Ratched becomes a high school show in a tonally misjudged episode.
This recap of Ratched season 1, episode 5, “The Dance”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
After the last episode’s climax, most of the show’s storylines had either been resolved or at least shaken up. I was intrigued as to where the show would go next. “The Dance” basically becoming a high school movie (albeit set in a psychiatric institute)—involving a “spring fling” and having the characters fall head over heels for each other—is not what I imagined.
The event in question is, of course, part of a scheme concocted by our titular character. Using the deaths of Mr. Salvatore and Corey Stoll as blackmail, she finds herself the hospital’s new head nurse, and her first order of business is, as you’d expect, to… throw a party? It makes sense as a public event to display Edmund’s “insanity,” but I’m confused as to how everyone else in the hospital sort of shrugs it off, like it’s a great idea that they’ve never thought of before, but seems perfect for their workplace.
But the only one who seems offended is nurse Bucket (that’s ex-head nurse Bucket), who was forced to step down after Dr. Hanover so rudely rejects her gift of an eclair. “Why is she giving Dr. Hanover an eclair?” you may ask. Because she is deeply in love with him, Ratched responds.
As would Mildred herself, who successfully convinces her former superior that she was fired so that Dr. Hanover could start a relationship for her. Bucket accepts this unquestionably and spends the rest of Ratched episode 5, “The Dance” trying to woo him for the dance. This involves a scene that reveals her closest friend to be Louise the motel owner, who Bucket invites over too, for some reason, teach her to dance (I can’t believe this is the same show as the last episode). It seems the intention is to make Bucket into a three-dimensional character, but the shift in her demeanor is so sudden, with no trace of softness in the first four episodes, that it comes off as poorly written.
And she’s not the only one with romantic fantasies. When Dolly visits Edmund, she tells him her dream of running off together, and we’re treated to images of the two of them in a lush landscape. For a show that’s central thread has been Edmund’s “rehabilitation,” the show has spent close to zero time showing the rehabilitation process. There was a preliminary meeting with Hanover, but besides that, he’s just in prison, albeit with some benefits.
Lacking any devotion to Edmund’s treatment, Ratched remembers that it’s technically a psychiatric medical drama with the introduction of Charlotte (Sophie Okonedo). Introduced roasting a campus musician (“Beethoven would **** you in the face”).
Brought to Hanover’s office, she reveals a series of contrasting personalities and a faulty memory. Okonedo seems to be having fun with the character (or characters), but I’m not sure about the show’s treatment of her. It seems to revel in the “mentally ill people are dangerous” stereotype that can be really harmful.
My worries were not quelled when, under Ratched’s insistence (she sees Charlotte as the star patient they can use to woo the governor), he begins treating her. “A trauma in your past caused your psyche to split,” Hanover claims. Using hypnosis, he discovers the trauma to be a terrifying incidence of racial violence. To be honest, I think it’s far more horrific and sensitive than Ratched is equipped to handle and seems totally out of line with the show’s otherwise b-movie sensibilities.
Anyway, the “fling” itself starts off as a slow affair: Charlotte dances with the security guard; there are some lovely exchanges between Gwendolyn and Mildred (having reconciled over dinner) before Huck (always the sweetheart) asks the latter to dance. Dr. Hanover’s having earlier confessed his addiction to Mildred, hides away to inject himself with a substance. His drug-induced dancing soon turns into a violent rage for poor Betsy Bucket when she tries to talk about their future together.
In true high school dance tradition, Ratched and Briggs comfort Bucket in the bathroom, telling her she is “a real woman” and that he doesn’t deserve her. Returning to the dance hall, she finds that Edmund has chosen Dolly’s Bonnie & Clyde fantasy over his sister’s plan. He slits the security guard’s throat, and they run off together, not before Dolly shoots Briggs in the chest.
As the status quo shifts once more, Edmund questions Dolly. “You didn’t have to shoot her.” Even though he’s a murderer, he has boundaries. But Dolly doesn’t care. “We did it, we’re free!” she cries. But Edmund knows that they’re anything but.
- While the show has up until now done well to avoid the bloat so frequent to Netflix shows, this episode is the first that feels excessively slow. Part of that stems from the inclusion of the Osgood plot-line, which involves Ratched helping both her and Hanover.
- Osgood tracks Hanover down to a bar. For a man with a bounty on his head he really should be more careful about eating out.
- When asking her to step down, Hanover threatens Ratched with “a lukewarm review.” “I have a perfect reputation,” she replies. “You will have a middling reputation.”
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Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia