Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pilot Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Premiered April 26

I’ll admit it – I don’t read books much these days. I do plenty of reading, of course, but it’s been a while since I’ve sat down to read through an entire novel. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a book I remember reading in school, paired with “Brave New World” for a formidable dose of dystopia in literature. I don’t remember all that much about it though I do remember finding it to be quite good, and this much-anticipated television adaptation seems to do a strong job of adapting it for the small screen. What might be most unsettling isn’t Offred’s modern narration but rather the glimpses of the world that came before this which involved cell phone reception, Uber, and salted caramel ice cream. I’m not sure I see the parallels between what’s happening in our society and the flashbacks to what happened here, though there’s no denying the horrifying sight of inviting handmaids to punish a man for rape when that’s really what happens to them every single day because of what this powerful cult has determined their place in society is to be. This show is profoundly disturbing and difficult to watch, but it’s also undeniably interesting. Elisabeth Moss from “Mad Men” and Alexis Bledel from “Gilmore Girls” are strong leads, and it’s good to see Samara Wiley from “Orange is the New Black” and Yvonne Strahovski from “Chuck” and “Dexter” in the supporting cast. The strongest instance of casting I saw in this opening hour was Ann Dowd from “Compliance” and “The Leftovers” as Aunt Lydia. I’m intrigued to see what comes next and will be sticking with this show.

How will it work as a series? I know three episodes premiered all at once but that’s too much for me to take with all the other shows I’m watching, so I’ll be taking it one hour per week. The end of the episode with Offred’s assertion that her name is June was enticing, and I’m looking forward – nervously – to seeing how she begins her rebellion.
How long will it last? As long as the creative forces behind it want. This show has already been renewed for a second season, and reviews have been among the best of any show this season. Hulu touting it as their most-watched series premiere ever doesn’t hurt either. This one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pilot grade: B+