Gilead’s a cesspool of discomfort that only gets worse, isn’t it?
This last weekend, The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 premiered on Hulu. Instead of gracing fans with just a single episode, though, Hulu gave fans three. Thank you, Hulu gods, for such a gift. Since they premiere Handmaid’s Tale weekly, it’s nice to be able to binge ourselves a little to get back into the show before wait each week to continue the journey.
As the NerdBastards resident Handmaid’s Tale reviewer, I thought it might be good for me to cover such a momentous debut.
And boy, did the show really go for it.
Just to clarify, yes, this Wednesday episode 4 came out, but we’re just going to stick to the initial premiere.
Considering the fact I watch and review Handmaid’s Tale religiously, context may be a little important. I never got to read the book, but I always meant to. Then, the series got announced and I was excited enough about it (loved the trailers, the actors, etc.) that I didn’t want to spoil it. And since that first episode, I’ve stayed up to date and enjoyed everything.
Well, not everything.
Looking back, Handmaid’s Tale finales have historically frustrated me. The first one was a good ending, but by then it was already renewed for a second season. As an avid book madwoman, I’m constantly wary of adaptations that try to work beyond their source material. I adored season one, but I was not excited at the prospect of a second one.
Then season 2 was a roller coaster that I absolutely loved, so there’s that.
Like clockwork, though, I loved it until that damned final episode. I enjoyed watching Serena struggle with her identity and what she wanted, June struggle between freedom and her daughters’ safety, and Emily deciding that she couldn’t not rage against the machine.
But to have June go back in, when Hannah was safe and she could save Nicole and have a better shot on the outside, I was disappointed. I assumed they would return her to the Waterfords, have her and Serena clash again like season 2, have her try to manipulate Fred all over again, basically just reset to the season prior.
While I enjoyed it the first time around, it was already starting to wear thin when June escaped. The thought of going through that all again was insurmountably disappointing and tedious.
Well, the writers proved me wrong again. They completely diffused the risk of repeating old conflicts by setting the house on fire and removing June from the Waterford home. One hell of a way to say that things will be completely different now.
Joining the Lawrence crew, finding out he’s more of a disgruntled survivor than an active rebellion member, and learning the Marthas have a large hand in Mayday all led to far more interesting developments.
Serena Joy is coping with loss and her hatred of her husband.
Fred is coping with fucking up his entire marriage and what he’s willing to do to fix it.
June is coping with her separation from Hannah and Nicole, while trying to make a difference in the resistance.
Luke is coping with caring for his wife’s baby while knowing she’s still in constant danger.
Emily is coping with escaping the hellscape that was Gilead.
Everyone is coping, and some are doing it well, but others aren’t. But Handmaid’s Tale did a fascinating job of shifting everyone around, respecting ongoing character arcs while letting them evolve. Even among the higher ups, compassion and/or cruelty are starting to help break down their system. Wives are being kinder to handmaids. Soldiers are more paranoid about Marthas.
Basically, Handmaid’s Tale has managed to prove my angst and uncertainty wrong again. Sure, their end decision was mostly just to keep June in Gilead. However, they didn’t leave it dead in the water just to create easy drama. Instead, they reacted strongly to it with interesting plot developments.
Thanks, Handmaid’s Tale writers. I can’t promise I won’t doubt you again, but I can say I feel pretty good about you having a good shot at proving my doubts wrong.