Review by CJ
Reed Morano, Mike Barker, Floria Sigismondi, Kate Dennis, Kari Skogland
Margaret Atwood (based on the novel by), Bruce Miller, Leila Gerstein, Dorothy Fortenberry, Wendy Straker Hauser, Lynn Renee Maxcy, Kira Snyder, Eric Tuchman
Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella
Other notable appearances:
Alexis Bledel, Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Amanda Brugel, Nina Kiri, Ever Carradine, Robert Curtis Brown
45-60 minutes per episode
Number of episodes:
Sexual assault, rape and suicide
In a world where the human race has all but lost the ability to procreate, a totalitarian, Christian theonomic regime takes over the United States and holds the remaining fertile women hostage. The fertile women, or Handmaids, are forced to live with high ranking officials in the new regime and undergo ‘ceremonies’ to be impregnated by their masters.
The story is told from the perspective of Offred (Moss), a Handmaid who lives with Commander Waterford (Fiennes) and his wife (Strahovski).
When I first heard about The Handmaid’s Tale, I had only heard the title and seen the costumes. So, I assumed it was a period drama from the days of yore and didn’t think much of it. It was only when it came highly recommended by several people that I looked into it a bit further and decided to dive in.
What I found was a dystopian tale with intricate characters, a well-developed plot and great use of flashbacks.
The character development in season one of The Handmaid’s Tale is truly remarkable. Good characters you believe to be untrustworthy, evil characters you believe to be compassionate, terrible characters whose behaviour is a reflection of deep pain and so many others. Every character in The Handmaid’s Tale is a new onion with several unseen layers.
At least part of the reason these well-written and deep characters are so compelling is the actors who bring them to life. Nearly everyone is flawless and to single any one actor out would be unjust to the others who brought difficult and complex characters to life.
The soundtrack to The Handmaid’s Tale is a beautiful tapestry of original score and music from many eras. The soundtrack is always a great accompaniment to what is happening on screen and adds an extra layer of depth to the complex storyline.
The story does jump around a bit from Offred’s life before the Second Civil War when she was a publishing editor named June, to her time during the totalitarian take over when she tried to flee with her husband and daughter, to the Handmaid ‘training’ and finally her time with the Waterfords. But it’s never particularly difficult to follow.
The only criticism I have of The Handmaid’s Tale in relation to its entertainment value is the amount of time spent on close-ups of actor’s faces reacting to or processing things in slow-motion. I understand the need to build some suspense and ensure the emotions are felt by the audience as much as possible, but it did start to get quite tiresome.
Overall, the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale is a fascinating foray into a dystopian reality that is wonderfully written and performed. If you enjoy a glimpse into a bleak universe that brings out strength, compassion and love in the face of intolerance and hatred, then this is well worth a look. Mind those trigger warnings though.
“Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub,
you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”