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The Handmaid’s Tale continues

By Paula Hendrickson

While the first season of Hulu’s award-winning drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, was based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel of the same name, season two is flying free. Sort of.

Atwood serves as a consultant and a supervising producer for the series, so the fate of Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss)— is in safe hands. Safer than most women in the Republic of Gilead will ever be. But of course, that still doesn’t mean June is safe. Only that the series has Atwood’s stamp of approval.

Season two broadens the scope of the show and introduces viewers to the horrors of The Colonies, where certain types of people—prostitutes, criminals, and educated women—are banished
and forced to clean up radioactive waste. Guards and horses wear protective gear, while the slave laborers don’t even get gloves. Even the water they drink is contaminated.

Let’s just say that there’s no accident that slaughterhouse imagery is present in much of the first two episodes.

But we also get more flashbacks, not only into June’s life. The powerful second episode of the season centers on Offglen/ Emily (Alexis Bledel).

We’ll also see June’s best friend, Moria (Samira Wiley)—who managed to escape Gilead and is now living as a refugee in Canada, where June’s husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle) also wound up—dealing with survivor’s guilt because she’s free while so many people aren’t.

A question floating through the first couple of episodes of the second season seems to be, “How do you define freedom?” June questions it, even Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) philosophizes about what
freedom really means. Naturally, they don’t share the same opinions.

The idea of consequences is another big topic this season. In season one, a lot of Offred’s defiant actions went unnoticed, and a few were encouraged by either Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) or Mrs. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski). But when a handmaid openly defies her master, mistress, or Aunt, it can impact more than the handmaid herself. Meaning the radioactive fallout in the Colonies is only one type of fallout these characters are facing.

I’m only a few episodes in to the new season, but it feels as if all of the pieces are in place for a storyline that may be even more powerful and thought-provoking that that of season one.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dark, disturbing but brilliant study on the dangers of theocratic states, and its flashbacks are especially frightening because they illustrate how perilously close we may be to a similar collapse of democracy. R.

Programming note

Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale arrives April 25 on Hulu.

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