The Last Ceremony
When it comes to believably written dystopian worlds, few come close to The Handmaid’s Tale. Armed with some beautiful cinematography and a much bigger story than the first season, The Handmaid’s Tale improves in almost every way, despite some questionable plot beats and a few false-starts with the overarching story. Themes around hope and life crop up throughout the 13 episodes too, ending with a finale that’s sure to split the fanbase.
The story picks up right where the previous season left off. June, along with a lot of the other handmaids, are taken to a stadium in the middle of the night to suffer the consequences of their actions. June’s act of defiance last season causes a ripple of punishment to descend across the women until Aunt Lydia learns June is pregnant. From here, the plot really forks, as we see perspectives from different characters, including Serena Waterford and June’s friend, Emily, all whilst June continues to try and survive in this bleak new world.
As the season progresses, June’s continued attempts to escape are thwarted, climaxing with the birth of her second child and a big decision made late on that looks set to change Gilead forever. As whispers of rebellion ring around the country, including an explosion and even Aunt Lydia conflicted in her role, June finds solace in a very unlikely source leading to a thrilling finale but an ending that’s sure to polarize people.
Much like the first season, The Handmaid’s Tale continues to be a treasure trove of artistic beauty. The strong use of reds, whites, blacks and navy blue are things I’ve commented on before in my season 1 review but this time around, pockets of yellow show up too, subtly placed in flashbacks and seemingly minor scenes. Yellow generally symbolizes new beginnings and hope which are both pretty big themes this year so it certainly fits with the show.
While the second season of Handmaid’s Tale certainly feels bigger and more action-orientated than before, it’s ultimately the characters that keep this feeling consistent and as absorbing as the first season was. Elisabeth Moss is fantastic as always portraying June, with a mix of inner-rage and an aura of calmness acting as a beautiful juxtaposition to her character this year.
Ultimately though it’s Yvonne Strahovski’s portrayal of Serena Waterford that stands out. Her transformation this year from the hard-nosed wife of Commander Waterford through to the softer, more rebellious person we see at the end is something that’s incredibly satisfying to watch and more importantly, feels very realistic and well written.
Many people have commented on June’s lenient treatment as a handmaid by the Waterford’s this year and it’s certainly a valid point. The other big talking point is the end scene on the last episode which I won’t go into details of here but suffice to say it is a big talking point. Personally, I feel like this choice fits the character and more importantly, is consistent with the themes this year around new beginnings. Of course, as we saw in the first season there are consequences to actions so quite what this means for June remains to be seen, but it’s something that looks set to be a very intriguing notion indeed.
The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite shows on TV and one of the most consistent too. There’s a lot of visual beauty in this dystopian world and the strong use of colour, scene composition and acting make it a near-perfect aesthetic thrill-ride. While there are a few lulls in the plot and a couple of episodes feel like filler, the bigger world and more urgent story this time around make it a better season than the first. Quite where The Handmaid’s Tale goes from here is anyone’s guess but given the ending of the season, big changes are coming.