'Ratched': Mildred's kinks and romance with Gwen humanizes her but what does fate have in store for them?
In Ryan Murphy's take on the backstory of Ken Kesey's iconic antagonist Nurse Ratched, not only does the war-nurse turned mental asylum coordinator have a first name, but instead of meeting her rival in Randle McMurphy, Netflix's Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) falls for a woman called Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon). The love story is a difficult one, starting with Ratched's staunch denial that she's anything but pin straight. From a kinky femme fatale, with shrewd authority, cold indifference, brutal bullying and murderous instincts, Ratched turns into a loving, kind, compassionate woman ready to live her truth. Practically enforcing intercourse as a conversion therapy on herself, Ratched does the utmost until she can't withstand her feelings anymore and caves in to Gwendolyn's loving arms. But their love is marred by Ratched's past, her truth, and Gwen's imminent future as a tumor appears in her left breast. And although the finale ends on a two-year fast forward where Gwen is miraculously still alive, fate seems to have only cruelty in store for them.
When we are introduced to Ratched, she is applying for a job at the Lucia hospital. She arrives at the very small town and puts up at the local motel for the entirety of her stay. Right from the start, Ratched is very, very indifferent toward those around her, unless they serve a purpose in her agenda to free her mass-murderer brother Edmund (Finn Wittrock) who is about to be detained at Lucia. Right off the bat, she is being hit on by fellow motel-resident Charles Wainwright (Corey Stoll), a hitman hired by the affluent Lenore Osgood to kill current Lucia head Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones). So Ratched tries to give Charles a shot and invites him over to her room for a possible hook up. Although she is too hesitant to try anything or even let him try anything, she employs some power roleplay.
Ratched's kinks run wild as we learn of them when she asks Charles to pretend a number of scenarios ranging from a husband and wife arguing about having a baby, to an injured soldier whom she is able to recover from a near-fatal injury. The narrative of her roleplays are very, very detailed, down to how much blood he has lost, or even how long she will raise the child before realizing she doesn't want it anymore. Later we find out these are instances from her own past, but at the time, much like Charles, viewers are led to believe Ratched is just into really disturbing, morbid pleasures.
Things however change once she meets Gwendolyn and feels for the first time what she hasn't felt with any man before. Gwen takes her to a local club for gay and lesbian people and Ratched is immediately very offended, but it is also hinted that her reaction comes from a place of deep denial within the closet. Meeting Gwendolyn impacts her twisted fantasies with Charles too. Soon in their roleplays, Ratched narrates being in a tension laden warzone but instead of Charles embracing her in an intense kiss, she sees Gwendolyn appearing in her fantasies. Charles even calls her the worst lay of his life while Ratched, still in denial, tries penciling in their next time, but it doesn't faze Ratched. She has found interest elsewhere.
The same Ratched who was livid with the idea of being invited to a gay pub asks Gwen out to dinner and dances at the hospital. When Gwen gets shot in the chest by Edmund's new fling, the equally unstable nurse Dolly, Ratched tends to her, sits by her side until she recovers, and the whole incident is a wake-up call for her. She is able to actually say in as many words that she can't lose Gwen - something she insists on once again when Gwen, in a fit of rage over Ratched's reluctance to run away to Mexico with her, reveals she has been diagnosed with cancer. Gwen's doctors believe her time is near, but the harder things get, the more domesticated the two women become until they are your regular couple and Ratched isn't afraid of accepting herself anymore.
Two years into the future, when the show wraps, they are actually living in Mexico and miraculously, Gwen has been in remission. She is her doctor's star student, and Ratched's devotion is just the same it was the day Gwen's hair had started falling off from the chemo. It's bittersweet as soon as Edmund finds where Ratched is and threatens to come after her, indicating more trouble, more loss in their path. But for now, take away the fact that this couldn't be farther from the nurse Ratched fans have loved since 1975, and what we get is a pure Murphy romance for the TV-screens -- filled with fun, frolic and laughter, and no inhibitions at all.
'Ratched' is now available for streaming only on Netflix.