Saturday, September 19, 2020

REVIEW: 'Ratched' - Ratched Is Forced to Confront Her Past in Order to Move Forward with Gwendolyn in 'Got No Strings'

Netflix's Ratched - Episode 1.06 "Got No Strings"

Lovers on the lam seek refuge at an abandoned farmhouse. When Ratched attends a marionette show, traumatic childhood memories come rushing back.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Ratched.

"Got No Strings" was written by Jennifer Salt & Ian Brennan and directed by Jessica Yu

It's not unusual for a Ryan Murphy project to romanticize a dark subject matter. It's part of an overall examination of how humanity responds to things in profoundly different ways. People are shaped by the entirety of their lived experiences. It's important to understand a person's backstory in order to acknowledge the choices they actively make in the present. The previous episode suffered because the show defines the relationship between Ratched and Edmund too vaguely. The same applied to Edmund and Dolly. Edmund's choice between Ratched and Dolly was reduced down to a sense of immediacy and action. He had to do something to break free. He refused to follow his sister's plan. And yet, the show finally offers an explanation for why Ratched holds so firmly onto this relationship. She never wants to abandon him. She will fight for him until the bitter end. And yet, this is an insanely odd episode. The plotting is baffling. An elaborate sequence occurs that informs the audience of Ratched and Edmund's time in the foster care system. They were constantly abused by each family they were placed with. A sympathetic case worker forged the paperwork to always keep them together. That was the only blessing that occurred for them. However, their final home subjected them to the amusement of a crowd of pedophiles. It's horrifying and despicable. It helps frame Ratched's reluctance to accept personal love and relationships. She has closed herself off in that regard. And yet, the narrative needs her to open up because her dynamic with Gwendolyn needs to progress. The opening sequence affirms that she recovers from her gunshot wound. She survives being shot by Dolly in the grand getaway from the hospital. Ratched feels compelled to open up and tell her the complete truth about who she is. That moment eventually occurs. However, it's framed as Ratched detailing in every personal detail the same story that just played out as a marionette show. It's weird. Yes, it allows Sarah Paulson to play numerous versions of this emotional and heartbreaking material. The audience is right alongside her for every minute until she bursts. That moment is somewhat effective. And then, strangeness occurs as the camera centers itself on her face as she tells Gwendolyn the truth. No time is especially given to have a reaction. After she is done, the action cuts away to Edmund and Dolly in the woods making their final stand. The next time Ratched and Gwendolyn are together is the very end when the Governor and Hanover are negotiating the final deal for Edmund. He has to be declared competent to stand trial in order for the hospital to continue receiving funding. In the moment, it's played as if Gwendolyn is an active participant in this as she seals Edmund's fate by passing the paperwork along. In the hallway though, she advocates for a more delayed timeframe. It's an action she takes because of her feelings for Ratched. That informs everyone that the revelation doesn't change Gwendolyn's mindset. It's just bad political advice to the point where the Governor is right to fire her. Sure, he is a misogynist prick who has been incredibly one-note this season. He doesn't particularly care about anything other than getting re-elected. This strategy of focusing on mental health never felt like it became much of an issue for him. The progress of the campaign was always stated but never seen. It's hard for the audience to invest in the developments given how little we understand the motivations. Things are clearly lacking. As such, it's obvious that Dolly projects a bad boy identity onto Edmund. She imagines him to be someone else entirely. She does care to get to know him at all. She just uses him to free herself of the burden of behaving. She wants to go out in a blaze of glory because she sees it as romantic. That's the message she has taken away from movies about criminals. She sees it as a noble ideal because it's passionate despite how fleeting the time spent together is. She views it as great while Edmund wants to have a reason for every murder he commits. He is willing to do it. It's his own sense of retribution. The show just doesn't earn the turn to sympathy for a man abused as a child and sensitive to the beauty of the world. It wants the big, stylish moments. When it digs under the surface a little further, it has mostly become empty. Sarah Paulson's performance continues to ground everything. These last two episodes though have been a muddled mess that suggests a version of the story that isn't as bold and imaginative as it presents itself as being. Instead, it's the formulaic version of this story with enough details to provoke the audience into seeing it all as a fully realized idea. It's filling the time to suggest depth without putting in the hard work to convey it in meaningful action. That's unfortunate while still offering so much pain when Ratched greets her brother outside the hospital once more. This time just happens to be full of disdain and disappointment.