As I do every season, I am fully obsessing over Handmaids Tale (HMT) right now. However, rather than riding the wave of the dystopian state, I find myself questioning the development of the show as each week goes on.
HMT is one of those shows that makes me desperate for the means to bulk watch it. It is rare these days to not have instant episodes at your hands in the rising culture of boxset’s and binge watching, as full seasons are released in one go thanks to streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. The torturous wait between each episode of HMT gives me time to emulsify my emotions, research Gilead where necessary but most importantly gives me the time to iron out any questions I may have about the latest episode, and as the season goes on there seems to be more and more the deeper we get into it.
For the most part I have really enjoyed the season. I think it’s very easy to confuse disliking the season with your own personal frustrations of Junes inability to escape when presented with multiple opportunities to do so. Instead, she is determined to stay in Gilead until she has access to her daughter Hannah. Whilst this may seem like an innate and sensical thing to do for a mother, the potential threat combined with the complexity that Hannah appears to be happy with her new family really gets the better of you when watching June put herself through torture time and time again.
What’s nice this season is that it has done a lot more to draw ties to current state America to Gilead which is of course a little un-nerving, yet the world needed expanding slightly after two suffocating seasons without much external location. These references to the ‘Old America’ have come in several forms such as the introduction of DC, in which we saw the infamous Washington monument turned into a crucifix with hundreds of handmaids at its feet. There was the brief reference to ‘Internet Raids’ and ‘Decency Checks’ that June drew upon when discussing ‘the beginning.’ I think the show needs to frequent more tales / flashbacks of the beginning of Gilead, especially if we are to believe Nicks big involvement. It also gives more of a depth to the viewer.
With regards to Nick, he is one of the focal issues I have with this season. His new storyline seems to have emerged from a very vast space. In writing, there are the terms ‘Plotters’ and ‘Pantsers.’ A plotter is a writer who has an end game for their characters, they know from the very beginning the characters destiny to be fulfilled and their entire journey leads to that end moment (for example Severus Snapes storyline in Harry Potter.) Differently, a Pantser will write their story as it goes, the twists and turns are sporadic as they develop the characters page by page (for example Daenerys in Game Of Thrones.) There is no correct way to write and I am a fan of both plotting and pantsing but in reference to HMT S3, in particular to Nick, it feels as though the writers have pantsered their way through his arc and the decision to incriminate him feels a little jarred. The plot itself doesn’t even have the shock factor in its steed, it’s just more of a ‘meh really?’ We don’t need Nick to love. We / June already have Lucas fighting for her case (yeah he’s on the wrong side of the border but still) so the switch seems a little deflated.
Additionally, a lot of the raised concerns I am seeing online are to do with the shows inconsistency as the show seems to regurgitate hypocrisy’s and juxtaposed punishments. We have seen Jeanine almost kill her baby yet she is still walking, but then on the other hand we see a Martha hung for leaving a baby to cry for too long. Jeanine lost an eye for answering back yet June walks whole after attacking another handmaid. We also saw handmaids hanging amongst the doomed Martha which poses the question as to what point are handmaids immune from punishment by death at the cost of their fertility? This could well be lazy writing or the fact that that Gilead is a totalitarian society that is still figuring itself out in a way.
The latest episode (9) as a stand alone episode was beautiful, but the plot didn’t really move along and considering it hasn’t done at all thus far in the season, this episode took up a crucial bit of plot time. It felt very much like passion project episode for the show which is absolutely fine but by all means hurry the plot along. Over-arcing plot aside, the episode in itself made for incredible television. Elisabeth Moss gave another tortured emotive performance as June in one of her most palpable episodes yet. The clinical setting against the red of her gown and her eyes made the visuals hard to watch, almost squint worthy, as her inner monologue led the episode for the most part. Whilst the overall plot seemed rather standstill for the most, the episode did touch upon a few important details that were great for character development if not for the show as an entirety. June has made her executive decision. She will attempt to free the children of Gilead. That is her end goal. It’s no longer just focused on herself and Hannah, she now will look towards helping Gilead on a larger scale. How this will pan out, I really don’t know, but it’s time that the show became a little bigger to scale so this could be a really nice set up for the season finale and next seasons focus. The young girls in pink already appear to be brainwashed if you will, into Gilead ways, despite probably being of the age to remember normal civilisation. This added a real eery feel and reinforced the amount of people June is fighting against both physically and emotively. The doctor seems like he would be open to being apart of the resistance. His open conversation with June about her mother, and his lack of general Gilead demeanour. The nurse who dropped the scalpel into the Sharps box also looked willing to be turned as his gaze fell upon June for a little too long.
With three episodes to go it’s difficult to say what is likely to happen. I’m rooting for a Nick whiplash return as part of the resistance, a Serena Joy escape using the secret mobile phone and the demise of Fred & Aunt Lydia.