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Ratched Season 1 Episode 1 Recap/Explained

September 18, 2020
5 min read

Created by Evan Romansky and Ryan Murphy, ‘Ratched’ offers the backstory of one of the most infamous cinematic villains of all time, Head Nurse Mildred Ratched from the 1975 multi-Oscar-winning film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Neither the film nor the 1962 Ken Kesey namesake novel on which the film is based provides much detail on what kind of person Ratched was when she was younger. The Netflix series seeks to fill that void and build a narrative that will ultimately humanize the character and give context to her actions in the film. ‘Ratched’ is a typical Ryan Murphy fare, filled to the brim with melodrama, over-indulgence, and macabre. In this series of articles, we are going to discuss each episode of ‘Ratched’, any new development and change introduced in the story, and its effect on the overarching plot of the show. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Ratched Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

The pilot opens in a Catholic church and focuses on a group of priests who are planning to go out to see ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. One stays behind as he is not feeling well. Later in the evening, he lets a stranger into the house after he claims that his car has broken down. This stranger is Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock). Edmund kills the priest and three of the four others when they get back. Before murdering his final victim of the night, he reveals to him that he is his son.

Elsewhere, we first see Ratched (Sarah Paulson) at a gas station, arriving in the town and finding lodging in a roadside motel. Her interview with Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), the head of the Lucia State Hospital, doesn’t go well. Although Hanover is clearly impressed by her credentials and interest in psychiatry, he just doesn’t have enough funding to hire a new nurse. Ratched blackmails one of the nurses there to force her to quit her job and replaces her at the mental health facility and manipulates one of the patients, Dario Salvatore (Daniel di Tomasso), to commit suicide inside Hanover’s office. At the end of the first episode, Edmund, who has been arrested, is moved to the facility to await Hanover’s ruling on his mental health. It is revealed that he and Ratched can potentially be siblings.

Ratched Episode 1 Explained

The story is set in the late 1940s California. America has just won the war. Their economy is booming. There are new inventions in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, and technology propelling their civilizational aspirations forward. However, as science as a whole is still in a transitional period, there is a lot of trials and errors. This is especially felt in psychiatry. Hanover, who is a leading figure in the field, is often subjected to ridicule, including by the state’s governor, George Milburn (Vincent D’Onofrio), and is unable to secure funding for the facility. However, the moment Ratched joins the hospital, things begin to change.

Manipulative Protagonist

Ratched has evidently forged her interview letter as neither Hanover nor Head Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) sent it to her. This makes all the glowing credentials that she lists in her résumé, including her claims of service as a nurse during the Pacific Theatre, questionable. After she gets the job by blackmailing a nurse about her infidelity, she secures her position in the hospital by saving a patient in front of the governor, who is planning to use the facility to demonstrate his progressive views for a re-election campaign. Ratched then gains leverage on Hanover when Salvatore kills himself in his office. She assures him that he can trust her and takes care of the body by putting it into an incinerator. In three quick steps, she establishes herself as an authoritative figure in the hospital, potentially even more powerful than Nurse Bucket.

It isn’t until the end of the episode that the reason of her coming to the town and joining Lucia is revealed. Until that point, her story and that of Edmund seemed two very mutually exclusive plot threads. While we knew that he was coming to Lucia for Hanover’s evaluation, we just did not have enough information to connect those threads. As a result, Ratched’s actions felt confusing as well. With the big reveal at the end, now we know that she is there to save Edmund, who will be otherwise executed.

Larger Than Life Setting and Characters

Despite all the shabbiness of the motel, it is located on the cliffside with a stunning view of the ocean. Various acts of apathetic cruelty are performed within the walls of the well-lit, vibrantly-colored mental facility. Like any other Ryan Murphy project, ‘Ratched’ thrives in such unrealistic dichotomy. Throughout the episode, each main character demonstrates that they are capable of any form of depravity if the circumstances demand. And that, more than anything else, carries the most amount of shock value in ‘Ratched’.

Read More: Where is Ratched Filmed?

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