Night – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Mary and Martha – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Useful – | Review Score – 4/5
God Bless the Child – | Review Score – 4/5
Unknown Caller – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Household – | Review Score – 5/5
Under His Eye – | Review Score – 3/5
Unfit – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Heroic – | Review Score – 2/5
Bear Witness – | Review Score – 3/5
Liars – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Sacrifice – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Mayday – | Review Score – 5/5
The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those shows that’s better to binge watch in a few days than wait every week for the next episode. The third season is the perfect example of this too, with a wildly inconsistent season of quality, shifting from some of the worst episodes in its history up to some of the most dramatic and memorable. With the recent announcement that 10 seasons have been mapped out, the third begins to show the first signs of fatigue. Some dramatic and tense bites of action, showing off just how good this show can be, are contrasted by some real lows that showcase how poor the writing and pacing of Handmaid’s Tale can be at its worst.
Picking up where it left off from before, the third season sees June return to Gilead, having been offered the chance to leave for Canada but deciding not to take it. Promising change from within, with a trailer that feels incredibly misleading on reflection now, the 13 episodes that follow sees June stumble through various story beats as she struggles to instigate change from within. From teasing glimpses of Serena joining her and Commander Lawrence’s see-saw emotions having an effect on June’s plans, the third season feels very stop/start for large swathes of its run-time.
It’s ironic then that The Handmaid’s Tale’s worst episode happens to be the key catalyst to the urgency returning in the second half of the season, as June sets to work in trying to smuggle children out of Gilead and into Canada. It’s a bold plan and one that culminates in an incredibly tense and dramatic finale that certainly makes the long wait worth it, delivering one of The Handmaid’s Tale’s best episodes. It’s just frustrating that so much of the season staggers and stumbles rather than confidently swaggering to the finish line.
The third season is really a tale of two halves and nowhere else is that more apparent than with the visual design of the show. Beginning with the usual deep-rooted ties to reds and whites, the early episodes adhere to the rigid structure painted by the previous seasons of showcasing thematic and thought provoking imagery through its deliberate choice of colours. Around the midway point, this is abandoned in favour of a more focused storyline but the visual differences do feel jarring at times, as bright blues and green filter into the palette.
For a lot of the season though, The Handmaid’s Tale feels like a show that can’t quite decide how to execute its master plan of a revolution. June flirts with the idea numerous times and despite some early promise, a lot of the season fails to really deliver until near the end of its 13 episode season. There’s certainly some stand-out moments here no doubt, but the glacial pacing too often overshadows the good work put into the world building and narrative.
With more Handmaid’s Tale to come, Hulu’s dystopian thriller has been bit of a topsy turvy ride this year. There’s a lot of filler episodes and a few questionable inclusions, including one truly woeful episode that ironically happens to be one of the most important. Given the injection of urgency at the end, the promise of a more direct and pacey fourth season could be on the table but whether the show will deliver this or revert back to old tricks remains to be seen. While it’s still a far cry from its early material, The Handmaid’s Tale leaves the door wide open for its fourth season with a show currently resting on a knife edge between brilliance and wasted potential.