Ratched is fan fiction. Like most fan fiction, Ryan Murphy’s latest series for Netflix takes the world and characters of an existing work as a jumping-off point for a new story with little overlap. In Ratched‘s case, the only holdover from its source material, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is the titular Nurse Ratched, who carries the plot of the series while it pulls out every trick in the Ryan Murphy repertoire, and then some.
“Ryan Murphy shows” have become their own subgenre, from Glee to American Horror Story to American Crime Story to Hollywood. Each work had a loose relationship with realism, which usually played to its strengths. Glee became the phenom it was due to its constant over-the-top musical numbers, and American Horror Story plays with horror tropes like a finely tuned instrument.
Ratched seems to be an amalgam of every visual language trick learned over the course of this series, and the result is a series that looks a lot more interesting than it actually is. There are stark color shifts, Carrie-esque split screens, and color grading so saturated it looks less like a prestige drama and more like an Old Hollywood Technicolor film.