‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ doesn’t feel like fiction anymore
It’s not particularly fair to “The Handmaid’s Tale” that its third season comes in the middle of a national debate over the sanctity of life and, more specifically, what constitutes life.
Hulu didn’t plan for the release to time perfectly around a series of anti-abortion bills popping up around state houses around the country. Nor did showrunner Bruce Miller — or even author Margaret Atwood, for that matter.
But here we are.
The third season of the dystopian drama, which is now streaming, picks up immediately after last season’s finale, which saw June (Elisabeth Moss) hand her newborn off to the fleeing Emily (Alexis Bledel) and choose instead to stay in Gilead and fight, or resist, or something.
The decision, no longer being dictated by Atwood’s book, was controversial. With no evidence that June could save Hannah, and in light of her past failures, Canada, with her new daughter and her husband (O-T Fagbenle) and her best friend (Samira Wiley), was the logical alternative.
But what would “The Handmaid’s Tale” be if its main character was no longer a handmaid? And Hulu wasn’t ready to end its hit, even if the story was better served by ending.
So here we are.
“I would be the happiest if my show was irrelevant, if everyone said, ‘Wow, that would never happen,’” showrunner Bruce Miller told the Daily News. “But we don’t … try to guess what’s going to happen at all (in the real world). We’re writing about Gilead. We’re letting June guide us.”
Dread: Through the first six episodes provided to critics, “The Handmaid’s Tale” spins in place for far longer than it should; the secret resistance inside Gilead is about as productive as #Resistance is on Twitter. June, now living with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and his wife after yet another incident with the Waterfords, still believes she can change the world from the inside, but she seemingly has no plan or even idea of where to start. Her ineptitude — not necessarily her fault — only makes her decision to stay in Gilead even worse.
But more than that, it’s the dread. Never-ending dread. Unrelenting dread. Who will be raped today? (To the show’s credit, the first six episodes of the third season are entirely without sexual assault, either on or off camera.) Who will be strung up and hung from the wall? Who will be shipped off to the colonies for not being fertile enough, or for speaking out of turn, or for acting as more than just a vessel for human life? Is there light at the tunnel? Can we come back from this?
“At the end of the day, where we’re trying to go with the story and what we’re trying to tell is that … humanity and love prevail,” Amanda Brugel, who plays Rita, told The News. “And I do think we’ll get there.”
Today: When “The Handmaid’s Tale” premiered in 2017, this nightmare-filled horror story was watching someone else’s disaster unfold; it was misery porn. Today, protesters are showing up to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings dressed as handmaids. They’re wearing red cloaks and wings to rallies for Planned Parenthood and against President Trump. Gilead may not be real, but a society in which a woman is worth only her womb feels real.
“Thirty-five years ago, Margaret Atwood wrote ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and it was speculative fiction,” executive producer Warren Littlefield told The News. “However, she created that quilt of narrative all from historical reality. And so we continue that tradition. We’re not the news. It’s not our job to report the news. It’s our job to be compelling, dramatic storytellers. But I think our narrative is more powerful if we reflect the world we live in.
“It’s a tremendous source of pride that women all over this planet put on the handmaids’ robe and the bonnet. It’s a symbol of protest. And it makes us feel even more responsibility. But I think it also gives us, and certainly gives Margaret, a great satisfaction that we’re needed. We’re part of that. We’re part of that conversation.”