Chillingly Stark, The Handmaid's Tale is Truly a Must-Watch
I was a high school senior when I read Margaret Atwood's haunting novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Labeled as speculative fiction, this dystopian novel stuck with me for over a decade. The chilling connection to realities of society coupled with my fascination with the overall plot made it one of those books you come back to again and again. Thus, when I heard Hulu was making an original series out of the book, I was counting down the days.
The show didn't disappoint. Today was the release, and I finished all three episodes on Hulu already.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in a futuristic society that is eerily not too far from our own. In this society, females have been targeted and rights have been stripped away. Due to pollution, the society is having major reproductive problems. Women are mostly infertile and, those who can bear children, can't carry them to term. However, a select group of women are able to bear children. These women are rounded up and forced to become handmaids. The handmaids basically serve as surrogates for wealthy, influential families in the society. However, it is much more sinister than that. Essentially, these women are kept as submissive servants, raped, and forced to give up their children. They have no freedoms, no rights, and no love. Women who were once revered in society, career-oriented, and part of loving families are degenerated to objects.
The story is told from the perspective of Offred--not her real name; they are forced to abandon their real names, given names Of + the man they serve. She tells the story of her life with the Waterfords and, through flashbacks, shows us how things have changed.
The first three episodes didn't disappoint. The acting was amazing. Elizabeth Moss does a stunning job at capturing the dual-sided Offred, showing the shiny, superficial woman society expects her to be and the gritty, raw woman she is on the inside. Alexis Biedel breaks away from her Gilmore Girls role in this series, showing a much more determined, rebellious woman. Furthermore, the filming in this series is stunning. Every detail of the world shows the atmosphere and gives the viewer a sense of the oppression. The flashbacks are worked in perfectly to give just enough backstory when it is needed.
This is not your light, weekend watch. It is heavy and truly guts you to the core. It sinks right into your bones and haunts you, making you put yourself in Offred's position and wonder how you would keep going. The devastation of the characters comes through the filming. You feel hopeless and powerless when you watch the show, which is similar to what Offred experiences.
The series is about power and what happens when you become powerless. It's message is that anyone can become powerless, and that society can turn on you in an instant. It is terrifying how realistic the series is. This is not some distant, sci-fi-like series that you assure yourself could never happen. The grounding of the tale in our society and its values is the most frightening aspect. You see how we are not immune to terrors like this potentially taking over our world. It's a cautionary tale in a way, too. It shows how Offred was somewhat naive in her old live. She mentions that she was asleep before, that she didn't bat an idea when they changed things. She thought something like this couldn't happen. However, her story shows that change can be for the worst. It also shows how fear can get people to agree to any conditions.
At the end of it all, we are run by fear and the desire to live. Thus, we can fall prey to situations we never imagined.
The series' dark, stark nature also highlights the beauty of freedom. It makes you not want to take anything for granted again. It shows how freedom is the liveblood of humanity and spirit. Without it, the world is a very dark place to live.
The Handmaid's Tale, just like the book, is not a fluffy read meant to please. It is not censored. Offred's narration isn't sugar-coated. It's raw, real, and difficult. You feel every pang of her loneliness. You feel her crazy desperation. You feel her searing pain.
This series is a must-watch for every woman and man. It makes you realize how quickly freedom can be taken away. It also makes you realize what matters most.
The only complaint I have about the series is that Hulu only released three episodes. However, maybe this is a good thing. If all episodes were available, I'm pretty sure I'd be getting absolutely no sleep tonight because it is so good.