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Sunday, 9 June 2019

REVIEW: The Handmaid's Tale successfully reinvents itself for third season.

It didn’t take long for The Handmaid’s Tale to become one of the biggest — and most socially relevant — series’ in recent memory following its premiere back in 2017. With a string of awards to boot, and an equally compelling second season, the Hulu series has been a huge success and amassed quite the following in the process. However, with the show’s narrative having gone way beyond the source material of Margaret Atwood’s beloved novel, many have started to fear that this tale would soon become stale.

After a year-long wait, the third season has arrived. But what’s the verdict? Has the show outstayed it’s welcome? Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but, if the first episode of Series 3 is anything to go by, then the answer is no. 


As has been the case with all of the dystopian drama’s season-openers, ‘Night’ is among the greatest ever Handmaid’s offerings, and throws us right back into the harsh realities of Gilead within seconds. Adam Taylor’s haunting score does much of the work — as does the show’s gorgeous cinematography. However, the writing doesn’t disappoint either, as the strong script manages to justify June’s (Elisabeth Moss) — or Offred, to her captors — controversial decision to stay behind in Gilead.

Yes, the stakes are higher than ever, as our protagonist comes so close to obtaining her freedom — this time with daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake) in tow. However, before her plan is carried out, she’s apprehended by the Eyes once more. 

I think I speak for everyone when I say that when June set foot in the Waterford household, alarm bells started ringing. "Are we really going to do this again?" I thought. Yes, the biggest fear going into the third season is that that the series was going to get stuck in a never-ending loop of June accepting her fate, then trying to escape, getting caught whilst doing so, before being returned to the Waterford household once more. 


Thankfully, Commander Lawrence’s (Bradley Whitford) presence ensures that this cycle is broken, creating a fresh new dynamic in the process. He's a hard character to read too, which certainly piques my interest about what kind of a purpose he'll have going forward. 

Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and Emily’s (Alexis Bledel) character arcs were among some of the show’s best last season, and that hasn’t changed at all this time around, as the former resolves to rise up and fight against the world she was instrumental in creating, while the latter manages to successfully cross the border with baby Nichole — which allows her to realise that, in spite of her fears, hope is worth holding on to. It’s all incredibly engaging stuff, to say the least — but that's the great thing about this show: the supporting characters are every bit as compelling as the protagonist.

The burning of the ceremonial bed — and the Waterford household — indicates a new chapter for The Handmaid’s Tale, and one that could well see the women of Gilead — wives, handmaids and otherwise — unite and rebel against the patriarchy. Serena taking June’s hand — in front of the burning bed in which Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) repeatedly raped the handmaid —  seems to be indicative of this, and we can only assume that this moment is representative of the two characters becoming allies to one another — even if they’re no longer living in the same house. Also, whoever chose Boomtown Rats’ 'I Don’t Like Mondays' to accompany this powerful scene deserves a pay rise. That is all. 

While The Handmaid’s Tale simply cannot carry on forever, there’s no reason to believe the well is running dry just yet. The first instalment of Series 3 certainly seems to suggest that we’re not quite at the end of this tale, and with a fresh new dynamic going forward, this is very much a telly event that was worth waiting on. Praise be, or what?  

Contributed by Stephen Patterson

The Handmaid’s Tale continues Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4

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