Freedom is fleeting.
The first three episodes from the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale continue the story of June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss). Opening the first episode is a harrowing sequence that represents the breathtaking suspense dispensed regularly from this acclaimed series. Every moment leaves the main characters, along with the viewer, on unsure footing. Important social commentary is being delivered to the audience, however the relentless uncertainty allows the audience to remain captivated. The story is not sacrificed by any seemingly preachy distractions. Instead, the crucial message becomes centered on the necessity to stay alert.
After the opening sequence, the first few episodes from the sophomore season begin to open up the geographical landscape of Gilead. One gets a nasty view of the deplorable conditions from the Colonies. Participants from Mayday and the lives of Econofamilies are partially explored. Each introduction is filled with tension. The strain is caused by the division created among the “lower-class.” This becomes another way for those in power to remain in control. In this new world, reaching out to another person for help can mean life or death.
Past memories are expanded alongside the bleakness of present time. The transition into Gilead is littered with difficult experiences. June’s experience with the shifting tone is illustrated in a hospital visit. Hannah (Jordana Blake) comes down with a fever at school. The seemingly concerned intentions of a nurse (Ericka Kreutz) soon turn into an accusatory tone. June is made to feel both guilt and shame as a working mother. In the same time period, Emily (Alexis Bledel) finds her job in jeopardy simply for having a picture of her wife and child. Not long after, her love life extends from potential unemployment to risk of her life.
Different timelines are interwoven to create poignant moments for surviving characters. Returning as June, also known as Offred, is Elisabeth Moss. Moss deftly portrays June as an ordinary woman placed in extraordinary circumstances. The importance of normalcy to June is understood by insight given into her childhood. Her desire to conform to a general concept of womanhood is a catalyst to the situation she now finds herself in. This is highlighted by the performance of Cherry Jones as Holly Osborne. Jones is a proud and powerful feminist that comes alive with any chance to fight for her independence. She is also June’s mother. The weight of Holly’s words was neglected by her daughter in the past. In the present, June realizes her mother was right.
Moss’ characterization of June shows the warrior within beginning to emerge. The anger from underneath is boiling over. This rage erupts out of frustration with her current situation. After years of snuffing out every emotion, June is now displaying audacious behavior. However, in Gilead, this newfound boldness can lead to endangerment if she does not exercise caution. Moss brilliantly uncovers each layer of June to expose a woman capable of anything. Hopefully, her strong determination has not come too late.
Alexis Bledel continues to breathe life into the handmaid formerly known as Ofglen and Ofsteven. She develops as the supporting character to watch. Bledel’s measured performance as Emily reveals a woman with the resolve to survive. Her refusal to play the game has cost her everything and still she goes on. Armed with knowledge, Emily may have a surprise or two up her sleeve. Samira Wiley’s embodiment of a woman coping with a traumatic experience is heartbreaking. She struggles to become the spirited Moira of her past. However, Ruby still lingers in her mind. In addition, Aunt Lydia’s sadistic nature comes with a calculated logic. There is a method behind her madness. Ann Dowd is striking as a woman in charge of behavior modification. She genuinely wants her “girls” to survive this new world. And she will make sure this happens at any maniacal price.
Gilead remains a sadistic society founded on religious oppression. By definition, faith is something a person should turn to freely and not out of force. In this atmosphere, fear is a powerful tool used with religion to rob a person of his or her freedom. In the pre-Gilead world, American citizens were aware that something bad was coming. When society collapsed, those in power used religion as a device to divide and force others into submission. Instead of utilizing religion to manifest a comforting community, those in control took advantage of the powerless. As a result, they manipulated and edited biblical text in order to best suit the needs of those at the top of society.
Episodes 1-3 from the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale catch the viewer up on the immediate events from last year’s finale. There is no place completely safe in Gilead. The treatment of women transcends beyond this fictional world into contemporary society. There is a warning. The hope for change diminishes through the division of women. People are vulnerable when divided, and there is always somebody else ready to take control.
Season Two of The Handmaid’s Tale premieres April 25th on Hulu.
WICKED RATING: 10/10 (episodes 1-3)
Director(s): Mike Barker
Writer(s): Bruce Miller, Margaret Atwood (novel)
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella
Release: April 25, 2018 (Hulu)
Studio/ Production Co: MGM Television, Gilead Productions
Length: Episode 1 (56:22), Episode 2 (55:25), Episode 3 (58:18)
Genre: Drama, Psychological Thriller