The Handmaid’s Tale is not exactly fun viewing.
This is a very difficult show to watch, and as unsettling as season one was, season two is even more disturbing. I felt uneasy throughout this entire episode, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
A Haunting Teaser
The premiere’s teaser with Offred and her fellow handmaids almost getting hanged is an utter masterpiece of horrifying beauty. The women are gagged and rushed along like cattle as vicious dogs bark at them and they await mass execution. It’s all so terrifying to watch, and the use of one of my favorite songs of all time (This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush) only amplifies the haunting effect. Of course their deaths do not come to pass (Aunt Lydia is only punishing then for refusing to stone Janine), but that doesn’t make the scene any less traumatizing.
The glimpses of the past are especially harrowing this week, as we witness the little things that ultimately resulted in a complete upheaval of society. From June needing her husband’s signature to collect her birth control prescription, to a nurse questioning and judging her for sending her sick child to school while she “works”, it’s all deeply uncomfortable to watch. With the world seemingly going to hell in our current landscape, it all feels especially timely and relevant.
A New Beginning
Unless June gets captured in the second episode, this premiere also features one heck of a change to the status quo as June manages to escape captivity with Nick’s help. I have absolutely no idea where her journey is going to go next, but I’m impressed by the show’s willingness to explore new avenues. Her final voiceover (“My name is June”) is also one hell of a powerful bookend to the episode as our heroine reclaims her body and her freedom.
Bits & Handmaids
– I first discovered This Woman’s Work on Alias over a decade ago. I’ve loved the song ever since so I was ecstatic to hear it in this episode’s spellbinding teaser.
– Notice how one of the handmaid’s pees herself at the hanging. So heartbreaking.
– June’s “What the actual fuck” VO is just epic.
– Interesting to note: June and her hubby were thinking of getting another baby before all hell broke loose.
– I really want the show to delve into Aunt Lydia and how she could be so ruthless with the handmaids. Having them hold the stones for what seemed like hours on end was downright sinister. And yet, notice how she sobs while ringing the pregnancy bell.
– Stunning cinematography: that overhead shot of the Handmaids in the rain holding the stones.
– I don’t think there’s anything more I can say about Elisabeth Moss that I didn’t say last year. She’s just on another level. She doesn’t even need dialogue!
– Aunt Lydia leads June to see Ofwyatt, a pregnant handmaid who is chained to her bed. It’s as gut-wrenching as it sounds.
– Another nominee for most disturbing scene of the week: June being forced to finish her soup as Aunt Lydia lines up the handmaids and begins burning them one by one in the cafeteria kitchen.
– Notice how the nurse refuses to call June by her maiden name.
– I love how June calls Serena by her name at the gynecologist. In fact, she makes fun of her (“it’s bad for the baby”) because she knows her pregnancy grants her protection. So satisfying.
– June is transported in a van packed with cattle. Is it a coincidence that she and her fellow handmaids were treated like cattle in the teaser? I think not.
– More backstory: there was an explosion in the White House. Hmm…
– Disturbing but oh so empowering: June cutting off her hair, burning her Handmaid’s outfit, and cutting off her ear tag. The music is particularly chilling. Wow.
Serena: I will not have any more recalcitrance. All of your disruptions, and all of your games and your secrets, all of that smart-girl bullshit is finished. Do you understand me?June: Don’t get upset, Serena. It’s bad for the baby.
June: My name is June Osborne. I’m from Brooklyn, Massachusetts. I am 34 years old. I stand 5’3″ in bare feet. I weigh 120 pounds. I have viable ovaries. I’m five weeks pregnant. I am free.
Must Download Tune
This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush
The most disturbing show on television is back, and better than ever. It’s not for everybody, but there’s no denying its brilliance.