“The Handmaid’s Tale” dark themes keeps viewers entranced


As someone who very recently obtained Hulu, the first show on my watch list was “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Based on the popular book of the same name, the Hulu original swept the 2017 awards season, winning eight Emmys. After binge watching the show in a week, it seems pretty clear to me that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is well worth the hype.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” tells the story of a Handmaid named Offred in the not-so-distant future United States. After a massive decrease in fertility, the country was plunged into an overly religious patriarchal society where women can be severely punished for something as simple as reading.  Fertile women like Offred are forced to be Handmaids, who bear the children of high ranking male officials. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is extremely dark, and has no trouble exploring and addressing dark themes. The only issue is that the show has the potential to be triggering for some viewers, so I would also like to include a rape and suicide trigger warning for those thinking about watching the show.

The writers of “The Handmaid’s Tale” did an amazing job of creating a terrifyingly realistic dystopian world. The show switches back and forth between the past and the present, slowly unraveling how the United States became the oppressively theocratic Gilead. This kept me absolutely enthralled in the show, as I wanted to know how and why the country had devolved into dystopia. The show’s writers took advantage of the recent political climate in the United States by including eerily familiar political moments, making the viewer feel as if this future was not far off. This also allowed the writers to make astute political commentary while simultaneously creating a (hopefully) exaggerated dystopia.

The characters in “The Handmaid’s Tale” were also deeply developed, with each character bringing individual yet cohesive complexity to the story. Offred’s often feisty and sarcastic inner dialog contrasts directly with her timid interactions with other characters, showcasing how truly oppressed, angry and scared she is. Serena Waterford, the wife of a powerful commander, is another particularly interesting character. Serena is somewhere between a caring women who wants to be a mother and a sociopathic monster willing to tear down anyone in her way. Even the show’s minor characters are nothing short of complex, as they each have distinct motives, insecurities and moments of weakness.

It would be impossible for these complex characters to be brought to life without a cast of talented actors. Elizabeth Moss, who played Offred, took home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Alexis Bledel won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Ann Dowd won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Aunt Lydia. Moss’ emotionally raw performance of Offred truly brought the character to life, showing her vulnerability while also highlighting the characters immense personal strength. Samira Wiley does a fantastic job of developing Moira, a character who changes drastically several times in the season. Despite his character existing mostly in flashbacks, O-T Fagbenle is able to make Luke contrast with many of the other men in the film by highlighting his kindness, respect and love for his wife and child. Out of the entire cast, I don’t remember there being a single performance that was lacking in commitment or talent.

Overall, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was one of the best series I have watched in a while. I was continuously drawn to the dark storyline, writing and phenomenal acting, even though some of the scenes may have been hard to watch. If you are like me and have recently obtained a Hulu account, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a show you absolutely need to watch.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.

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