Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale reminded us of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. Both are TV adaptations of award-winning critically acclaimed scifi novels that involve a dystopian reality, whether set in the past or the future.
Essentially, the plot is set in the the former United States now ruled by the totalitarian and Christian fundamentalist government of Gilead amidst an ongoing civil war.
Widespread infertility has resulted in the conscription of the few remaining fertile women — called Handmaids, according to Biblical precedent — who are assigned to the homes of the ruling elite, where they must submit to ritualised rape with their male masters in order to become pregnant and bear children for those men and their wives.
Our protagonist Offred/June (Elizabeth Moss) is one such Handmaid and the narrative basically follows her life within the Waterford household viz. the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), flashbacks to her past and outside interactions with other Handmaids.
As can be expected, the tone of the series is harrowing and nightmarish with Offred/June trying to maintain her sanity and dignity, not to mention attempt to assist the Mayday resistance fighters in this hellhole.
Offred/June’s victories are few in number and the darkness slowly but surely overwhelms. The season finale echoes the novel’s denouement, with Offred/June being taken away from soldiers – “And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.” she narrates.
The difference is that whereas in the novel, the reader is never told about Offred/June’s final fate, this TV version continues into a 2nd season.
We highly recommend this series, mainly to remind ourselves about how easy human rights can disappear and authoritarian rulers can take control, seemingly for the greater good.
Once again, this is a fine example of how relevant scifi literature is, as a mirror to reflect not necessarily where society is now but where it might end up, if we are not careful.
… still there’s more …