If you're familiar with the book, or even Miloš Forman's 1975 movie of the same name, then no introduction about 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' is necessary. However, to fully appreciate what Ryan Murphy is trying to bring across to us in his Netflix series, one must have a basic understanding of the origin story.
Inspired by Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, 'Ratched' essentially serves as the fictional origin story of Mildred Ratched, who eventually becomes the head nurse in a psychiatric hospital. Before that final 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' chapter in her life is to happen, however, we meet her as a younger version of herself two decades before the events in the novel or movie take place. We are to follow the character as she slowly turns into the cold-hearted, almost machine-like nurse that we have already seen around for many years.
Bringing us a series with an all-star casting choice in Sarah Paulson as the title character, one would think the series would paint her as the only important character we need to worry about. However, it's the supporting cast that makes 'Ratched' truly shine (making you wonder if a prequel series was really needed).
Paulson does indeed impress, at first portraying her as this cold woman who is incredibly prudish, has cleptomaniac tendencies, and is quite the manipulator. But this first encounter with the character is itself a troublesome aspect to start us off with - is she not supposed to eventually turn into this one-dimensional character in two decades time?
As the series progresses, the character loses track of herself - or, some would say, shows signs of caring for others and having a heart - but this change in temperament creates yet another problem with Nurse Ratched, as it causes her to fade into the background, almost become boring, while the supporting characters rise to steal the limelight.
The supporting cast is so formidable in 'Ratched', that it's a pity we can't discuss them in more detail. Jon Jon Briones as sadistic yet wonderful Dr. Richard Hanover is instantly memorable; Judy Davis as Nurse Betsy Bucket is the perfect amount of comedy and sassiness rolled into one; Amanda Plummer as the intrusive hotel owner Louise is a hoot; Cynthia Nixon is a welcome addition as Gwendolyn Briggs, the personal assistant to Vincent D'Onofrio's Trump-like Governor of California; Sophie Okonedo as the scene-stealing Charlotte Wells is breath-taking; while Sharon Stone as opulent Lenore Osgood is as iconic as you could imagine.
We do wish, however, that Murphy would take more risks in his casting choices - there's only so many times you can see Finn Wittrock play a psychologically deranged mad man (see 'AHS: Freak Show' and 'AHS: Hotel') in another of his TV series.
If you're willing to just go along with it and forget about 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' completely, the first five episodes of 'Ratched' are phenomenal. So much so, that one would nearly wish that the series was only five episodes long. The drama, the suspense, not knowing who to trust, the glorious tit-for-tat between Ratched and Bucket, the not-so-subtle use of colour to highlight a character's emotions, the wonderful set pieces and outfits, the typical Ryan Murphy charm, and the simple mystery of it all - 'Ratched' has all the elements to make a great series.
Unfortunately, it's the later episodes that are very haphazard, almost frustrating to watch. With the series only being eight episodes, one wonders if production was cut short earlier this year and could be to blame for the lack of an intriguing storyline. The whole hour-long finale could have just been whittled down to 10 minutes, and it would have made for a more intriguing ending. It's a series that has fallen down the rabbit hole of "We must set up season two!" before we've even reached a satisfying ending to season one.
Having said that, with the first half of the season being quite the rewarding watch, we can forgive the series for its forgettable later half. As you can imagine, the ending is left open for a return to 'Ratched' in the future, with the series allegedly continuing Netflix's three-season arc formula that they seem to have adopted.
'Ratched' will be available to stream on Netflix from Friday, September 18.