Want more Handmaid's Tale content? How about this sneak peek of the first two episodes:
Brutal. Shocking. Hardcore. These are just some of the words that come to mind when watching the first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season. The action picks up where Season 1 left off, with Offred being transported in a van, unsure whether she’s headed to freedom or a fate worse than living with the Waterfords.
The answer comes swiftly and sets the tone for a season that’s clearly going to be just as dark—if not darker—than Season 1. Revealing anything that happens in the opening sequence would be to give away too much, but we will say this: never has “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush been used more effectively than as the soundtrack to the horrors that play out when Offred reaches her destination.
Respite (of a kind) comes from the flashbacks, which continue to show how Gilead came to be. Some pretty disturbing things still take place during these glimpses into the past, but it’s nice to see the characters relatively free and happy, even if we know it won’t last. As they adjust to each new imposition on their freedoms, it’s a case of: “Things surely can’t get any worse than this.” But as we know, they most certainly do. The flashbacks are also a chance for the viewer to catch their breath for a second from the relentless cruelty that is dished out by the Aunts, Eyes and Commanders in the present day.
As The Handmaid’s Tale moves beyond Margaret Atwood’s novel, having used up the majority of the book’s plot last season, Season 2 provides a fuller sense of the world in which this story is set. Episode 2 focuses on Emily (Alexis Bledel), the Handmaid formerly known as Ofglen, who has now been banished to the Colonies, the previously mentioned but never before seen parts of Gilead that have been infected by radioactive waste.
There, Emily is one of the “Unwomen”, the disgraced females of Gilead that have been sentenced to a life of hard labour in prison camps, shoveling toxic material until they drop dead. It’s harsh stuff, with Season 2 setting a new benchmark in terms of just how awful the characters are to each other.
Through Emily’s flashbacks, we see the experience of LGBT people in the formation of Gilead—spoiler alert: it’s particularly unpleasant. Meanwhile, some of the people Offred encounters in her storyline make it clear there’s much more going on in the totalitarian state than we saw in the controlled environment of the Commanders and their Wives in Season 1.
Given the show’s broader focus, we don’t see much of the Waterfords (Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes), or any of what’s going on with Moira (Samira Wiley) and Luke (OT Fagbenle) in Canada in the first two episodes, but even with much of its key cast on the sidelines early on, Season 2 is shaping up to be every bit as compelling as the Emmy Award-winning first instalment.
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