On Sunday the season finale of the on screen adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale aired after ten weeks of haunting viewing. Now it’s over its time to talk about what we’ve seen and please be warned that this review will contain spoilers!
I have to say that I loved The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is terrifying but the way that the show is put together in a complex series of twists and turns makes the chilling story edge of your seat viewing. Offred, the main character portrayed by Elizabeth Moss, is exactly how I imagined her in the book. The way she moves and speaks and narrates is fantastically orchestrated. At times Moss plays Offred as if she is a frightened child, other times she is terrified and obedient and other times the rebellious fighter that the character always has been underneath comes out. She alternates between them seamlessly, pulling on your heartstrings as her suffering plays out in front of you. Moss was the perfect choice for this part, I can’t wait to see her in season two.
The supporting cast deserve a round of applause as well. Aunt Lydia, The Commander and Serena Joy will have you screaming at your TV as their twisted misogynist views are played out before you. This is especially true of the episode titled A Woman’s Place in which we see that Joy played a part in forming the oppressive regime that she is now part of. Joseph Finns as The Commander is both creepy and infuriating as he lords over his house and the women inside it. Nick, an eye in the house, becomes the character you end up loving to hate. He says very little and does what he is ordered, including breaking the law in a bid to help Offred get pregnant for Serena Joy. But his mechanical nature, whispered lines that will have to clambering for the volume button make him difficult to trust. When the series returns next year we will find out whether or not we were right to trust him-or not trust him, depending on the views.
The real hero of this series though, in my opinion, is Janine, portrayed by Madeline Brewer. She comes on screen as a mouthy rebel, quickly broken by her circumstances. Her story is heart breaking to watch as she is tortured, forced through a pregnancy and torn away from her child before being sentenced to death. Brewer plays her amazingly well, she deserves an award. When Janine goes through birth and is then left on the floor while her daughter is passed over to a brutal woman who claims the baby as her own you will want to kick the TV. Janine is left on the floor for others to pick up then sent off to another family to begin the baby making process again.
Everything about The Handmaid’s Tale is scary. Atwood’s novel has been transformed into an onscreen world that doesn’t feel very far away from our own at times. Offred, real name June, and her friend Moira are given dirty looks as they jog through town in shorts and told they are ‘sluts’ by a man who thinks they are less than he is. It’s a terrifying precursor to the horrific order installed by The Commanders and their wives. Maybe we won’t ever become that bad, but in world where women still battle a glass ceiling and victim shaming is still a thing these scenes become uncomfortable and important. I hope they make people really think about the world we live in and where we are going.
The Ceremony, the slightly sinister word for when the Handmaids are forced into sex with their Commander, is the only part of The Handmaid’s Tale that I found genuinely hard to watch. It is repeatedly seen throughout the series. Once was more than enough. Its brutality is difficult to watch. The whole point of this show is the horrific nature of the world the characters are trapped in but the scenes featuring The Ceremony takes it too far. If they had to show it they need only have showed it once.
Overall, I can’t fault The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a brilliant and terrifying series with a fantastic cast and great story. Yes, there were parts that were difficult to watch but there could be an argument that at times they are important. I can’t wait to see where the second series takes the story and I really hope to see more of Elizabeth Moss and Madeline Brewer next time.
Five out of five!