The Handmaid's Tale

Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.

Season 1

Roy

Like most of the shows we choose, Handmaid's Tale is well put together and polished. The oppression of the new world order is very well conveyed. As usual, I am interested in the world that is building and there is a lot of potential for that with Handmaid’s Tale. This episode served mainly as an introduction to the world, the main character, Ofred, and her situation. Having coincidentally talked to someone who had read the book just before we started watching this show, I don’t think it had quite the impact that it should have. Since this episode was about what I had already knew I feel like I have to reserve judgement somewhat for at least this episode. So far the show seems particularly depressing but it has potential.

5/10

Matt

This is a great example of an opening episode. Through various techniques the audience member is shown what this horrible world looks like from the ground up. A series of flashbacks explains the systems in place to “educate” the handmaidens. Our lead character's motivations are clearly established through narration and a powerful opening sequence. I'm not convinced yet that I will like the characters so the jury is still out on that one.

7/10

Tommy

The Handmaid’s Tale starts off with a good aesthetic, the dystopian future that embraces the simplicities of the past is well realised as is the feeling of a slow crushing environment the handmaids are apart of. A lot of the episode is spent establishing the world, what the handmaidens go through in their indoctrination and the episode ends with raised stakes to keep the interest for episode 2.

6.5/10

Episode Score

61

Roy

Handmaid’s Tale is an instance when I can be a little bit forgiving of plot slowness. It rather fits with the bleak narrowness of Offred’s existence. The draw, so far, is the flashbacks showing me how this nightmarish world came to be. Handmaid’s Tale is doing everything it is setting out to do; it is very easy for me to see through the eyes of the protagonist and feel what she is feeling. Despite its apparent appropriateness, the pace of the main plot still detracts from my interest.

5.9/10

Matt

Can't’ say a lot’s happen in this episode, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the creatives have chosen to continue to build the world while introducing a few moments of intrigue here and there. But much like American Gods it’s time to get this show rolling out of the station so the audience can have something to sink their teeth into.

6/10

Tommy

I can’t fault this show for what it is trying to do as it executes it flawlessly. The awkwardness of the rituals, the resignation of the handmaidens and the soul crushing nature of the world is all felt throughout the run time. There are moments of defiance and scenes that although should be mundane in nature are elevated to a pleasant state. The world building is being drip fed to us and each little statement about the state of America is interesting as is the state of the resistance elements. Despite the great execution of the elements of the show, it is just a slog to watch with the nature of the story and the visual language being so dreary.

6.5/10

Episode Score

61

Roy

The quagmire of horror that is Handmaid’s Tale gives us a fascinating insight into how Gilead came to rise from the ashes of America. There are a lot of great shots that really help highlight how bleak Offred’s world is. We also get a depressing journey into the judicial branch of Gilead through the eyes of Emily. Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t give any respite; it is very appropriate for what it is trying to achieve but it doesn’t make for enjoyable watching.

6/10

Matt

This is the most brutal episode for me so far. There is some truly shocking imagery here and it will make you hold your loved ones a bit tighter. But this episode does accomplish a couple of tasks that kept me engaged. Viewers get more of an insight into how the theocracy came to power which is something I have been wondering about since episode one. We also get a rather sickening insight just how people who go against the theocracy are treated and it makes The Handmaid's Tale one of the most confronting series I have watched in recent memory. Compelling yet Horrifying.

8/10

Tommy

Episode 3 is yet another well executed slog. There’s nothing here that i can fault, there are some great shot compositions and scenes that are beautiful in their imagery but all of them are so depressing. The show doesn’t let up, continuing to show how America became what it is in the story’s present. The scenes are quite confronting and even when the show enters the safety and comfort of the home of Offred things aren’t very pleasant. We also get a glimpse at this world’s form of judging crimes and doling out punishments. Again all quite well done but soul crushingly bleak.

7.5/10

Episode Score

71

Roy

The happy moments in this week’s episode of Handmaid’s Tale just make me expect even more horrible things to come. I ain’t falling for that trick, Handmaid’s Tale! Get out of here with your happiness. I know you. The flashbacks are continuing which is fantastic; they are a bit of a reprieve from the horror of Gilead. Still nothing particularly wrong with this show but the content just doesn’t make an enjoyable viewing experience.

6/10

Matt

Thank you creators for delivering the first fleeting moment of Joy that I desperately needed from this series. The show takes a lot out of you and it needed to give something back. This episode also continues to build the world around the characters through little pieces of dialogue an interesting flashbacks. I also was impressed with how this series has slowly re-wired my brain to consider Offred's state of mind in her encounters with various characters which speaks volumes of this series ability to tell a story and involve you with it’s protagonist.

7/10

Tommy

There was a lot more to like in this episode for me, with a few small wins that lifted the episode ever so slightly. Perhaps it is that the depressing aspects of the show are more expected at this point but the soul crushing nature of it wasn’t as bad this time. There were still those moments of course but the little bit of levity was able to balance it out just enough. Everything else is still really solid

6.5/10

Episode Score

65

Roy

Handmaid’s Tale continues to show horror but in different ways. The one bastion of hope, the kindness of Commander Waterford, has been shattered after Waterford reveals his true self. This was, of course, to be expected considering Waterford was an architect of Gilead. Offred is growing more bold, both in her actions and words. Handmaid’s Tale has conditioned me to expect this to turn out terribly. Offred’s arc is interesting so far and the flashbacks into Gilead’s inception continue. It is fascinating to watch in an uncomfortable kind of way.

6.4/10

Matt

This episode is all about our broken characters regaining a small morsel of their power back in a world that has taken so much from all of them. The story threads mainly play out around the theme of repression vs. the human will. This is mainly demonstrated through two events, Ofsteven stealing a car and Offred having unlawful consensual sex with Nick. Both these moments are bittersweet and the viewer will be cheering but at the same time fearful of the possible fallout. Which is how our characters live. That’s why this series is so praised, it puts you right into their shoes.

7/10

Tommy

The show continues to become less bleak overall which is nice however given the previous episodes one can’t help but be conditioned to think that anything good that happens here will be quickly shut down in a brutally depressing way in future episodes. That brutality is still there of course in this episode with one scene in particular showing how Offred met her husband this nice scene is immediately transitioned to seeing the character as she is now in this world with a miserable look on her face eating breakfast. Once again the effectiveness of the filmmaking is on point and with the added moments of defiance and levity, the episode is much more enjoyable to watch.

7/10

Episode Score

65

Roy

Despite this episode having a bunch of flashbacks, I was quite into it because they were about Serena Joy and Fred Waterford, whom we had learnt about only peripherally until now. Seeing them connive to create the twisted world of Gilead was an interesting juxtaposition to the struggles they are currently going through. The events going on in the present were typically bleak and rather uninteresting compared to the flashbacks which also made the already slow plot slower. Here’s hoping there are less of those and more plot as the season states to wane.

7.8/10

Matt

This episode decided to divert some focus away from Offred and instead gave you more of an insight into Waterford and Serena Joy. We learn that they are some of the architects in the removal and overthrow of the previous democratic government. But this all plays out in pretty everyday settings giving the viewer a real enemy within vibe and making the entire plot far more sinister because they do come across as ordinary people. The current events that play out through this episode also give more reason as to why this society can function the way it does leading to some truly heart breaking moments in the episode.

8/10

Tommy

This episode explores the power dynamics between people a little bit more concretely and even goes as far as to show us flashbacks from the Waterford’s perspective. It is actually quite interesting to see these characters as just normal people and how they have changed in this new world yet still retaining a small part of who they used to be. The flashback makes that a little clearer and also fleshes out the relationship between the two as well. Although just as bleak as the previous episodes, this episode is a lot easier to digest, possibly because I am growing used to the flavour of the show but also how they handle some of the revelations and world building in this episode is really neat. They also use music to great effect here to really drive home the contrast of emotion that is felt by the handmaidens but not the other people in the room.

8/10

Episode Score

79

Roy

So we got a bunch more flashbacks about Luke escaping to Canada. There were a couple neat things in there like seeing Little America but it doesn’t go anywhere or tell us anything we didn’t already know. It was just a series of inconsequent events that could easily have been surmised from a few short scenes alluding to them previously. With the current climate, the term ‘glacial’ is probably not sufficient anymore but it still comes to mind. Also I fell asleep.

2/10

Matt

God damn flashbacks.I assume it’s just my bad luck that so many shows that I have reviewed lately have all utilised weak flashback episodes. The god thing here is that “The Handmaid's Tale” is made expertly so the production values and acting are all there. The problem is that this episode, aside from the last four minutes, don't give anything to the viewer that we haven't already experienced so far. I'm not sure why they decided to to tell this story as an entire flashback when it could have easily been told while still progressing the plot forward as previous episodes have done.

6.5/10

Tommy

The Handmaid’s Tale stalls out this week with a Flashback episode. This is an interesting move considering flashbacks are a core part of normal episodes to begin with. That format of normal episodes remains too so not only does the episode take place in the past, there are flashbacks that take you further into the past. It was clear that the filmmakers wanted you to really feel for luke and give you a glimpse of the resistance elements before Gilead was fully established. The problem is that it's just not that compelling. Other than the last 5 minutes there’s nothing shown that really needed to be seen and the events in the present are much more interesting.

6/10

Episode Score

48

Roy

I almost want the full flashback episodes back because they are much more pleasant to watch. Not much plot happened this episode so there isn’t too much to talk about, but we get to see more of the terrible world and Nick’s backstory is expanded upon. In Nick’s flash back we get to see some more interesting key moments in the inception of Gilead. With only two more episodes left I am looking forward to the end of Handmaid’s Tale more for it to be over rather than because I want to see how it turns out.

6/10

Matt

The main theme of this episode spoke to me on a range of different levels. People who know me, know that I have a distaste for organized religion. Mainly due to the hypocrisy rampant in such institutions. This episode takes that theme and really puts it at the viewers forethought in a way that doesn't hold anything back. It’s confronting and it should be.

7.5/10

Tommy

So uhh we return from the flashback episode into a complete crushing of the soul again. It’s not quite as harsh since the show has desensitised over time but yeah this one is hard to watch. We get to see a bit more of the world and find out that not everything in Gilead is as rigid as was previously thought. The backstory sequences focus on Nick this time and we see how he fits in with Fred Waterford. It is in an appropriate character to delve into at this point as we see him struggling with things in the present and the flashbacks provided a richer base of understanding for the character.

6.8/10

Episode Score

67

Roy

The focus shifts to Janine for this weeks Handmaid’s Tale and we get to see, of course, that existence is just as horrible as it is for June. I don’t feel I can expound here. It is the same old depressing horror Gilead throws at us every week, so if you are into that I suppose you will like this episode. There is a tiny glimmer of hope at the end when we find that Moira has cast aside her shackles and not only escaped but smuggled a package to June, but I suspect that will somehow turn out to be horrible, too.

6/10

Matt

We delve into the playground of the theocracy and what an abhorrent playground it is. We start to raise the stakes this episode which is needed in order to change the tone of the series. I feel that there has been enough establishment of the world done, and now it’s time to throw some real stakes at the charecters.

7/10

Tommy

The Handmaid’s tale foregoes all flashbacks this episode(well basically all). Instead opting to tell a side story in the present of another handmaiden. Things are just as harrowing and depressing as they ever were but the stakes are getting higher and the tension between characters has also escalated in a compelling way. It is a solid episode that focuses on OfFred and OfWarren. This episode is quite simple but effective in what it does with those two characters.

7/10

Episode Score

66

Roy

Offred steps into the van and the credits start rolling and I am left thinking “hold on, is that it? That’s Handmaid’s Tale...? Okay, yep. That was it. That was the whole thing.” I don’t really know why I was underwhelmed; the previous nine episodes should have had me suitably primed for the whelming I was to experience. That is to say, The Handmaid’s Tale ended with a miserable and disappointing whimper. I won’t deny that Handmaid’s Tale is very well put together. I can’t fault the cinematography or the acting or the sets or anything else because it all sits so well together and fits the desired aesthetic that it almost eschews notice. But put together well for whom? The point of the show eludes me. Whose life is so great they they want to sit down and get depressed watching Handmaid’s Tale? While watching, the mostly commonly invoked thoughts I had were about how long away the end was. Handmaid’s Tale is in many ways antithetical to what I enjoy watching. Having watched it, I can almost get a sense of what it must have been like for Offred but for all the wrong reasons.

4/10

Matt

One last moment of defiance cements this episode as one of my favourites. I really didn't expect to be as engaged with this series as I would end up being. This episode is a microcosm of why enjoy these series as a whole. There were shocking moments and some small comeuppance mixed with one really heartwarming moment. Because this story is all about finding small amounts of hope in a hopeless situation. It resonated with me and I think will resonate with audiences into the future.

9/10

Tommy

There are some great moments in this episode. We get to see how Canada treats its refugees and a heartwarming moment between two characters . Back in Gilead though we find out the fate of Genene which is quite possible even more depressing than what we had predicted on the podcast. The episode also delivers an oh shit moment courtesy of Serena that I don’t think any one was expecting. Thoroughly effective in execution and build up. True rebellion is also had in this episode and although this feels good. The ramifications and motive are left a bit open keeping the interest for the next season.

8/10

Episode Score

70

The Handmad's tale is a depressing ride through an alternate version of Earth that has a religious group using thei ideals to shift the power dynamics to a small elite group. The themes of misogyny are strong throughout as are those of subservience and rebellion. The show is wonderfully executed with the acting, writing and editing working very much to better the viewing experience. However the subject matter is so depressing on an episode to episode bases that it can be a slog to watch. The Handmaid’s tale is a great show in execution but it is so good at conveying that feeling of depression that is hard to watch. Very much worth experiencing but is not something we would rewatch.

Season Score

66

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