The Handmaid’s Tale

Hulu, Wednesdays

Apr 26, 2017 Web Exclusive
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When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale in the early 1980s, her vision of a potential American dystopia was speculative, perhaps even cautionary. Now, in light of recent political events, it's almost haunting.

The new Hulu series stars Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men's Peggy Olson) as Offred, a handmaid in a near future post-America. Following a violent coup in which the president and most members of congress were killed, and in response to widespread infertility engendered by pollution and STDs, a rightwing Christian group suspended the Constitution and forcibly took over the country, subjugating the citizenry to a militarized, Big Brother-esque, Old Testament-inspired regime. Under the new oligarchy, childbearing women are all but enslaved as handmaids, servant women forced to bear the offspring of wealthy barren couples. Moss' Offred is handmaid to The Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski). With memories of her murdered husband and stolen child driving her, she struggles to figure out how to break from the cold, harsh new regime.

The Handmaid's Tale is as gripping as it is unsettling. The dystopia Atwood and the show's creative team envision breathes with a realism that makes the grimly envisioned future feel alarming plausible. What is at first a small movement leads to shifting popular views of the roles, particularly, of women in society, and then ramps up with changes to property laws and ordinances prohibiting women from holding employment. Soon, it's all out chaos; open fighting in the streets and rapid execution of dissenters. The production team employs powerful flashbacks that help track the relatively rapid transformation of the country and the way in which the independent, successful Offred became the supplicating (and scheming) handmaid under the new world order.

Moss is stellar in the role, perfectly able to convey simultaneous resistance and forced acceptance of the bleak social structure. It's in the show's writing, though, that the true genius lies. There's not a single dull moment the whole series. Even when it starts to feel a little too close to home, it's impossible to look away. Already the frontrunner for best show of 2017, The Handmaid's Tale is all the reason you need to subscribe to Hulu. (www.hulu.com/the-handmaids-tale) 

 

Author rating: 8.5/10

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