Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a masterpiece. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss as a captive in the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy that has taken over a part of the United States.

Moss is Offred, a subjugated woman, whose husband has been killed and daughter warded to the state. She once had a life of her own, but that was then. Women could protest. But that was then. Now there is indoctrination, no space to think for one’s self. There is also a fertility shortage and handmaid’s like Offred are little more than slaves and baby-making machines, subservient to men and paid no respect. Offred’s commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is a beast of a man and when it’s time for “ceremony,” Offred cradles in the lap of his wife while he forces himself on her. This is what women have to endure, their dehumanization as they are reduced to nothing more than a womb to repopulate the community.


So, why doesn’t Offred fight back, defy her captor? There is no way out for her unless she wants go on radioactive waste duties and die a slow and painful death. The commissary will have to do for now and the abuse will have to be endured. The cult-like red robes and white bonnets the women wear serve to further rob them of their individuality and any expression of self.

The Handmaid’s Tale is frightening in its banality. The horror is in the stillness of each day, which showrunner Bruce Miller brilliantly executes.

Within such oppressive confines, paranoia rises to the surface, with every man or woman out for themselves. There are few outlets for the handmaid’s but they do get to execute low class men in the public square, putting them one step above the servants or “Martha’s.” And of course the barren wives detest the handmaids who are daily reminder of their inadequacies.

Offred does find some solace in fellow handmaid Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), who has secrets of her own, being gay, which is punishable by death in Gilead. Their walls will slowly come down in this unsafe land.

Moss as Offred is the heartbeat of the show, bringing deep humanity and emotional force to a character forced to keep so much hurt and pain inside. She is a tour-de-force taking her rightful place at the center of the action. On the crowded television landscape, where it seems everyone wants to play, Moss stands out, as does the show which is nothing short of brilliant.

As women are deprived of their rights in Gilead, the show feels quite relevant in today’s political environment, a cautionary tale perhaps. Yes, we have come far, but there is still some way to go.


A r o u n d   t h e   W e b