The Handmaid’s Tale returns for a second season, April 25th on Hulu.
By Ariba Bhuvad
Blessed be the fruit! Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is back for season two after a critically-acclaimed first season last year. Created by Bruce Miller, The Handmaid’s Tale is based off Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel by the same name. The narrative is set in the not-so-distant future where after a second Civil War breaks out, the United States transforms into a totalitarian government known as Gilead. The first season focused on introducing viewers to this gloomy, desolate, and frightening world and with it the central character of Offred/June, played by Elisabeth Moss. In the world of Gilead, women are subjected to a caste system and given “roles” for their place in society. One such role is that of a Handmaid, which is a group of fertile women whose only job is reproduce. In Gilead, all women are stripped of their rights as humans and must follow the orders and law of their Commanders.
The first season left us with the cliffhanger that June is pregnant and season two picks up accordingly so. I’m always skeptical of a critically-acclaimed series’ sophomore season, because the idea that it could live up to the praise from the season before it seems impossible. Well, in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale they managed to exceed expectations by ten-fold. The second season is creepier, gloomier, emotionally heavier, and full of gripping and shocking moments that will rattle the viewer to their core. Within the episodes critics received as screeners, we are not only thrown back into the world of Gilead, but also to the dreaded Colonies. While they were just mentioned in the first season, this season takes us right into the radioactive, dusty lands of the Colonies. Here we finally see Alexis Bledel’s Emily who is joined by Madeline Brewer’s Janine. Along the way, Emily also comes across a women that is played by Marisa Tomei.
The brutal imagery and desperation that is seen in any of the scenes that take place in the Colonies are rough and harsh. The production did an amazing job encapsulating what the women are being subjugated to in that world, and the brutal torture and physical labor they are enduring as they spend their entire days digging into the dirt while being zapped with tasers if they don’t keep moving. In addition, the second season ventures back into Canada where Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley) have sought refuge away from the chains of Gilead. While it isn’t exactly the happiest place on Earth, the glimpses we see of them bring hope and comfort in an another wise dreadful story.
What I really enjoyed about the second season thus far is that there are more flashbacks explaining how Gilead started. This is a turning point for the series because the first season didn’t dive as deep into it and gave us subtle glimpses as to what happened. In the episodes given to critics, we see that protests and riots began breaking out as the totalitarian government began to take over. Laws were changed, rights were stripped, and people began fleeing to Canada–among them was Emily and her wife and their son. Because they were a gay couple and laws changed overnight, their marriage was no longer recognized and Emily was left behind in Boston while her family went on to Canada without her. Such points in the narrative of the second season really help fans understand how devastating the birth of Gilead was in its inception. The crippling feeling of dread and fear begins to trickle into the viewer’s mind as they are watching these events unfold, which is something the second season is extremely good at.
The second season also spends a lot of time on June’s journey, past and present. In the present, we know she is pregnant and with some unexpected help manages to escape Gilead. Where this will lead her, I will let you watch and see for yourself–but it’s pretty damn epic. Another aspect that really adds flavor to season two is the introduction of June’s mom, who is played by Cherry Jones. It explains so much about the woman June is and gives us insight into her mother who was a hardcore feminist for all of June’s life. It is such an interesting juxtaposition in the story given the current state of Gilead and what status women are resorted to in it.
I really can’t praise The Handmaid’s Tale enough because it is such a courageous, gripping, and brave story to tell, given the current state of the world. The second season continues to be a parallel against our world now, and captures the essence of the fear that is instilled in so many of us. What if our world heads this way? What would we do? Is this an insight into our future? These are the questions that may plague your mind as you sit down to watch the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale–and it is frightening.
Once again, Moss, Bledel, and the rest of the creative team have produced something that is wise and intelligent and thought-provoking beyond anything we could imagine. There are direct connections the audience can make to the emotions that the characters are feeling and experiencing as they try to make sense of the world they are stuck in. It is truly such a gripping tale and surpasses any expectations I had going into second season. I am so excited to see how the rest of the season plays out (we get three extra episodes this season, yay!) and where June’s story will lead us. There is still so much to unpack and more creepy, dark moments to experience–and I can’t wait!
I give The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 an A.