Several plotlines come to an exciting head as Ratched reaches its midpoint.
This recap of Ratched season 1, episode 4, “Angel of Mercy: Part Two”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
One of the difficulties with the villain drama is finding a way to get the audience invested in the central character while still doing evil things. It’s harder for a show like Ratched where the character starts off somewhat evil; in which case, the endpoint of the show is… what exactly? A promotion?
We’re halfway through the first season of Ratched and it’s still hard to put a finger on our central character. Mildred has feelings, but she hides them. She cares about nothing but her brother, but also about her career? She loves lobotomies but finds hydrotherapy horrifying. Unless it’s done to someone who says she’s bad at sex, in which case it is more than justified. “Angel of Mercy: Part Two” mostly side-steps these questions in the second half, which is devoted to a thrilling set-piece that fully leans into B-movie contrivances — and is all the better for it!
But the first half of the episode is loosely centered around love, and the way the show’s different characters experience it. This being Ratched only one character seems to actually have the capacity and emotional availability in their life for love: Gwendolyn Briggs, who leaves her husband with the idea of being able to finally stop hiding sexuality and find love. Her oyster lunch with Mildred has opened her up to the possibility that she doesn’t have to live a lie, so of course, she moves out and into what is of course the only motel in the area.
Meanwhile, Mildred brings food to her brother, who was expecting Dolly. He confesses his desire to “be normal,” and to “try and learn to love.” But when Mildred rebuffs his advances on Dolly, he moves his target to her, hinting at a history of intimacy.
Thus, we end up with Mildred coercing Dolly into fulfilling Edmund’s sexual needs. She sits Dolly down and diagnoses her with nymphomania which Dolly first finds liberating.”I’ve always been that way when it comes to dangerous men,” Dolly says, somehow not rolling her eyes just saying those words. “A nurse’s duty is to help her patient,” Mildred says, and Dolly agrees to find a way to shack up with Edmund.
Their plan takes advantage of Nurse Bucket’s regular lunch break, which is coincidentally interrupted by a false alarm about Mrs. Cartwright’s wedding ring. “Suddenly she’s concerned about the symbols of matrimony,” Bucket says, but as she is about to enter the room where they’ve prepared Edmund for a tryst. Luckily someone finds the ring, and everything goes as scheduled. Is Nurse Ratched the best wingman a convict could ask for or what!
Later, we see the results of Ingrid’s “treatment.” She confesses to Mildred the repression she endured. “You don’t know what it’s like to be constantly running from who you really are.” It’s a heartbreaking scene that seems to be from a different show entirely. Luckily for Ingrid, the hydrotherapy machine is mysteriously not working.
Ratched has caught on to Stoll’s business. She offers to help him, but in return, she wants a chance to prove his statement last episode (about her being “the worst lay of his life”) wrong. At the same time, Gwendolyn tries to pay Mildred a visit. She comes back later, but it’s not a social visit. She announces that Edmund must stand trial or the hospital is defunded. So much for chasing love.
Back at the hospital, all our characters and plot lines converge in an exciting set-piece: Ratched sneaks Stoll in, while Huck tells her that the hydrotherapy machine has been fixed and that Mrs. Cartwright will be tortured the next morning. They decide to help her and Ingrid escape.
Stoll goes in for the kill but Hanover has been waiting, and he knocks Stoll out. Showing no mercy, Ratched helps carry him to the hydrotherapy chamber. Seems like his “worst lay” comment hit a nerve.
Afterward, Ratched goes to sneak Ingrid out. As she puts her in Huck’s car, Ratched finishes their conversation from earlier, confiding in Ingrid that she understands her predicament.
Meanwhile, Gwendolyn has arrived at the hospital and notices blood on Hanover’s carpet. She begins to question Hanover as a blistered Stoll escapes his bath and crawls through the hallway. He comes face to face with Peter, who thinks he’s imagining the monster approaching him. When he doesn’t stop, Harold, the security guard, shoots him, alerting everyone in Hanover’s office. Ratched quickly spins a web of lies explaining what happened, convincing everyone to keep quiet (which seems to be her superpower).
Later, Briggs debriefs with Ratched. “He didn’t look human,” Gwendolyn says. “He wasn’t,” she responds, speaking to her previous issues with Stoll. When she gets home, Mildred calls up Osgood and announces Stoll’s death, inviting his employer up to the motel. “I’ll be looking forward to it,” the wealthy woman responds.
The next morning, Huck thanks Ratched for helping him, calling her an angel. “I’ve never heard that before,” she responds, prompting a flashback to her in the army, putting an injured soldier out of his misery. It’s a little unnecessary (we’ve already seen her do similar things and know about her time in the way), but “Angel of Mercy: Part Two” proves the show can function as an engaging thriller when it’s not so worried about being a gore-fest.
- Of course, Nurse Bucket eats the same ham and cheese sandwich every day.
- The best joke of the episode comes from Amanda Plummer’s motel owner, who overhears Briggs tell Ratched that she has left her husband: “Separated, I have to open a new form.”
- Why is Osgood’s son not in prison? He killed the gardener! How is this allowed!
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Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia