Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum
A Woman’s Place
The Other Side
Expertly written and artistically presented, The Handmaid’s Tale is a surprisingly robust dystopian sci-fi series. Boasting strong narration from lead protagonist June to help get us accustomed to this nightmarish world, the world building throughout the series is expertly crafted, using a clever blend of flashbacks and modern-day drama to tell this melodramatic tale.
The story begins with a brief, monotonous address from June (Elisabeth Moss), illuminating by a single ray of filtered sunlight in a dimly lit room. Dressed in an unflattering red gown she begins to weave the tale of a dystopian American society where women are forced to be sexual concubines for the elite that rule the country with an iron fist. With all identification and any semblance of human rights for women destroyed overnight, what follows is a shocking, realistically depicted decline of society into a nightmarish dystopian hell. Within this bleak darkness of despair, hope begins to blossom from a small group of rebels who aim to overthrow the fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship and relinquish the iron grip over America.
What’s particularly interesting with The Handmaid’s Tale is just how expertly crafted the story really is. Although there are moments that linger a little longer than they should and a couple of episodes do re-use earlier scenes quite heavily, the unstructured format of the show – jumping back and forth between the past and present – only further reinforces the anarchistic chaos gripping the country.
The cinematography all round is generally very impressive and on top of the unique editing that jarringly cuts between the past and present, the sublime use of colour and music reinforces the despair hanging over June throughout the series. Harsh whites and blacks contrast with the handmaid’s red gowns and throughout the world these colours continuously crop up.
The aforementioned music is also just as impressively crafted; the lyrical content of the pop music used throughout the series is cleverly implemented with a mixture of reinforcement and juxtaposing the emotions felt by the characters at that time. All of this combines with slick camera movements that not only make The Handmaid’s Tale a well written dystopian piece but also incredibly artistic too.
In most media, sexual content usually serves no purposes other than to break up the dramatic tension but in The Handmaid’s Tale, which explores sexuality and a world without love and affection, it’s integral to the main narrative and every sex scene between characters – intimate or not – serve a purpose to the overall story making them just as important as the main drama itself.
All of this would account for nothing if the acting was sub-par but The Handmaid’s Tale nails this element too. The subtle facial expressions and hidden emotions from June are really well portrayed and the way every character nails their persona is certainly impressive too. Even Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and Mrs Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), who are consistently the most despicable characters, are given flaws and human emotions making it quite the conflicting watch at times.
The Handmaid’s Tale is simply a very well written, endearing series. With some great acting at its core and an interesting artistic edge, few shows can match this one when it comes to dystopian sci-fi. Although there is a tendency to re-use earlier scenes from previous episodes and the finale does end on one rather big cliffhanger, The Handmaid’s Tale is unrivalled in its execution, making it one of the best shows of 2017 and well worth checking out.