Sarah Paulson's character in Netflix's dark new series may have a familiar name, but viewers will see a whole new side to the iconic villain. To fully appreciate what's going on in Ratched, you first need to become acquainted with the nurse's storied history in literature and cinema. Viewers will probably wonder how Ratched is related to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so here's a primer on everything you need to know as you get into the new series.
Mildred Ratched was introduced in the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and then was cemented in cinematic history with the 1975 film adaptation of the book.. The strict, authoritarian role earned Louise Fletcher the Oscar for Best Actress, and the character has been widely recognized as one of the greatest movie villains of the century. In the movie, Nurse Ratched rules over a mental institution with an iron fist, refusing to grant her patients any freedoms. After her cutting manipulations lead to the death of a patient, the film ends with Randle (Jack Nicholson) attempting to strangle Ratched, but she survives and he is given a lobotomy.
Netflix's new series explores how Mildred Ratched became the tyrant viewers saw in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As is made clear in the premiere episode, Ratched is a prequel series set in 1947, which is 16 years before the events of Cuckoo's Nest.
Paulson's younger version of Ratched is fresh off her years as an Army nurse during World War II, a time that was characterized as hugely formational in terms of Ratched's personality and approach to her profession in Cuckoo's Nest. The series also changes up the setting from the film. While Ratched is in charge of a psychiatric ward in Salem, Oregon, in Cuckoo's Nest, Ratched focuses on the nurse starting a job at a mental health facility in the seaside town of Lucia, California.
Aside from Nurse Ratched herself, there actually are not many other references to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in Ratched. The show has an entirely different set of characters from the movie (aside from Ratched), so viewers actually shouldn't miss out on too much if they've never read or seen Cuckoo's Nest. One big nod to the movie in the show, though, is the importance of lobotomies. The series explores how the controversial psychosurgery was developed and experienced a boom in the United States in the 1940s. Of course, the lobotomy is Ratched's ultimate weapon in Cuckoo's Nest, so the prequel series will reveal how she became acquainted with the surgery.
Ratched premieres on Netflix on Friday, Sept. 18.