DIRECTED BY : REED MORANO
PRODUCED BY : BRUCE MILLER , MARGARET ATWOOD
The Handmaid’s Tale is a satire on the condition of women of the USA and their oppression creatively converted into a spine chilling series available on Hulu.
Season 3, which was released in the April of 2017. It was enjoyed by the audience all over, and Season 4 is being eagerly waited for by the fans, as it’s planned to be released sometime in 2021.
It’s a proven fact that adaptation didn’t dilute the thorough historical reality check the readers of Margaret Atwood’s novel went through. Furthermore, the adaptation took the audience through the heavily graphic, gory and brutal dystopian creation of Atwood.
In the world of netflix originals and utopian fiction, Reed Morano adapted the book by Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale into a series consisting of presently four seasons. The series is about oppressing the women of Gilead and recruiting them as handmaids, econowives and Marthas. Handmaids were fertile women who were educated, entered into multiple marriages (adulteresses), lesbians or single, unmarried mothers. They were required to carry children for the lords and their barren wives, while the econowives were women from the lowest strata of the society, recruited to do domestic work and Marthas were the housekeepers and cooks in the rich households.
June Osborne, the protagonist was captured by the government while escaping to Canada with her husband and daughter and was recruited as a Handmaid in a Commander’s house, starting the most dreaded journey of all centuries. The journey of oppression.
Cast & Characters
June Osborne (Offread) – Elisabeth Moss
She’s the protagonist of the show. She is appointed as the Handmaid in the Waterford residence, to carry Commander Fred Waterford’s baby. The audience experience the Gilead regime through her eyes.
Commander Fred Waterford – Joseph Fiennes
He’s June’s master in the first and the second season. He and his wife are majorly behind the founding of the Gilead regime, its implementation.
Serena Joy Waterford –Yvonne Strahovski
She is the Commander’s wife. She wrote the book about fertility being scarce around the globe which led to the building of Gilead. She is very desperate for a child, which makes her force June to have a baby throughout the first season.
Dr. Emily Malek – Alexis Bledel
She is June’s initial partner when they used to get out of their assigned homes. Later on the show she’s taken away for punishment as she’s a “Gender Traitor” ie. gay
Janine Lindo – Madeline Brewer
She was another handmaid trained with June in the Red Centre. She was punished for misdemeanour once by having her one eye removed and another time by being given the death sentence.
Aunt Lydia – Ann Dowd
She’s in charge of all the handmaids and the Red Centre. She’s one of the “Aunts” – women who supported Gilead.
Luke Bankole – O.T Fagbenle
He is June’s husband, who manages to escape to Canada for refuge from Gilead.
Nick Blaine – Max Minghella
He is Commander Waterford’s driver and also a member of the Eye – the secret spy for Gilead. But he has a soft corner for June, and later on the show he and June have a baby together as Serena forces them to, for her, because her husband, the Commander is unable to impregnate June.
Moira Strand – Samira Wiley
Moira is June’s best friend. Before Gilead, June and Moira used to work in a publishing house together. She works at Jezabels (a brothel for all the men in Gilead) during the oppression as a sex slave.
(RELEASED : APRIL 2017)
The Handmaid’s Tale starts in 1980 Boston where June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) and her best friend Moira (Samira Wiley) work for a publisher. June meets Luke at a hot dog stand and they eventually fall in love, and Luke decides to leave his wife to marry June. During this period, there is a significant drop in the birth rates combined with a rise in birth defects which has brought America to a “fertility crisis”. People are seen praying for successful births everyday.
At the same time, America is unfortunate to face unpredictable and harsh weather conditions and crop failure, pushing the country towards extreme crisis. In the backdrop of this crisis, Luke and June have a baby daughter, Hannah, who is stolen from the hospital just after her birth by a deranged and barren woman.
Meanwhile, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) a Writer-activist is publicising her newly hatched domestic feminism movement. She publishes a book called “A Woman’s Place” in which she argues for women to have a moral responsibility to be mothers and that being a housewife and being meek doesn’t necessarily mean weakness and submission to the men. Her next book prophesy that the world is being pushed towards an era where very few babies are being born and that fertility is scarce and is being traded globally as a resource.
Serena’s husband, Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is the member of The Sons of Jacob, a fundamentalist religious and patriarchal group joined with the military, with the purpose to frame islamic extremists for terrorist attacks on Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House as an excuse to gain control over the military of the country. The “Sons of Jacob” are also the architects of Gilead, the regime which is infamous for enslaving fertile women, kidnapping their children, executing the gays and sending the rebels to the colonies which meant slow death from the radiation. The Sons of Jacob came up with the term, “Handmaid” to be sent to the houses of the rich, powerful and unable to conceive children. They hid behind the Bible, added a few rituals to make it seem like a holy deed and to justify their propaganda in front of the women, their wives. They were to have sex with their handmaid on a monthly basis while she lied between their wife’s legs, and it was called “The Ceremony”.
Moving on with the season, seeing the regime take action by capturing women around Gilead, Luke, June and Hannah try to escape to Canada, but in vain as June and Hannah are caught and separated. Hannah is sent to a foster home while June is taken to the Red Centre, run by Aunt Lydia where she’s trained to be a handmaid by the Aunts- Gilead’s female supporters and law enforcers. June is appointed as Handmaid to Serena Joy and Fred Waterford. Serena is desperate for a child and later on the show she forces June and her driver Nick to have sex to impreganate June as Fred is unable to get her preganant. She gets pregnant with Nick’s child. During this season, June goes through the absolute horrors of being oppressed, and faces the authoritarian, dictatorship regime in its full form.
The finale leaves the audience waiting for more, as June gets to see her daughter Hannah, and Serena threatens June that as long her baby is safe, Hannah is safe. June has a stack of letters from handmaid’s all over Gilead, if leaked can save all the women from the oppression. Meanwhile, Jenine, another handmaid tries to commit suicide along with her baby, as she was promised by her commander that he’ll leave his family for her but that was untrue. For endangering the baby, Jenine is punished death by stoning, but June defies the order and is imprisoned in the season finale.
(RELEASED : APRIL 2018)
The viewers are left speechless at the end of the first season when June and the other handmaids disobey Gilead’s orders to kill the handmaid Jenine for an attempt to suicide and harming her baby by stoning.
The second season starts with this recap and the consequences that handmaids face due to their resistance. They are burnt and tortured for disobeying Gilead’s orders. June however is treated with kindness as she’s pregnant. There is a wakening of resistance throughout Gilead for women to be given basic rights, or atleast women to be allowed to read and write. There is an explosion in the new Red Centre as a sign of protest by one of the handmaids in the sixth episode, which ends up with Fred Waterford being hospitalised and his wife, Serena taking over the works, helped by June.
The season also lets the viewers on about Serena’s life before Gilead, how she came up with the idea of trading of fertility with her books and how it ended up by the men taking over, casting her aside and moulding her idea of Gilead- a women, fertility centric programme to Gilead being a regime to dominate and oppress women. Emily is brought back from the colonies once again, because Gilead needs more fertile women, and is appointed as a handmaid in Professor Lawrence’s residence. Unlike the other commanders he doesn’t rape Emily, or expect her to have his baby. He and his wife, Mrs Lawrence are secretly on the side of the handmaids, and are trying to help them escape along with the Marthas. During this time, Emily stabs Aunt Lydia when she comes to oversee Emily and take Mr. Lawrence’s review on Emily’s behaviour, under his roof.
The story moves on when June goes into labor after she meets her daughter and they bid their goodbyes for the second time. She gives birth to a baby girl she names Holly (later changed to Nichole by Serena), and is forced to give her away to Serena. After some episodes when Serena sees that the men of Gilead wont let women even read, and she receives belting by her husband for reading the bible in front of the Council of Men, Serena finally realises that Gilead is not a safe place to raise a girl child she hands her over to June when she’s escaping Gilead. June nearly escapes Gilead with Emily to Canada, but to the surprise of the viewers and Emily, she stays back for her daughter Hannah and to join the resistance to fight against GIlead. The season ends with June going back to Gilead to lead the resistance – Mayday and Emily escaping with Nichloe to Canada.
(RELEASED : APRIL 2019)
Season 3 is when the handmaids and Marthas join hands to form a resistance and fight back the Gilead oppression regime. In the previous season finale, we saw June giving Baby Nichole to Emily to escape to Canada and June returning back to Gilead to save her daughter Hannah and join the resistance – Mayday along with the other handmaids and the Marthas.
After saying goodbye to Nichole, June goes to the Mckinsey house to see her daughter Hannah, while she was alone. Of course however daring that was, it was illegal for mothers to meet the children that were taken to foster homes. June was punished for her gutsy act, and then assigned a new home, to fulfill her duties as a handmaid. This time she was lucky enough to get the Lawrence household. Yes, Lawrence was the same guy who had helped her, Nichole and Emily escape to Canada. After she’s transferred to her appointed residence, Aunt Lydia (yes she survived even after Emily stabbed her in the previous season!!) comes to visit her, and when she and June are alone, she attacks June for entering the Mckinsey house. June is hurt quite badly because of the attack and when she goes to the kitchen to get some bandages for her wounds, she hears some Marthas whispering about helping a woman escape to Canada. June overheard their conversation and offered to help in any way she could. The Marthas, although they were not very happy about June coming back to Gilead after she had almost escaped, accepted her help.
Fast forwarding to the spoilers, in this season, Nick is promoted to commander and is planning to go to the Chicago Frontline, Serena and Fred split and Fred tries to win her back with June’s help. June tells Fred that Serena would like to have a life, instead of just suing within the walls of the Waterford house. This was actually June’s plan for the resistance, to make Serena the brains behind Fred’s decisions for the Gilead. This way slowly the decisions can turn in favor of the women.
Many such small rebellions and incidents of disobedience and protests push the season near to its finale when June plans to smuggle 52 children to Canada, to save them from torture, slavery and death, which is definite in their future if they continue to stay in Gilead.
The viewers were quite hopeful June would escape Gilead along with the children this time, but here’s a plot twist. She stays back in Gilead to lead the rebellion against oppression, in Season 4.
The Handmaid’s Tale was expected to release its fourth season on Hulu in fall of 2020, but because of the global pandemic and lockdown, the season is still in production. The teaser for Season 4 is out, the trailer is yet to be released.
The previous seasons end with June and the other handmaids planting seeds of rebellion, against the Gilead, meaning to end the Christian theocracy once and for all. In the previous season, June and the handmaids help the children of Gilead escape to Canada. The finale was questioned by a lot of fans. It seemed evident that June would finally escape, but yet again she stayed back and Gilead to plant the seeds of rebellion. Fred and Serena are still held prisoners and maybe the forthcoming season will reveal their fate. There is supposed to be a subplot about Nick having to possibly lie about who he is, and June’s future in Gilead. But none of this is absolutely true until more details about Season 4 is uncovered.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Season 1 has a rating of 94% based on 124 reviews with an average rating of 8.72/10.
The season has got reviews saying the show is haunting and well adapted to Margaret Atwood’s book.
Daniel Fienberg from The Hollywood Reporter says it is “probably the spring’s best new show”. The show is complemented by being called a “Faithful adaptation of the book, bringing new layers to Atwood’s totalitarian, sexist world of forced surrogate motherhood”. It is also said to be well paced in its storytelling, is visually stunning and full of suspense throughout.
Season 2 has a rating of 89% based on 99 reviews with an average rating of 8.33/10. The season was not taken as well as the first season. It’s being called irrelevant and a disappointment, as viewers were expecting a lot more from the season after the finale in the first season. The critics also pointed out that the violence in Season 2 was quite excessive, and never ending.
Season 3 had a rating of 82% based on 53 reviews with an average rating of 6.91/10. The third season was full of terrors and horrific events, very slow paced and “frustratingly repetitive”, which led the audience to get a little impatient waiting for the revolution to happen already. Neither Season 2 or Season 3 could reach the level of quality or popularity as compared to Season 1. Elisabeth Moss’s performance was praised throughout the show and so was the cinematography.