The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season is full of brilliant cinematography, vibrant performances, and a burning intensity which radiates every second of each episode.
It really should come as no surprise to anyone after the critical acclaim the first season received, resulting in eight Emmy award and two Golden Globe wins. Writer Bruce Miller and his team demonstrated a fearlessness while adapting Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, but remained faithful to the source material. One of the many things fans will be giddy about in the 2nd season is now the show is expanding the universe found in Atwood’s novel. For some shows, taking a bold direction would be risky, but Miller’s team weaves it effortlessly into the second season.
The second season begins with Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss) pregnant and seemingly at the mercy of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). Even though Handmaids are praised when they can bear offspring, her life apparently is even more controlled than before. The commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) are thrilled by the news, but the moment feels hollow to Offred/June. Her friends are being subjected to unthinkable punishment for their refusal to stone their fellow handmaid and the ones that survive a barrage of torment are sent to the colonies to be with the “Unwomen.” The colonies are a nicer version of a concentration camp and Emily (Alexis Bledel) is imprisoned there. Will these strong and courageous women find hope in a bleak world?
The writing in season 2 is fascinating. Every moment and piece of dialogue is purposeful in enhancing the narrative. Very few television shows can claim this. It’s as if each episode is a watercolor in Miller’s ever-evolving masterpiece. However, the series has demonstrated from its onset the benefits of being restrained. Audiences are not overwhelmed with loads of dialogue. Instead, the show walks a fine line allowing it to achieve balance. Moss, Bledel, Dowd, and Strahovski are just some of the cast who use restraint to their advantage. Sometimes, much more emotion can be conveyed in a look.
However, what stood out in The Handmaid’s Tale was the riveting performances from the cast. Moss is such a blazing cauldron of simmering rage yet manages to show such strength in scene after scene. Dowd can project such conflict, yet her character takes great pleasure in committing heinous acts in the name of faith. Strahovski conveys a smugness and righteousness that it makes audiences forget her role in Chuck.
What sets The Handmaid’s Tale apart from every other show is its creative use of pacing. Nothing about these episodes ever seems rushed. When we are in the colonies, director Mike Barker allows the camera to pan and linger long enough so audiences can fully grasp what’s occurring. Cinematographers Colin Watkinson and Zoe White make use of a lush color palette to covey pivotal moments in the second season. When Offred/June is in the examining room, they used bright colors which seemed intrusive to contrast off the red of her outfit. They also made ample use of close-ups to help enhance the most important moments of each episode.
The Handmaid’s Tale is the standard which most television dramas should strive for. If anyone in your family hasn’t seen the show, then have them start binge-watching on Hulu ASAP. The second season begins on April 25th and will dazzle viewers.