TV Show: Ratched (The Pilot)
Where a more subtle, chillier psychological study was warranted, Murphy, as expected, decides to go full-tilt horror.
Ok. We get it.
Nurse Ratched is a rather old character that no one has bothered touching after it appeared in its Oscar-winning glory in the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". The makers believe that it is, maybe, too subtle for the younger generation. They might have heard of the film and even watched it, but they doubt that the character sticks to their memory much. That is the reason they decide to come all out with guns blazing.
Not that the power of Louise Fletcher's slow bloom into evil has diminished. Milos Forman's full reveal of Nurse Ratched's sadism is, perhaps, the ultimate criticism of the system. It has hollowed out even the caretakers into monsters. She does not really need a backstory and I didn't see anyone asking for it.
But this is the era of tracing 'origins' and nobody in Hollywood seems to have heard about the banality of evil.
If the series is to be evaluated on its plot, for Ryan Murphy, Ratched was a devious schemester from the start. Her operatic manipulation of the hospital that she wishes to get into plays so fast and loose that it is unbelievable.
Where a more subtle, chilly psychological study was warranted, Murphy decides to go full-tilt horror.
This tells me that somewhere he realizes the limitations of the idea. Therefore, he decides to obscure its pointlessness with over-saturated, lurid colors, as if he was attempting a Giallo. The sets and the wardrobes scream for attention - Ratched has a huge "R" embroidered on her jacket. The makers clearly see her as some sort of super-villain.
Fletcher's Ratched held the mask of icy professionalism only letting it crack at choice moments. Paulson's depiction seems a little dull, though I have a feeling that she is holding back for the rest of the story.
Because there is no hint of any backstory in the 1975 film (I haven't read Ken Kasey's book and anyway Murphy seems to target the 'film audience' rather than the 'book audience'), everything has to be done from the scratch. This frees the makers on one hand and on the other completely separate them from the moorings of the original. This is also the reason why "From the creator of American Horror Story" on the poster comes across more as a defense than a reason to watch this.
All this would still be great if it were not so predictable. Both the maker's intentions and plot machinations are transparent.
The pilot starts with an artless depiction of a massacre where the murderer reveals revenge as his reason before hacking away the final victim. Only the dullest of people will not be able to put his story and Ratched's intentions together. Yet this is treated as a big reveal at the end. After playing a Machiavellian villain for most of its running time, this is the moment for Sarah Paulson to pin down her actions to something deeper.
But by then Murphy has created an ecosystem too baroque for anyone to care about any profoundness.