the handmaid's tale the word review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

In the spirit of The Handmaid’s Tale’s spectacularly on-the-nose needledrops, I would like to compare the season 2 finale of the Hulu series, “The Word,” to John Mayer’s hit song “Daughters.” “Fathers be good to your daughters / daughters will love like you do / Girls become lovers who turn into mothers / so mothers be good to your daughters too,” Mayer croons in the sentimental pop song that tries so hard to relate to women through their standing as mothers, daughters, sisters.

The Handmaid’s Tale has had a complex relationship with motherhood. Its premise is centered around women who have had their identity and agency stripped from them — reduced to merely child-bearing vessels. Neither mother, nor daughter, nor sister. And yet, like Mayer’s simplistic understanding of gender norms, The Handmaid’s Tale has had trouble expanding its characterization of women beyond mother.

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the handmaid's tale postpartum review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

The Handmaid’s Tale’s latest episode, “Postpartum,” just had me feeling depressed. Not because it was an almost-immediate return to the bleak status quo that this show is so fond of, but because it was another tonal and quality dip for the series after the breathtaking highs of last week’s “Holly.”

That’s not to say that this episode was entirely abysmal in tone. In fact, there were even some bursts of camp with the introduction of a guest actor whose appearance is always a pleasant surprise — and perhaps the fresh, invigorating addition that this show needs.

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the handmaid's tale the last ceremony review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

The screener for this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale came with a curious bolded warning: “This episode has content that may be extra sensitive for some viewers.” It’s an alarming piece of cautionary text for a show that has regularly trafficked in misery.

This season of The Handmaid’s Tale has upped the suffering to ludicrous levels, so much so that at times the acclaimed show has felt no better than misery porn. At what point does watching The Handmaid’s Tale just become a sadistic chore for us every week? While early episodes showed promise of an expanded world and affecting character arcs outside of June’s POV, The Handmaid’s Tale was all too eager to snap back to the status quo and to the abject misery that it was so known for in the first Emmy-winning season. But I will say that at least “The Last Ceremony” makes an effort to give us an emotional anchor that makes the episode more impactful than earlier episodes’ barrage of bleak imagery. But is it enough to offset one of the show’s most violently distressing scenes?

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the handmaid's tale smart power review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

A grenade went off in Gilead, and we waited for something to change. And waited. But The Handmaid’s Tale loves the status quo too much, and everything sprung back into place — except in the smaller, quieter moments of rebellion among the women in crisis. But this week in “Smart Power,” a new grenade was launched, in the form of anonymous letters that first appeared all the way back in Season 1. And this time, something may explode.

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the handmaid's tale women's work

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

Remarkably for a show that is so deeply committed to disturbing its audiences, The Handmaid’s Tale continues its upswing from last week in perhaps the first episode that manages to find the delicate balance between unsettling and uplifting.

“Women’s Work” takes that tenuous alliance that was formed at the end of “After” and shows us progressively emboldened June (yay!) and an increasingly sympathetic Serena Joy (hrmph). But “Women’s Work” gives us fascinating insight into an uncertain unity that can be formed between women in the face of a huge crisis.

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(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

The Handmaid’s Tale is at a turning point. Not just in its dour mood, but also in the actions and agency of all of its characters — from our intrepid hero June (Elisabeth Moss) to her domineering mistress Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). As glimmers of hope increasingly threaten to crack through the oppressive atmosphere that dominates The Handmaid’s Tale, we see the scales of power begin to tip. Gilead can’t be overturned in one day, but it takes only a few words to start a rebellion.

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the handmaid's tale first blood review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

This season of The Handmaid’s Tale has been an exercise in dangling hope in front of our eyes, only to wrench it away immediately. But in the explosive “First Blood,” that hope may finally stick around.

The sixth episode of season 2 finally turns the tide on the dour mood (even more than usual) that has overtaken the series for the past few episodes. But despite a riveting final few minutes, the rest of the episode stumbles through some lurid love triangles and a questionably sympathetic portrayal of Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) pre-Gilead.

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the handmaid's tale other women review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

Thus far this season of Handmaid’s Tale has been bigger in every way — in scope, in world-building, in characters, and in its capacity for torment. But “Other Women” pulls the series back drastically in all of those elements as June gets corralled back to her old life at the Commander’s house — except, of course, in the torment.

The fourth episode of season 2 is an odd duck. No longer is there the sharp fear of the unknown as June attempts to escape Gilead. Instead, we’ve returned to the dull ache of the season 1 status quo — familiar, but no less horrifying. The callbacks to earlier episodes are pervasive, as June goes through the motions of life as a Handmaid, but with a newfound insolence after her brief brush with freedom. This is the rebellious June that we were waiting to emerge for all of season 1, the one who lived up to her sarcastic musings. And “Other Women” spends its entire 54-minute runtime slowly wearing her down until she’s a shadow of the woman we first met.

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(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

The Handmaid’s Tale can get bleak, but never has it been so devastatingly cruel as it was in “Baggage.” That’s because the third episode of season 2 offered a resource that is progressively rare in Hulu’s dystopian series: hope. The Handmaid’s Tale dangled hope in front of us and June (Elisabeth Moss), only to rudely snatch it away at the last minute — in a distressing, infuriating sequence that will burn in my memory for the remainder of the season.

“Baggage” is a potent, powerful episode that briskly moves June’s story along, though it stalls when it comes to other characters. That’s all for the better, as June finds herself at the biggest crossroads of her life since fleeing the Commander’s house.

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the handmaid’s tale review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly The Handmaid’s Tale review by answering one simple question: Who suffered the most?)

Praise be, The Handmaid’s Tale is back. Who’s ready for some soul-crushing entertainment?

The second season of the harrowing Hulu series returned yesterday with a two-episode premiere, “June,” and “Unwoman.” I’ll be recapping the events of both in my first weekly spoiler review of this season (though check out my spoiler-free review of season 2 as well). Season 2 is off to a strong start with the almost sadistically cruel season 2 premiere, featuring two of the strongest actresses on the show flexing their dramatic chops in a series of sadistic narrative twists.

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