CW: rape mention
The Hulu original The Handmaid’s Tale is gory. It will continuously and mercilessly drag you away from your comfort zone and force you to watch the most basic human rights be violated. It’s undeniably a great show – but it does require a stable stomach, as some of the scenes are very hard on the eyes and on the mind. Even as a fan of Black Mirror, I still managed to be terrified of this particular breed of dystopia. This show is basically a Victorian spin-off of Black Mirror.
A quick breakdown:
In the fictional Gilead, an ultra conservative theocratic and totalitarian version of the US, the patriarchy reigns supreme. Offred, formerly known as June, is separated from her husband and daughter, and forcefully assimilated into the new system. The rare blessing of fertility becomes her biggest curse, as she is trained to carry the child of one of the republic’s commanders.
Every month, Offred endures a ritual euphemistically named the Ceremony, in which she is forced to have intercourse with the Commander Waterford while being held by his wife. The show follows her life in this new society, while interweaving it with moments from her old life.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a painful reflection on how flimsy our so-called inalienable rights are and how we need fight everyday to keep them.
Some character highlights:
The photography of the show is mostly based on close-up shots, designed in a way to make the spectator connect with Offred’s tragedy. This is only possible because of Elisabeth Moss’s (Offred) masterful acting, who manages to deliver entire monologues through micro-expressions.
Yvonne Strahovski’s acting is also fascinating to watch. The commander’s wife, Serena Joy, helped him construct this conservative reality, in which her ideas are no longer heard. The development of her psychological conflict reveals the contradictions of the new country’s system. Her tempestuous relationship with Offred is most certainly one of the highlights of the show.
It is hard to watch the characters suffer, but, at the same time, it is entrancing to see how women regain and establish their power even within a blatantly male-dominated society.
On a different side of the wheel is Aunt Lydia. She is the one responsible for training the remaining fertile women into becoming obedient, captive versions of themselves. I’m being cautious not to spoil anything, but I’d just like to say that you shouldn’t see her character as flatly evil. This show is more nuanced than that.
Overall, The Handmaid’s Tale is a show I would highly recommend. The plot gets you hooked very soon, as your curiosity for this strange world is satisfied in small doses. You’re given glimpses of the truth in a seemingly random fashion that slowly help you build the whole timeline. The acting is brilliant, no character is one-dimensional, and the photography is masterful in its forceful creation of empathy.
Watching it won’t be an easy journey, but it will be worth it.