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Ratched Season 1 – Review

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Netflix

Nurse Ratched has returned, this time reimaged for Netflix by the conductor of the camp and creepy, Ryan Murphy. Season One contains eight spine-tingling episodes.

A prequel for Ken Kesey’s character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Louise Fletcher’s Academy award-winning portrayal of the original Nurse Ratched became an iconic New Hollywood’ villain. She embodied the stern female face of the establishment. This in contrast to Jack Nicholson’s cheeky, rebellious male protagonist.

Kesey’s Nurse Ratched embodied a new evil. The bureaucratic ruler, the leader of the establishment. Perhaps more psychotic than the inmates of the asylum she ruled over. Which raises the question, could murphy, the modern prince of the pomp and perverse do justice to Kesey’s monochrome matron?

SPOILERS: You have been warned, there are spoilers ahead.

A fresh adaptation

The 1975 character’s ice-cold demeanour gave a convicting depiction of a systematic ruler. Ratched’s patronising dialogue and manipulation tactics were at the forefront of her arsenal as a villain. The 2020 version is no different.

Set in 1947, in Season One we meet Mildred Ratched (Murphy muse, Sarah Paulson) on her way to the Lucia State Hospital. This is several years prior to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Her witty monologue at the gas station attendants’ expense gives both vigour and a slight nod to Kesey’s creation, as Ratched is as fierce as ever. So far so good, as we are then introduced to the genocidal Edmund Tolleson (another Murphy favourite, Finn Wittrock).

Here we see Murphy’s influence and a clear separation from the source material. Ken Kesey’s text played on emotional turmoil on vulnerable characters to elicit a response from the audience. Whereas here, we see Tolleson murder 3 priests in the space of 5 minutes.

Undeniably engaging and on-brand of a Ryan Murphy show. The seeds are planted for the rest of the series and its clear, were growing something very different than One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

A visual feast

The shows strongest feature is undoubtedly its appearance. The nods to Hitchcock combined with the Douglas Sirk melodrama of the mid-century. This sets the show apart from any other grandiose Murphy creation.

Pose, AHS, Glee and many other Murphy projects maintain a strong visual identity, and Ratched joins the ranks. The technicoloured California coastline, the teal green nurses’ uniforms, the art deco hospital design and Silence of the Lambs-esq wine cellar/jail. They all position the show as a rich display of gothic grandeur.

The redundant explanations

As the series continues, the further backstory is revealed and what starts off steady, soon turns into a bumpy ride. Following the development of Mildred and Gwendolyn’s relationship, Mildred recounts the horrors of her many abusive foster parents to the audience. Yet, this is via the medium of… puppetry.

Murphy’s bizarre choice of storytelling does serve its purpose. It offers the background of Mildred and Edmund, yet the puppets lay out the history of abuse. Then actors retell the story and finally, Mildred recounts the whole series of events we just saw, in one long face to face monologue. The one unique element of the puppet show becomes diluted into a tiresome series of repetition, that could have been avoided.

Once the two narratives of Mildred and Edmund are tied up, there is a simple race to the finish as she is trying to save him from death row. But, Edmund is given a logical past that relates to his current actions. He has been made a monster and has only ever killed for revenge, whilst we are left wondering what Mildreds’ end game is? Save her non-biological brother and hide him forever? Save her new girlfriend and run away with her? Or is it to take over the hospital and maintain control to relate back to the original text?

Mildred is shown to be a fantastic manipulator that slowly becomes unravelled. All done as she loses control throughout the series, yet the audience also loses grip of why we are watching and what we want to happen.

Overall

The first series had a decent arc, that sadly becomes more convoluted than it needed to be. The final episode is set in Mexico. This, unfortunately, involves a dream sequence. Setting up the Mildred vs. Edmond narrative for Ratched Season Two already feels like a misstep.

Yet, it was an enjoyable binge watch that deserves some leeway due to the outstanding cinematography and design. The jury is still out on if this Rached (turned Mexican bother-hunter) will ever relate back to the original. We will see if Ratched Season Two will correct some of its initial wrongs and draw us back in for more than just the flamboyant design…


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 6/10


Thanks for reading Ratched Season One review. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read more of our Mandalorian Episode One Review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Ratched HERE.

Ratched is streaming now on Netflix.

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Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review

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Netflix

Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!

Alliance

Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.

This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.

Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.

Shades of grey

This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.

With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.

This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.

New champions

Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.

Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.

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