After such a promising start, the first season of Ratched is limping its way to a conclusion, feeling almost like it’s making up its endgame as it goes along. It’s time to admit that it’s been a season of failed potential. Showdowns promised between characters like Lenore Osgood and Dr. Hanover simply weren’t given a chance to pay off in any way. Instead, two of the most interesting people this season are dispatched by relative strangers in the penultimate episode. Is Ratched saying something about the violent unpredictability of life? That may be giving it too much credit.
Petunia the monkey arguably steals an episode that starts in 1943 at Dr. Banaga’s divorce hearing. The man who would become Hanover worked to treat families during the Japanese Internment (which feels like another cheap inclusion of some of this country’s dark history that’s completely unnecessary and unearned by this show), but his heartbreak over losing his daughter feels genuine thanks to Jon Jon Briones’s heavy lifting as an actor. Hanover is a tough character to decipher in terms of audience loyalty. He’s reckless and cocky in a dangerous way, but it also feels like he’s genuinely tried to do good in his life, but just been very bad at it.
The sweet Huck asks out Mildred, and she comes out to him, telling him that he “will find love.” Huck walks away saying he just needs to find his purpose, which means he will almost certainly die in this episode or the next.
With the help of a recorder found under Ratched’s bed by the nosy Louise, Betsy Bucket gets the truth about her rival nurse at Lucia. Mildred tells her that Edmund is her brother, which strangely seems to make the fact that Betsy heard a lobotomy on the recording all just fine now. Ryan Murphy shows rarely make logical sense, but wouldn’t Betsy follow up on the sound of an ice pick going into Father Andrews’s eye socket? No time for that as Betsy is comforting an emotional Ratched, who reveals her backstory: she was never a nurse. She just wanted to help people in World War II and somehow ended up in a medic uniform in a combat arena. She claims she killed people who just wanted to die, but Betsy calls out that nonsense. Nurses save people who want to die. But Mildred was nice to Betsy during the dance, so all cool. Mildred confessed to multiple murders during the war and Betsy heard her perform a lobotomy, but Mildred gave her a tissue when Betsy was sad, so everything is fine now. Again, logic doesn’t have to be a strength, but there should be some of it.
Mildred and Betsy decide to team up to overthrow Dr. Hanover. Betsy goes to the doc and tells him that he’s been dismissed. They know everything about his background, and the police have been made aware of his identity. They push him out even though Betsy always loved him, and he felt he was on the precipice of helping so many people. Charlotte Wells, the shiny, distracting toy of the second half of the season, goes with Dr. Hanover, the only person who has actually helped her.
Hanover and Charlotte are on the road, eating at a diner before finding their way to a fateful motel room. When the cops knock on the door, Hanover pushes Charlotte in the closet, triggering an episode. Charlotte goes in but the angry Ondine comes out and starts beating on Hanover. She then shifts again, calling Hanover Adolf Hitler and stabbing him over and over again. After murdering Hanover, she calls Ratched for help, and the nurse bafflingly puts her on a bus out of town. Ratched then takes Hanover’s head to Osgood, taking the payment for the bounty on the man who destroyed Henry Osgood. Moments later, a man named Diego stabs Lenore Osgood in the back with a pitchfork, apparently at the behest of Henry. What a sad end to the only character on this show who seemed to know this whole affair needed to be campier.
Hanover and Osgood are dead, which should propel Ratched into action for the end of this episode and the next, but the writers pull back on the pace again for more backstory. The case worker played by Rosanna Arquette in flashbacks last episode finally gets some lines as she tells Mildred why Edmund killed those priests, and that the murder of their parents had been ruled a justifiable homicide. The thrust of the scene is that Mildred finally realizes that she may not be able to save Edmund. He can’t be saved.
Because the writers know some relationship drama is needed at this point in a season, they saddle Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon with a horrendously written fight scene just to have a fight scene. After a shallow scene in which Briggs’s husband admits to finding happiness as a gay man since she left him (echoes of themes explored in Murphy’s last Netflix show, Hollywood), Briggs yells at Ratched for withholding the truth about Edmund. Ratched says “I love you,” and Briggs doesn’t know what she’s supposed to say to that (and it almost sounds like Nixon is breaking character because the scene makes no sense in so many ways). The melodrama is turned up with the completely unearned twist that Briggs has a tumor the size of a walnut inside her breast. This relationship, which has kind of been the center of the show, was never believable, and now it has a cancer subplot. They say they love each other. Nixon and Paulson are such good performers and it would be great to see them center a drama about two women finding unexpected love, but it feels forced here.
In the final scenes, Henry Osgood learns that Petunia the monkey got his inheritance and that he’ll be going to Lucia for the rest of his life. The funny thing is that there are no doctors left at Lucia, just dozens of nurses, and they’ll now be led by Huck — poor, sweet, doomed Huck.
• Line of the episode: “You love your monkey more than you love me.” Can you blame her?
• Jennifer Lynch directed this episode, and it’s hard not to connect the limbless Henry Osgood with the title character in her breakthrough debut Boxing Helena, the twisted story of a man who amputates a woman’s arms and legs and keeps her in a box under her bed. It’s well worth a look, and I like the idea that the writers probably made the connection narratively from Henry to that controversial film and then figured no one would be better than Lynch.
• Sharon Stone was great in every scene, but was anyone else hoping she’d really get an episode to shine before taking a pitchfork to the back? I honestly hope Murphy brings her into the AHS world and gives her something really juicy to sink her teeth into. Something better than Ratched.