I know it is a little early but now that we have crossed over into 2022 it won't be much longer before season 5 airs, and I for one am excited!
So, I haven’t read the Handmaid’s Tale. To be completely honest I saw only parts of the 1990 film with Robert Duvall and Natasha Richardson. I didn’t see the entire beginning, or from the middle on. I literally just a few small parts. I have to say it kind of traumatized me. The book was, at the time unknown to me, and the parts of the movie I walked in on were harsh.
Fast forward almost 27 years and the TV series was picked up. Now, I knew it was out. I had seen the previews, but the 1990 movie clips I witnessed years earlier were still deeply engraved in my memory and I had no interest in watching the new series.
A few seasons aired and my friends were insisting I check it out, assuring me it was not like the movie. Now hindsight, I am sure the movie wasn’t that bad either. I was just very young and impressionable. That’s what I am thinking anyway, not that I want to try and watch that movie again to find out. As I said, it was very traumatizing. If my thoughts are wrong on it not being what I recall it being, I might only find myself haunted by it again. Who wants that?
So anyway, taking my friends at their word I reluctantly sat down to binge watch feeling the past trauma of the 1990 movie. That said, it didn’t take long for that to dissipate and I was hooked!
Okay, so for those of you who have yet to read the book or check out the series, here it is in a nutshell.
The Handmaid’s Tale is based at a time where there is great suffering. The United States is in the middle of a Civil War in the not so distant future. If I followed it correctly, during this uprising a strong group formed creating the State of Gilead over throwing the United States government. Gilead men rule as Government of the State as well as the private lives of the people of Gilead.
At a time with declining births Gilead forcibly took women who had children, proving them to be fertile, and made them Handmaids. Ruled by the Aunts they were each property to a Commander and his Wife. But inside every group there are always plans for a rebellion...
The story told by Offred (meaning "Belonging to Fred") she takes us from her days of love, passion, career, and independence, to the decline of the society she knew. The June she once was is no longer allowed to exist as she is tossed back into the middle ages where women can no longer read, work or have their own money. Her family ripped from her, she was forced to become Offred.
What Gilead doesn’t know is that freedom isn’t as easily given up on. Fear only makes us smarter in how we fight back.
I find it interesting to see how a large faction can take over the country as they did imposing fear in the people that were born free - fear for their lives and family.
While forcibly controlling the adults fighting their movement, the rulers of Gilead are raising the children with strict religion and rules. As you meet the upcoming generation it is clear that this way of life is the norm for them. Nothing to fight as it is all they know, and it practically guarantees the government’s full control over the people once the older generation is gone. Of course that is only if the adult generation they are working to tame in their present doesn’t take them over first.
The characters are so strong. You can easily hate Serena Joy played by actress Yvonne Strahovski but equally feel for her. There are times she makes you think she is a victim, and then soon after she makes you feel like she is a leader of the villains.
Offred, A.K.A June, played by Elizabeth Moss is an amazing character. Her expressions alone tell you everything you need to know. What goes on inside the mind of a character is something that you generally only get from books, and is usually lacking on screen. Not in the Handmaid’s Tale. Elizabeth allows you inside June’s mind with her eyes and expressions. She is perfection in this role.
Then there is the relationship between June and Nick played by Max Minghella, and June and Luke played by O-T Fagbenle. Some fans are totally team Luke. Others scream, Nick. I have to admit I am team Nick.
I know. I know. Judge not June for having two relationships. It is the circumstance that makes this come about. Firstly, Luke and her were separated when running from the soldiers of Gilead. Luke managed to make his way to Canada, but not without injury and major difficulties along the way. June on the other hand was captured and became a ward of Gilead and placed in the controlling hands of the Aunts. This is where Nick comes in. This relationship was pushed onto her by Serena in order to get Offred pregnant after many attempts from Fred had proven unsuccessful. June (Offred) in a position where she could be killed or moved to the colonies where she would probably die anyway, has little choice but to agree. On the flip side, if she gets caught sleeping with Nick she and Serena face death. Talk about being between a rock and a… a ….rock!
The relationship Offred has with Nick is born out of the horrific world they are living in. It begins out of necessity and grows into something far deeper and more meaningful. The way this relationship evolves is so beautiful to watch. It is like watching a flower bud in real time with the discrete looks and brief connections they manage to sneak in. Not to mention the quiet support they offer each other when they are so limited to give more. It just makes you want to see them run away together.
Pre, my falling in love with Nick, neither of the men actors appealed to me at first. Luke was a wholesome man. Not overly attractive nor a manly kind of man. He strikes me as one with soft hands - no callhases to be had. It isn’t a bad thing. He’s just not my kind of guy.
Nick on the other hand instantly came off more macho, but not cocky - In control with a dark side. As for looks I found him to be young looking. I am not sure he can grow a beard and a wee bit small in the shoulders for my liking, but MAN does his character grow. Now, he is ALL man. His character is tender, brave, and dark, and each of those he does SO well.
There are a number of other strong supporting characters in the series as well. There is Fred, played by Joseph Fiennes. I know, some of you might feel that he should be mentioned before Luke or Nick - back at the top with Elizabeth and Yvonne but I feel like he is more of a supporting role. I feel like Handmaid’s Tale is more June and Serena’s story. That is how it feels to me. That said, Fred’s character is strong. He plays a gentleman kind of man. His character’s purpose is to be the representation of the men of Gilead - The new Rulers of the world. There are times his stares and gentle tones make him seem sexy, but you are quickly reminded about the man he is and what he stands for.
Aunt Lydia played by Ann Dowd. She is a force. I am torn between whether she actually cares for her girls (The Handmaids). I mean she seems to truly care for them. I could be wrong, but she really does make you feel like she actually cares, and as you get to know her character’s past you get a feel for who she was pre Gilead. You learn that she was divorced and childless. Finding a single mom and young boy that needed her help she found purpose and control in her life again. Being encouraged by the young mother to go on a date that she was clearly not ready for she was rejected, and in turn devastated. More happened in this episode following the rejection that showed us how she reacted in taking back control. I think that spoke volumes to how insecure, sensitive and unstable she is as a character. So I think she cares. Or at least believes she does. I don’t know. I am going to go with she does care. Cross her though, love or no love you are paying a price, and the Handmaids under her are proof of that, along with the fear they have of her.
From there the all star cast just keeps going. We have Emily played by Alexis Bledel. Janine played by Madeline Brewer and Commander Lawrence (I just love this character) played by Bradley Whitford, Rita Blue played by Amanda Brugel. I am sure there are others that should be mentioned but for me these are the main ones that make the show.
I only know a handful of people that have read the Handmaid’s Tale and the reviews were mixed. Some loved it, some hated it, but everyone I know that has watched the series LOVES it. Give it a go. I will be shocked if you don't get into it. It is TOTALLY binge worthy!
As I said, I haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale myself, but I did read - I did read Margaret Atwood's book - The Testaments - more on that another time…
What are your thoughts? Have you read the book? Watched the series? Both? What do you think?