first_img The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale followed the book pretty closely. It expanded a few characters, and changed some things, just like any series adaptation of a 300-page book should. At least one character who is unquestionably dead in the book is now alive. Minor characters became more important. The presence of a resistance was fleshed out a little more. But for the most part, the series followed the book. Right up until the very end, when Offred/June is shoved into a black van, not knowing whether she’s headed towards salvation or death. Now we have an answer.The book ends with an academic epilogue from the perspective of a far-future researcher studying the Gilead age. The Hulu series probably won’t do that. It’s a great ending for a book meant to sit with you long after you read it. It’s a bad ending for a TV show hoping to offer some kind of closure when it eventually ends. The book, and as a result the first season, never tells you where Offred’s going. Whether she escaped or put in greater danger. In the show, the answer is both. For refusing to stone Janine, Offred and the other handmaids were taken to the abandoned Fenway Park. They are made to think they’re about to be hanged for their refusal to participate in the system. When that’s revealed to be a particularly cruel form of psychological torture, the physical punishment begins. They are made to hold rocks, arms outstretched, in the pouring rain. Then Aunt Lydia finds out Offred’s pregnant.Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Ipsita Paul, Alana Pancyr (Photo by George Kraychyk – © 2018 Hulu)Pregnancy in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is a blessing and a curse. Mostly a curse. You’re put under even more strict surveillance. Any hope you might have had of escaping is gone. You’re are bound to your house even more than usual. But you’re treated better. Your abusers are more careful with you. You get better food. Offred even feels freer to tell Serena exactly what she thinks of her, knowing she can’t hurt a pregnant woman. That privilege can also be turned against you, as we learn when Aunt Lydia allows only Offred to eat while the rest of the hungry women have to watch.For the first two episodes that appeared on Hulu this week, Offred spends most of her time in hiding. After Serena and Commander Waterford rescue her from the Handmaids’ punishment, they take her to have an ultrasound. That’s her chance to escape. A medical assistant calls her by her true name, June, and slips her a key. She’s given a way out, escaping in a meat truck and eventually ending up in the abandoned offices of the Boston Globe. This is where the influence of the modern world becomes devastatingly clear. Remember, the book was written in 1985. The first season stayed pretty close to the book. The reason it felt as timely and relevant as it did was because Margaret Atwood is a great writer. Gilead was really a few steps away from the world she saw around her in the mid-’80s. We haven’t really evolved much since then. There’s still rampant misogyny and sexism. We still live in a largely patriarchal society. If anything, it’s gotten worse. That misogyny now has a louder microphone and a bigger platform. In January 2017, it entered the White House.Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski (Photo by George Kraychyk – © 2018 Hulu)That’s something the showrunners of The Handmaid’s Tale couldn’t have predicted when they were making the first season. The second was made in that world and two episodes in, we’re already seeing the benefit. The world where Gilead supplanted the United States is not that far removed from the one we currently live in. There’s an unmistakable effort to undermine public trust in the free press. Journalists doing their jobs are met with vitriol and accusations of fake news. If they are women, it’s likely they have received rape and death threats. What June finds in the Boston Globe, a wall riddled with bullet holes where journalists were executed, isn’t that much of a leap.In expanding the world of the show beyond what was depicted in the book, The Handmaid’s Tale has drawn extensively from the world we live in today. That’s what makes it so difficult to watch. Like the first season, these episodes will destroy you. That’s also why you need to watch. The flashback sequences are just as well done and scary as the scenes in Gilead. They put to rest any notion that this is just a silly sci-fi show, that this could never happen in real life. They show you exactly how this could happen in real life. It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a slow erosion of freedoms, a series of concessions and succumbing to social pressures. When June’s daughter has a fever of 101 degrees, she’s immediately sent to the hospital. When June picks her up, she’s interrogated by the nurse. She’s judged for having a job, for working instead of being at home with her daughter. That’s before the attack on Congress. Because Gilead would never have risen if their patriarchal attitudes weren’t already prevalent in society.Alexis Bledel (Photo by George Kraychyk – © 2017 Hulu)Gilead didn’t happen on its own. It took inaction, indifference and even quiet support from the privileged. We really see this happen in Emily/Ofglen’s flashbacks. She was a professor of microbiology. The changes in society start out subtle, and not all that different from our world. She corrects a male student on a minor point, and offers to send him some reading material. He’s clearly taken aback, offended that this woman professor would dare try to teach him something. Later, another student of hers sees a photo of her wife on her phone. In the next scene, Emily’s boss tells her he’s cutting her teaching hours. It’s societal pressure, rather than outright discrimination. In a way, it’s worse because it’s even harder to fight. She only realizes how bad things have gotten when her boss, a gay man, is hung on campus with a homophobic slur written below his body. Students are shocked by the site, but given what society becomes, not enough to actually do anything about it.Alexis Bledel’s Emily was probably the best surprise of season one. A much smaller role in the book, her expanded role, and heartbreaking story made her a fan favorite. That’s still the case so far in season two. Through her, we get to experience the colonies, and what it’s like to be an Unwoman. They’re slaves, doing hard manual labor in an irradiated hellscape. They work until they die of radiation poisoning. Between her and June, we get to see two sides of Rebellion. June’s acts are much more symbolic. She builds a memorial to the slaughtered Boston Globe journalists. She has sex, on top and not for procreation, and enjoys it. She cuts her own ear to rid herself of Gilead’s ID tag. She says “fuck” a lot. In season one, she used her influence on Commander Waterford to retrieve a Resistance package full of written accounts of the abuses handmaids suffer. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to that? Hopefully, that storyline comes back this season.)Elizabeth Moss (Photo courtesy of Hulu)Emily’s rebellions are a bit more direct. She has a body count that has already grown in season two. When she finds out one of the new Unwomen used to be a Commander’s wife, she pretends to befriend her. It’s not too long before it’s revealed that Emily secretly poisoned her. The Commander’s ex-wife may have it hard now, but there are some things you can’t forgive. Holding another woman down while your husband assaults her is one of those things.In moving on from the book, The Handmaid’s Tale has already found its own voice as a TV series. The pace is purposefully slow, allowing you to take in all the horrors of the world. To really make you feel as though Gilead could actually happen. The camera work is uncomfortably close, putting you in the clothes of the handmaids and the unwomen. We’ll spend the next 11 Wednesdays in a state of fear and despair, but this series is worth it. It’s a horrifying world that we can’t look away from. We shouldn’t. We should recognize the parallels in our own world.If you think I’m being overly bleak, taking this made up science fiction show too seriously, maybe this is why. This week, news broke that Charlie Rose, who lost his job after 11 women accused him of sexual harassment, pitched a show where he would interview other men affected by the Me Too movement. Because they’re the ones whose stories need to be told. That’s some Gilead-sounding shit right there. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetcenter_img ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3 Trailer: ‘Blessed Be the Fight’Margaret Atwood Is Writing a Sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ last_img