Sunday, September 20, 2020

REVIEW: 'Ratched' - A Persistent Threat Makes It Impossible for Ratched to Ever Move Beyond Her Past in 'Mildred and Edmund'

Netflix's Ratched - Episode 1.08 "Mildred and Edmund"

One month later, Ratched fights to save Edmund from the electric chair while dreaming of a new life with Gwendolyn.

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 season finale of Netflix's Ratched.

"Mildred and Edmund" was written by Ian Brennan, Evan Romansky & Jennifer Salt and directed by Daniel Minahan

Would Ratched be able to move beyond her obligation to her brother? Could she relegate him to a part of her past that was now gone? That question loomed heading into this finale. It was the only major plot point that was left unresolved. And yet, it's almost completely inconsequential whether or not Ratched can do it. The narrative forces complications that keep her desperately fighting on his behalf. She remains an active part of his story. She may not be fighting for his freedom. She still wants him to be treated with humanity during the final days of his life. She seeks comfort from Bucket and Gwendolyn. That is rewarding for her. Those relationships did strengthen during the last few episodes of the season. It came from a place of trust. They know about Ratched's secrets. They chose to use them to their advantage. It left things precarious because these relationships could implode at any moment. That doesn't happen here. Gwendolyn seemed destined to die from cancer. She doesn't. Instead, she responds well to medical treatments in Mexico. Bucket faces death as well. She survives despite selling out Ratched on several occasions. These women are given the opportunity to lead and command. Bucket can follow through on Hanover's vision of animals being housed at the hospital in the hopes of offering treatment to the patients. She sees it as a compassionate act to give Edmund an hour a day in the barn with the animals. He forges bonds with them too. He is always under suspicion and monitoring though. He is never free in this environment. He has the clarity that these are the final two weeks of his life. Urgency is placed in the narrative because the Governor must prove just how devious he is when it comes to his message of law and order. It's a narrative pivot that is all about the performance. The Governor even admits as such when he sits down with Ratched and Gwendolyn once more. He doesn't help them. He doesn't listen to their pleas for mercy. He sees the electric chair as being necessary to prove to the electorate just how committed he is to punishing those convicted of the most serious crimes. He even flips the switch himself. He will burn the body until it is unrecognizable. It doesn't matter that this imagery would frighten some. He sees it as a position of strength. That has to be upheld in order to build trust. It's domineering and destructive. It's heinous and forces Ratched into action. That places her in her brother's orbit once more. She believes she can concoct a plan herself to offer him a death with dignity. She can lure him into safety in the barn and administer the drugs to make him peacefully fade away. She sees that as beneficial to both of them while honoring everything that they've gone through. Love is present in their relationship. They clash and even fear one another. Edmund knows that Ratched is always planning something. He knows nothing is ever what it seems with her. She genuinely wants to connect. It's freeing to get this burden off her shoulders. She can offer him some peace while ending this part of her life for good.

And then, Charlotte enters the picture once more. That is an unexpected development. It's shocking because Ratched had sent her off to receive treatment elsewhere. She had been given an uplifting moment of hope after tragedy struck once more. She was abused by the horrors of the world and then again by the doctor who thought he knew best. And now, her personality has split once again from this new trauma. Now, she is playing Hanover. She steps into his world and hopes to subject it to his will. She is easily allowed to do this as well. All it takes is the gun that was conveniently left in his desk. That's insane and implausible. That would suggest that Bucket didn't do a thorough enough job in taking over this hospital. She doesn't even know what all is in the office where she now manages everything. That is surprising. It immediately shifts the power dynamics. But it too falls into the pattern of using death solely to increase the stakes and tension in the narrative. Huck's death feels completely random and unnecessary. It didn't have to occur. The show had always positioned him as a sweetheart who hoped for the best. He actively tried to make things better for everyone he met. Ratched and Bucket saw the good in him too. They trusted him completely. And now, he dies because that mentality doesn't play well with the monstrosity too frequently on display in this hospital. That violence continues until Edmund is set free. This drama has always positioned death as inevitable. That was the fate always set to befall these characters. Their choices ensured that was the only outcome. Their selfish desires would always create tragic downfalls. And now, the show offers an ending that is far more complicated than that. Edmund has been waiting for his sentencing to be done. He has escaped it all season. Ratched acted in the hopes of saving him. She accepted that she didn't need to do that. And then, he successfully escapes and remains on the run for years. That's crazy. So much of this season was defined by the character arcs that would be confined to it. Not many narratives would continue in the second year - which has already been picked up by Netflix. The dynamic between Ratched and Edmund felt like a story that would be contained to a specific season. It was the kind of complex story that would define these characters while suggesting they were only one part of a significant puzzle that shapes Ratched's overall identity. And now, the dynamic is being asked to carry the entire series. Ratched trying to save Edmund from the prison system and near certain death was the arc for the first season. And now, these episodes conclude with Edmund on the run with Charlotte and Louise. Ratched runs away to Mexico with Gwendolyn where they hope to enjoy some peace - with Bucket hopefully on a relaxing vacation. Ratched can never accept this new life though because she remains haunted by the past. She knows that Edmund will eventually find her and kill her. She can never give him that opportunity. She has to be smarter. She wants to widen her world and embrace the people who want to love and uplift her. Gwendolyn and Bucket serve those roles. And yet, those relationships make her vulnerable because Bucket casually dismissing Louise allows Edmund to figure out exactly where his sister has gone. It's all complicated and meant to set up an engaging second season. It takes the narrative outside the hospital. But it's also continuing a conflict that doesn't seem necessary. It places Ratched in a different position where she is terrified and constantly looking over her shoulder. That concern is real. And yet, the drama fakes out the audience too many times for us to be invested in what the setup is going to be in the future.