If ever a television series could border on being too relevant, Hulu’s gripping, chilling and brutal adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which launches with its first three episodes on April 26, would be the one – which is why, as I say in my video review above, it is not to be missed.
From its opening scenes of an attempted escape to Canada from an punishingly patriarchal America reeling from a supposed massive terrorist attack and a new religious regime in power, the Elisabeth Moss-led small-screen version of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel is not just felicitous but a certain Emmy contender. Additionally, the exemplary talents of Alexis Bledel, Orange Is the New Black’s Samira Wiley and The Leftovers’ Ann Dowd compliment the magnificent Mad Men alum, in what is her best performance yet as indentured handmaid Offred. As a lesbian allowed to live because of her fertility in an infertile world where a healthy uterus is the most valuable currency and the harshest chain,Gilmore Girls vet Bledel reveals a whole new heartbreaking range.
In fact, heartbreaking range might be a near-perfect epithet for the 10-episode first season of MGM Television-produced THT from EPs Bruce Miller, Empire’s Ilene Chaiken, Warren Littlefield, Fran Sears and Daniel Wilson, consulting producer Atwood and producer Moss – which is Hulu’s best original series ever.
Moving back and forth from the not-too-distant future and flashbacks to a chaotic, toxic and barren Boston of the fictional present, THT unveils a dystopian society that descends like a black hood for the newly created totalitarian and misogynistic theocracy of the Republic of Gilead to place women in sexual and cultural slavery.
Our real America of 2017 may have a Vice President who refuses to dine with an adult women without his wife also present, a POTUS who has bragged of grabbing women, increasing attacks on reproductive rights, the environment and women’s rights in general. Yet, as the massively attended marches of January 21 made clear, there are millions who are not in lock-step with that attitude. That real America as we know it is gone in the fiction of THT – with new power established at the barrel of a gun, a new law or two and a few keystrokes.
In this world, the last holdout of our fragile democracy has retreated to Alaska as Gilead’s Commanders, exemplified here by Joseph Fiennes, rule by biblical law. Public hangings are back, and there are “gender treachery” executions in the virtually tech-free society that has eradicated diversity and women’s rights entirely.
Giving Booker Prize winner Atwood, who was named to Time’s 100 most influential people of 2017 list today, the adaptation her acclaimed book has always deserved, the Miller-developed Handmaid’s Tale has much to praise besides its spectacular cast. From its narrative excellence, masterful Julie Berghoff production design and agile direction by Lemonade helmer Reed Morano, Floria Sigismondi and others, THT will scare you profoundly in its horrors, astound you in its authenticity and remind us all of how fast the past can become another world.
Watch my video review above of THT for more of my take on the Hulu series. Then on April 26, watch The Handmaid’s Tale. Watch it very carefully.
This review was originally published on April 20.