‘Ratched’ Season 1 Summary & Ending Explained – Bouquet Of Twisted Characters


Ratched lights up the cracked areas of human personality. It tries to provide an understanding and reasoning for the most vicious and violent crimes. Through its vibrant characters, it researches and comes to a conclusion that mental instability isn’t a flaw, but instead is the result of a praying event, integrated deep into our past. Narratively, it follows a single protagonist, Nurse Ratched, the character famously known for its portrayal in Miloš Forman’s film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

The character of Nurse Ratched or Mildred Ratched is adapted from the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The series follows her journey to the mental hospital and therefore serves as a prequel to the film before she becomes the head nurse of the hospital. Season 1 consists of 8 episodes of 50 minutes. However, Season 1 not only sets the ground for Ratched’s journey but also acts as a mirror to her personality, the backstory that many of us carved for. So let’s dive deep into this psychological abyss.

‘Ratched’ Season 1 Summary

Set in 1947, Ratched begins with a gruesome murder of four priests in cold blood by a serial killer, Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock). Edmund claims that the head priest raped his mother and because of him, he has to spend his childhood in a foster home. Six months later, Edmund is arrested and sent to Lucia State Hospital, a mental state hospital in Northern California. The authorities find Edmund mentally unstable and thus arises a need to examine him thoroughly before he can meet his fate.

A few days before Edmund’s shift to the mental hospital, Nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) arrives in town in a glossy yellow dress and books a room at a motel. Without wasting a day, she interviews for the job of a nurse in Lucia State Hospital but due to non-vacancy, the head of the hospital, Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones) declines her request. But Ratched is not a person who would accept a rejection. She blackmails an assistant nurse in the hospital and steals the position and soon gains the confidence of Dr. Hanover through illicit actions, i.e. by drugging the patients and then saving them, thus performing a gala act of her charm and wits.

The question arises, why Ratched came to the hospital and that too before the arrival of Edmund? Mildred Ratched and Edmund Tolleson are foster siblings and she has come to the mental facility to help her brother run away. The narrative explores the various conflicts and struggles of Ratched in her pursuit, but this is the exterior storyline and the abyss is much darker, enlightened only by its twisted characters.

Major Spoilers Ahead

Bouquet Of Twisted Characters

Ratched is and will be known for its characters. It might be the influence of the book or the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that showcased a similar quality of skins. A very peculiar trait in all these characters is their daunting past. Be it Ratched, Edmund, Dr. Hanover, or all the unstable patients that came to the facility, each one of them had a past they were afraid of, but yet a prominent part of their personality was influenced by it.

For example, Edmund and Ratched showed signs of extreme coldness against human pain and emotions which made murder easy for them. But this coldness wasn’t genetically adapted or wishfully approached. It evolved over time due to hatred created by their daunting childhood. In their childhood, whoever adopted Edmund and Ratched, beat them mercilessly and only adopted them because of a grant given by the government. Their last foster parents exceeded the limit and used the siblings as a puppet for a sexual show, which in turn gave way to a feeling of anger that was subdued momentarily but wouldn’t hesitate in coming out if triggered.

You and I, we can’t go on the way we are, we have too much damage on our insides.” Edmund to Ratched.

For a major portion of the narrative, it is inflicted that Nurse Ratched is as murderous as her brother, but with the arrival of love from a woman, Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon), her coldness warms up leading to a rise in the feeling of attachment and emotion.

I wish I could have met Mildred Ratched before the world got to her.” Gwendolyn to Ratched.

Unfortunately,  Edmund remains out of such tenderness.

Following the example of Edmund and Ratched, it is easy to trace similar past traumas in all the mentally ill patients. The point being, these traumas play an important role in carving out our mental personality, and thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to say, “Psychopaths are not born, but created by and in the society.

Prepping Ground for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ratched season 1 explores Nurse Mildred Ratched in depth. It inspects her coldness, her viciousness, and her insensitiveness. It is the wrath of these traits which Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest will face.

It also lays down the experimentation and exploration of transorbital lobotomy by Dr. Richard Hanover. Lobotomy or leucotomy is brain surgery that, in simple words, means to cut off or injure certain brain nerves of a mental patient to reduce the emotional imbalance. In the series, Nurse Ratched uses Lobotomy on a surviving priest who survived the night when her brother caused a massacre. She numbs the young priest and hence stops his chances of acting as a witness against her brother. In the film, she uses the same surgery on Patrick when she fails to control him and his revolutionary thoughts.

‘Ratched’ Season 1 Ending Explained

Life is like a boomerang. A Vicious circle of Karma. What you throw, comes back to you and that is what happens in the climax of season 1.

Charlotte Wells (Sophie Okonedo), a patient in the facility suffering from dissociative identity disorder murders Dr. Hanover. It was the act Ratched herself was planning to accomplish but later she decides not to after being influenced by the arrival of love and affection in her life. However, when Charlotte commits the act, Ratched helps her to run away and hides Dr. Hanover’s body and presenting his head to Lenore Osgood, who was offering a hefty amount for him.

But just before things were about to work out, Gwendolyn develops lung cancer and Edmund is sentenced to the electric chair. Ratched feels helpless for both but soon Charlotte comes back, acting as Dr. Hanover. It is implied that she took Dr. Hanover’s identity after she killed him. Charlotte rescues Edmund who at the end moment learns that Ratched was going to kill him with slow poison so that he escapes the suffering of the gruesome shock of the Electric Chair. Edmund takes it otherwise and decides to kill Ratched who is now living in Mexico with Gwendolyn.

The final faceoff between Edmund and Ratched over a phone call sets the ground for season 2 where this pair of brother and sister will chase each other to extinguish the bloodbath they themselves have started.


Season 2, I suppose, will be the last season of Ratched and will lead forward to the incidents of the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the next season, Ratched’s forgotten coldness will return as she will plot against her brother, finally giving rest to his hideousness. It will be an interesting watch.

For season 1, it was majorly lifted by its characters. The drama supported by the narrative could have been better or tighter, because it falls a lot at points. It had a great start and maintained the thrill but as it approached further, the drama started dwindling. Sarah Paulson in the skin of Mildred Ratched is outstanding. She maintains a balance of affection and coldness throughout and the greyness of her character is equally charming and threatening. The cinematography by Nelson Cragg along with crips and stylized editing and coloring by the editors bewitches your attention. Nelson Cragg’s camera angle and shots create the same kind of suspense and threat,  John Alcott created in Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).

In a nutshell, Ratched is an interesting watch. If you are looking for a psychological thriller that keeps your attention grabbed and thoughts occupied, then do watch this amazing thrilling drama streaming on Netflix.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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