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May 1, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale, Episode 1 Review

by Niamh Crosbie

In today’s political climate, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four isn’t the only book about a horrific, sterile, censored future that’s been making a comeback. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has come to the screen thanks to Hulu, and the first episode promises to deliver a dark, thrilling series.

With its third episode now available for viewing, here is how the world is introduced in the series’ pilot, for those of you who are undecided about watching it or not.

In the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States of America), Offred is a Handmaid. In a world where infertility has reportedly spread like a disease, and where using birth control is a sin punishable by death, her job is to bear children for the wealthy Commander Waterford in place of his infertile wife.

The episode introduces us to Offred’s past, where her name was June, and she had a husband named Jake and a daughter named Hannah. We also meet her best friend Moira (played by Samira Wiley, Orange is the New Black‘s Poussey) through a series of flashbacks, as well as other Handmaid’s Janine and Ofglen. We are also introduced to Offred’s present, where she is under constant surveillance, is treated like a walking womb by Commander and Mrs. Waterford, has no contact with any of her friends or family, and is made participant in horrifying executions.

Based on Atwood’s novel from 1985, the first episode brings the “modern day” scenes right up to date, with cheeky little mentions of Tinder and Uber; It’s not clear whether these touches will succeed in making the narrative more relevant to current viewers, or simply make the series seem dated in years to come, while the novel’s world remains universally accessible.

Episode One is riddled with violence, torture, questionable sexual consent, corpses hanging by a waterfront, and portrays an extremely repressive society where punishment involves being sent to die in a wasteland of radiation poisoning.

With its second and third episodes now also available, The Handmaid’s Tale is by no means happy viewing, but a worthwhile watch.


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