We’re not Hulu subscribers, so when everyone heaped praise upon The Handmaid’s Tale, we had to wait until it came out on disc to experience it for ourselves.
We were able to finally watch it a few months ago, and we can attest that it deserved all of the acclimation it received. Sure, it was intense, disturbing, and fraught with modern day political implications, but the sheer skill in terms of writing, acting, and production could not be denied.
In fact, the series impressed me so much that I immediately found the book and read it as well. To my surprise, the first season of the show followed the book very closely. The only aspect of the book the series did not cover pertained to the final ten or fifteen pages.
I presumed the second season would tackle those last pages of the novel.
I could not have been more wrong … so far.
The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale blazes its own trail by adding original material to the classic Margaret Atwood novel. It’s serving as something of a sequel to the book as it continues Offred’s plight, the Waterford’s tyranny, and the general awfulness of a place like Gilead.
However, they’ve managed to up the stakes this season. It’s become even more tense, more unsettling, and more … well, horrific.
Honestly, my wife and I watched episode eleven (of thirteen) last night, and we both decided that this season will be our last. Yes, we’ll finish it out, but we agreed that neither of us wants to infiltrate Gilead’s boundaries anymore.
Minor spoilers here–with Offred’s complicated pregnancy and a heart-wrenching story line revolving around her first daughter, as well as an extremely frightening scene depicting rape … it’s too much. This dystopian society of Gilead has become too real.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to retreat from a show. Back in 2014, The Walking Dead began killing children every week and threatening to kill an infant, so I had to quit it, too. Our real world is scary enough. We see enough tragedy on a daily basis in our reality. I can’t deal with this level of calamity on a show, too.
In the end, when I watch a show, see a movie, or read a book, I’m engaging in a certain amount of escapism. I cannot, for a sustained amount of time, feel extremely depressed after watching a show. Every once in a while is manageable, but every episode of an entire season? Maybe it’s not as potent if watching it on a weekly basis, but we’re watching an episode a night, and it’s absolutely altering my overall mood.
The Handmaid’s Tale crossed a line in my mind. I understand children are the driving force of the entire premise, but by bringing them front and center, and by teasing their exploitation and abuse on a regular basis, in addition to the constant barrage of violence against powerless women … Again, it’s too much.
This second season is too blunt, too graphic, and too ruthless. I found the first season, though very troubling, a little more nuanced, poignant, and purposeful.
I think the show and the book both serve as a significant warning against people manipulating religious and political beliefs for their own personal glorification, and I believe The Handmaid’s Tale inspires us to hold firm onto our own morals even in the face of rampant corruption, but I simply can’t partake in such abasement as a means of escapism any longer.
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Probably like you, I grew intensely interested in this book after watching the first season of the Hulu adaptation. Though it’s been available since 1985, I regret to reveal that I only recently sat down and read it.
As you no doubt suspect, it absolutely lives up to its reputation. My only disappointment lies in the fact that the Hulu series is so true to the novel that there isn’t much in the way of “surprise.”
Until the end, that is.
The last ten pages of the book absolutely riveted me. I did not anticipate the drastic change in direction, but I found it completely appropriate and, when compared to the ambiguous nature of the exterior world surrounding Offred, satisfying.
If you are unfamiliar with general plot of the novel, it occurs in the near future. The east coast (and maybe more) of the United States has been overrun by an ultra conservative religious group that picks and chooses Scripture to interpret literally. Because sterility plagues the country, the commanders of this new order, and their wives, are allowed a “Handmaid,” which is a fertile woman forced into servitude. She is there to copulate with the commander for the sole purpose of providing a child.
The story is told from Offred’s perspective, the Handmaid belonging to the commander known as Fred. We learn snippets of her present as well as the history of her past. The fall of our civilization as we know it, while brief and segmented in the novel, is horrifying nonetheless.
This new regime takes it upon themselves to terminate intellectuals, free thinkers, and anyone that does not adhere to their ideologies. Women are objectified and rendered powerless, all in the name of Scripture. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the commanders in the novel are blatant in committing “sin” without fear of reprisal. They bask in it–in fact, they celebrate it among one another.
Most disturbing, however, is the fact that the last ten pages gloss over all of this travesty. Without spoiling too much, these grievous violations are looked upon as a means to an end, an uncomfortable moment in history. All is well, and so thus we mustn’t worry too much about what happened in the past, no matter how terrible.
My fear is that this book is prophetic. In this day and age, it certainly seems so. It is warning us about how quickly it can all fall apart.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)