The Handmaid’s Tale is soon returning for more episodes of misery and misogyny to the nth degree, and the reviews are coming in for the second season of Hulu’s morbid series.
If at the end of Season1 you expected things to turn around for the handmaids and society as a whole, you are way, way off. At best, things seem to be staying just as bleak as before, but perhaps with a bit less of the nuance that made Season 1 so horribly addictive, as Mashable’s own Jess Joho noted in her review of Season 2.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 opens up the claustrophobic scope of Season 1, following the characters into new locations and through new difficulties. Reviewers only had access to the first six episodes, so they can’t paint a full picture of the success of the second season, but the first chunk of episodes seem a little disjointed, although are peppered with the excellent performances we’ve come to expect from the cast.
Read on to see what critics think of the first chunk of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2.
Maureen Ryan, Variety:
What comes through clearly in the opening episode of the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is June’s silent, burning rage. We now know, of course, that her name is not Offred, but June. Chin up, defiant, she declares her first and last name quietly but fiercely several times as the Hulu drama gets underway in a year in which it is, somehow, even more relevant.
What it does to June to switch between names — and each adjustment costs part of her soul — is apparent in every close-up of Elisabeth Moss in this handsome, excellent, morally dextrous series. Moss’ face is, of course, one of the world’s most transfixing transmitters of emotion. The drama’s creative team knew that when they made the Emmy-winning first season, but The Handmaid’s Tale takes even more advantage of her bountiful skills this time out.
Rob Sheffeild, Rolling Stone:
Ann Dowd is back as the horrifying Aunt Lydia, the sadistic mistress who torments her handmaids, like a dystopian vision of the principal from Rock and Roll High School. Lydia is fond of thundering, “There are two kinds of freedom: freedom to and freedom from.” Gilead promises lots of freedom from, at the price of any conceivable freedom to. But nobody here gets to make the choice. Samira Wiley (Poussey from Orange Is The New Black) returns as Moira, reunited in Canada with Offred’s husband (O.T. Fabenle). Bradley Whitford joins as a powerful Commander, along with Marisa Tomei, Cherry Jones and Clea Duvall, adding to the already packed cast of Alexis Bledel, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes.
Heavy on the violence against women
Jess Joho, Mashable:
Picking up where we left off, June/Offred is in a van driving to an unknown future. When the doors open, it’s to a scene of utter depravity and chaos: Military men armed with assault rifles are screaming at frightened handmaids while vicious attack dogs bark at them. In case all that didn’t get the message across, the handmaids are muzzled. Some are beaten for no discernible reason.
As they’re violently herded onto a field, Offred realizes it’s a famous Boston landmark: Fenway Park. There are rows of nooses lined up for mass execution. The handmaids are shoved into the hanging ropes. One of them is so afraid she urinates, to the tune of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work.”
Kelly Lawler, USA Today:
Handmaid’s was too capital-I important, and too intellectual, to be pulpy and cheap. But in the first six episodes made available for review, it verges on that territory, from an excruciatingly long sequence of dozens of people being led to a gallows to another (in the same episode) of a woman being handcuffed to a stove with an open flame. Fans often noted that the violence and anguish made the series difficult to watch, and the problem has only increased this time around.
Opening up the world
Hoai-Tran Bui, Slash Film:
Aided by her lover and baby daddy Nick (Max Minghella), June attempts to escape Gilead. But her sudden disappearance alerts the entire upper echelon of Gilead — especially with her carrying the baby “belonging” to Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). Meanwhile, Emily (a brilliant Alexis Bledel) is wiling away as an Unwoman at the radiation-saturated Colonies, and Luke and Moira are biding their time working with refugees in Canada.
Jess Joho, Mashable:
To that end, Season 2 expands our view of Gilead. We see what life in the colonies is like, which was only ever hinted at before. We spend time in “Little America” in Toronto, where Gilead refugees live.
It’s less zoomed in on Offred’s stifled life, increasing its scope to the larger world that oppresses her. What this makes very clear is that the Hulu Original is now no longer an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel. Atwood’s book ended in almost exactly the same way Season 1 did — and it was ambiguous for a reason.
More of the same
Rob Sheffeild, Rolling Stone:
This dystopian drama couldn’t exactly be called a thriller – the violence is grueling in its sheer repetition, as the female characters keep getting brutalized to the constant soundtrack of sobbing and whimpering. The first season kept hinting at the possibility of resistance, dangling the hope of the Handmaids banding together or rising up. But every time it feinted at a “let’s go, ladies” twist, the bootheel came crashing down. The challenge for Season 2 will be whether the series can build up some sense of suspense, as it takes the story further than Atwood took it before.
Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter:
With Moss again leading the way, The Handmaid’s Tale continues to thrive in many of the same emotional, yet soaringly beautiful, ways it succeeded last year — though several key flaws remain unimproved and are sometimes even exacerbated because everything else around them is so good.
The first two episode of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 release on Hulu on April 25.