(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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This is what creative freedom looks like. The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 has the heavy burden of striking out beyond Margaret Atwood’s book upon which it’s based — a book that, with its bleak open ending — didn’t provide much of a path for the Hulu series to follow. And it was unclear whether showrunner Bruce Miller would be capable of guiding the series beyond its Emmy-winning first season, even as the writers planted the seeds of revolution within Atwood’s familiar story beats.

But there’s no reason to be worried. The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 is a laser-focused improvement upon its stunning, if uneven, first season.

Below, read our spoiler-free The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 review.

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The Handmaid's Tale Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: the first season of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.)

There’s no denying that The Handmaid’s Tale is powerful. Its story of a distinctly American dystopia in which women’s rights are oppressed and their bodily autonomy is stolen by a totalitarian government is gripping and timely, with more real-world implications by the minute. But it is a TV show, and “powerful” can only take a series so far.

The Hulu show inevitably had to make some deviations from the Margaret Atwood novel upon which its based, transforming The Handmaid’s Tale from a dismal cautionary tale into a more conventional, hopeful sci-fi thriller. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it presents a whole new host of problems for the show to deal with in its confirmed second season.

Spoilers ahead for the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale.

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‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ Trailer

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Trailer

Lionsgate has released the trailer for The 9th Life of Louis Drax, the new thriller from Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D, Horns). Based on Liz Jensen‘s best-selling novel of the same title, the story follows a psychologist who finds himself drawn into a mystery of a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall. The film stars Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul and Aiden Longworth. Actor Max Minghella (The Ides of March, The Social Network) penned the screenplay adaptation. Watch the The 9th Life of Louis Drax trailer now embedded after the jump.

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About Alex trailer

Jesse Zwick‘s About Alex isn’t technically a remake of The Big Chill, but it might as well be. Both films center on groups of college friends who reunite when one of their own, named Alex, tries to kill himself. The difference is that in About Alex, he’s not successful.

Concerned, Alex’s friends plan a getaway weekend so that they can keep an eye on him. Drama predictably ensues as old attractions and new tensions bubble to the surface. Jason Ritter plays the title character, and Aubrey Plaza, Max Greenfield, Maggie Grace, Jane Levy, Max Minghella, and Nate Parker round out his clique. Watch the About Alex trailer after the jump.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Not Safe for Work

Joe Johnston could have done anything after Captain America: The First Avenger, and what he chose to do was run in the opposite direction with a micro-budget thriller.

Not Safe for Work stars Max Minghella (The Social Network) as a paralegal who gets trapped in his office building with a killer (J.J. Feild) on the loose. It’s the latest from producer Jason Blum, the hotshot producer behind Paranormal ActivitySinister, and Insidious. So the pedigree is pretty promising, but how does the film itself look? Watch the trailer (which, despite the title, is totally SFW) after the jump.

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