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10 unanswered questions from Netflix’s ‘Ratched’ finale

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Even though the premise of Ratched, an ostensible origin story for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s infamous Nurse Ratched, requires its famous protagonist to end up in a familiar place, the first season of the Netflix show managed to end on a surprising cliffhanger. Its finale showed that Mildred escaped to Mexico with her girlfriend Gwendolyn to live happily ever after, which lasts until her brother Edmund calls to remind her he’s coming for her blood. 

Ratched will return to Netflix, given the show received a two-season order from the start; these are the most burning questions left open at the end of Season 1. Season 2 might answer them. Or not. Seriously, who knows? 

1. Who ratted out Mildred’s location to Edmund?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Ratched’s finale sets up an inevitable Season 2 showdown between Mildred and Edmund by revealing that Edmund knows all about his sister’s secret hideaway in Mexico. After Edmund murders seven nurses in Chicago to get Mildred’s attention, he calls and tells her that she (and her partner Gwendolyn, most likely) are next on his list. Mildred responds with a threat of her own, but privately wonders who could have told Edmund where to find her. 

Nurse Bucket knows where Mildred and Gwendolyn live, since she comes to visit earlier in the episode, and the season’s final moments show that Edmund is traveling with his split-personality liberator Charlotte Wells and Betsy’s sometimes friend/Mildred’s former landlady Louise. One of these characters might have slipped up, but it’s unlikely Nurse Bucket would have told the notoriously unreliable Louise where to find Mildred and equally unlikely that Mildred is still in contact with Charlotte. Someone spilled the beans, and whoever they are should probably watch their backs come Season 2. 

2. What was the clue in the Chicago nurse massacre?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: NETFLIX

Mildred knows Edmund is alive and back to his murderous ways when she reads news of a massacre in Chicago. Edmund killed seven nurses as a “tribute” to his sister and says that his actions were “a clue,” but what was that clue? Is it a The Ring situation where Mildred now has seven days to live? Does Chicago hold some special significance for Mildred? Maybe it was just a nurse murder = “I’m going to kill you, a nurse” thing. This is Ratched — it could be deep or it could be literally nothing.  

3. Why is Edmund coming for Mildred in the first place?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Mildred spent all of Season 1 killing, lobotomizing, lying, and manipulating people to make sure Edmund didn’t get the death penalty and he was the one who threw a wrench in her plans every time. He’s obviously not mentally healthy, but if he had gone along with Mildred’s plan and not, you know, murdered a hospital security guard and run off with a candy striper to act out a horrible remake of Bonnie & Clyde, he might have had a shot at keeping his life. 

After he screwed the pooch on that plan, Edmund seemed pretty resigned to dying as long as it was painless — and a painless death was what Mildred attempted to give him. Even a serial killer should be able to see the mercy in his sister trying to spare him the electric chair, but he insists that Mildred betrayed him.

Edmund knows he got lucky with Charlotte coming through to break him out of Lucia, so why doesn’t he do something different with his time? If he’s going to kill anyone, why doesn’t he track down the people who paid his abusive foster parents for his and Mildred’s horrendous “performances?” Or go after Governor Wilburn? Mildred is not the problem here. 

4. How did the gubernatorial election go? 

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Speaking of Governor George Wilburn, did he win another term? That electric chair execution was live on the radio and even the announcer seemed freaked out by Wilburn’s vicious behavior at the prison, so was acting like a bloodthirsty tyrant a winning political strategy? Then again, asking if a political figure roasting a man alive for an audience of thousands would disqualify him for public office might be a naive question at this point. 

5. Why did Charlotte rescue Edmund and why is she still traveling with him?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Dr. Hanover deduced that Charlotte’s split personality developed as a protective mechanism to shield her psyche from the trauma of a racist attack. Even after he made progress with separating her original self from the characters she created, she relapsed once after witnessing Edmund murder a security guard who was kind to her at the Spring Fling and again when she killed Dr. Hanover. 

Charlotte returns to Lucia with a new personality modeled after Dr. Hanover and rescues Edmund to “treat” him, but if Charlotte’s characters are meant to protect her from trauma, wouldn’t they lead her away from Edmund? Her fight-or-flight response to Dr. Hanover’s stressful attempt to run away with her triggered her transformation into a violent Jesse Owens–Inglourious Basterd hybrid, so why doesn’t looking at Edmund’s smug face every day remind her that he killed her only friend? 

6. How is Lucia State Hospital still open? 

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

It’s nice that Nurse Bucket was able to turn Lucia around by hiring a woman doctor, but any mental hospital where a patient died by suicide, two others permanently escaped, one of their own employees killed a party guest, a break-in led to a man boiled half to death, and a former patient returned to escape with their number one security risk would at least be subject to serious review by the board of health. Even by 1940s standards of care for the mentally ill, it’s bananas that Lucia is still allowed to operate. 

Also, they pissed off the governor who held the power of life and death over them for months. Maybe that answers the question re: Wilburn’s reelection!

7. Is this the last we’ll see of Henry Osgood?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Henry Osgood’s pin-stabbing, LSD-dosing days came to an end when his amputation adventure with Dr. Hanover led to the loss of his arms and legs, but he still found plenty of ways to be a prick in the latter half of Season 1. When he had his millionaire mother killed, Henry discovered that she donated half of her money, left the rest to her pet monkey, and required that her son be committed to a mental institution. Since Ratched is a show centered around such an institution, it’s likely that Lucia State Hospital gained a difficult new patient, but will Henry appear in Season 2? 

It’s possible that Mildred’s cat and mouse game with Edmund might bring her back to the hospital, but under what circumstances? Will Mildred finally get to see the results of Dr. Hanover’s biggest mistake? Will Edmund find a kindred spirit and bring him along for his next homicidal road trip?

8. Where is the spinoff for Gwendolyn’s husband?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

He was only in a few episodes but Gwendolyn’s gay ex-husband Trevor was a billion times more fun than anyone else on Ratched. It would be lovely to get to know him better in a limited series about his new boyfriend, lucrative job at a law firm, and dedication to packing the most delicious bagged lunches in the state of California. 

9. How’s Dolly’s family doing? It’s weird that they never bring up her next of kin or anything, right?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX

Dolly was a terrible nurse and obviously had some of her own stuff going on, but it’s messed up what happened to her anyway. Girl had no idea what she was getting into and now she’s immortalized in death as a killer lover who went down in a blaze of not-glory. The fact that she worked at the mental hospital where Edmund was incarcerated and escaped with him in a fit of deadly passion (see Question #6) should have been a bigger deal, since Ratched follows the media circus around Edmund’s case closely in all other respects.

Even if Dolly wasn’t close with her family, shouldn’t they have something to say about Edmund “kidnapping” her and getting her killed? The total lack of response to Dolly’s death made that whole plot line seem unfinished. 

10. How does all of this lead to Mildred becoming the Nurse Ratched seen in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?

10 unanswered questions from Netflix's 'Ratched' finale

Image: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Ken Kesey’s novel and the Miloš Forman film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest both portray Nurse Ratched as a chilly and authoritative woman who keeps order at Salem State Hospital with unfeeling brutality. There’s still some time to go for Mildred’s character in Ratched to age into that version of herself, but if the Netflix show is intended to reflect or inform one of film’s most iconic villains, there are not a lot of throughlines between the two characters. 

Mildred in Ratched is far from a rule-following menace whose evil stems from her control of her patients’ every move. Giving her a backstory involving sexual abuse, murder, and an inevitably tragic queer love story deflates the cold villainy of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because it makes her psychologically exceptional; actor Louise Fletcher’s Oscar-winning performance as Nurse Ratched was good because it allowed the audience to see that her cruelty was utterly ordinary. If anything, the character in Ratched should be a lot worse by the time the late 1960s come around. 

How will Ratched connect the dots between Mildred hunting her mass murdering brother and settling down as the ultimate enforcer of order at Salem State?

Ratched is now streaming on Netflix.

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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