Thursday, June 15, 2017

TV Show Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The first season this dystopic tale from Margaret Atwood expands the story from the novel and fleshes out a greater world for the tortured residents of Gilead. Offred (Elizabeth Moss) is held in captivity as a handmaid, forced to have intercourse with a religious leader known as the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). With more time, the show is able to show the conversion therapy and the life of a handmaid. Like the novel, Offred reflects back on the past and flashbacks show the steady reduction of rights. Offred tried to escape with her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and daughter but they were caught at the border. Offred recalls the torturous teaching under Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). 

Offred is allowed to go out shopping with another handmaid Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) and the visit the wall where dissidents are hung. Ofglen reveals that she is part of a resistance but they must be careful of the Eyes, a group of secret spies who grab citizens of the street. Working for the Commander as a handyman and driver, Nick (Max Minghella) begins a sexual relationship with Offred at the behest of Serena Joy as it is implied that the Commander is sterile. Even a doctor offers to have sex with her though Offred refuses. Offred's friend from college Moira (Samira Wiley) was in the indoctrination with her but manages to escape.

The Commander takes a liking to Offred and invites her to his office where they play scrabble. He gives her beauty magazines as a reward and eventually takes her to a secret hotel where sinful behavior is allowed. Moira is there working as a Jezebel though she is still trying to escape. Helping with the housekeeping are the Marthas, cooks and maids like Rita (Amanda Brugel). Another handmaid Ofwarren (Madeline Brewer) fights against the indoctrination but loses an eye in the process. She becomes pregnant but once she gives birth the baby is taken away. She threatens to kill it by jumping off a bridge but Offred convinces her to give it back, so she jumps off alone.

Ofglen also experiences a brutal fate as she is punished for her actions as her lover is hanged and her genitalia mutilated. She returns to life as a handmaid given to another man but she revolts stealing a car and is killed. One of the more interesting episodes is Luke's escape across the border into Canada as he joins various groups that are hunted down. There are also further flashbacks that further the story of the Commander's rise and his assistance with Serena Joy to change society. We see the gradual of loss of rights for Offred as she loses her job and is not allowed to have money in the bank. They also show Gilead's interaction with Mexico in a trade meeting as sterility makes children something to show off.

Serena Joy grows angry when she discovers the Commander has been sneaking around with Offred, but she is spared because it is revealed that she is pregnant. When the handmaids are asked to stone Ofdaniel, formerly Ofwarren, for her endangering a child, they refuse. Moira reunites with Luke in Canada still traumatized from her experience. The show ends in a similar way to the novel with the Eyes coming for Offred and Nick reassuring her that this is part of his plan. The show has its flaws, can be slow at times and does not address race, but there a certain parts that resonant and the horror of the world is definitely present. I will be interested in seeing where the story goes from here beyond the narrative of Offred and Margaret Atwood's novel. 

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