life into the patients who were initially afraid to even look into the Big Nurse’s eyes.

What follows is a revolution led by McMurphy to take down Nurse Ratched and correct the imbalance of power in the hospital.

McMurphy refuses to bow down to her threats. He flouts her rules with impunity and encourages other patients to follow. Ratched tries to cow him into submission with threats of punishment and then with shock therapy. However, everything she does to hurt McMurphy only fuels his defiance.

Towards the end of the novel, McMurphy arranges a party for his fellow patients, complete with prostitutes and alcohol. The next morning, Ratched finds a patient, Billy Bibbit, with a prostitute. When Ratched threatens to tell his mother about his act — the only person he fears more than Ratched — Billy commits suicide.

In a final act of rebellion, after the Big Nurse’s manipulative nature pushes Bibbit to die by suicide, she pins the blame on McMurphy for encouraging him, saying: “I hope you’re finally satisfied. Playing with human lives—gambling with human lives—as if you thought yourself to be a God!”

Unable to handle the injustice, McMurphy attacks her in a fit of rage, nearly strangling her. 

Ratched gets McMurphy lobotomised in retribution. However, the attack leaves the Big Nurse weak. Her reign is over as she fails to control the ward any longer, and the patients refuse to obey her. McMurphy overthrows Ratched, as the other patients follow his footsteps and learn to revolt. 

Nurse Ratched was named the fifth greatest villain in movie history by The American Film Institute. Portrayed by Loise Fletcher in the 1975 movie (where Jack Nicholson played McMurphy), Ratched is also among the most hated characters in movie history. She has become a  metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power in bureaucracies such as the psychiatric treatment centre. 

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