'The Handmaid's Tale' took the world by surprise when the first season aired, especially since the Trump administration had just come into power. It was the time when women across the world were trying to empower each other through marches, sharing stories of abuse - physical and mental - to let fellow victims know that it was okay to speak out. In the midst of all this, 'The Handmaid's Tale' based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name, found viewers who could connect with the characters on screen.
The first season of the show was a shocking display of how toxic patriarchy takes over a country. The women in the country are treated more like cattle grouped into different categories to serve different purposes of the men in the affluent side of the society. Even the wives are treated like doormats, with all of them having no choice, but to serve at the whims and fancies of their masters. To disobey was to invite punishment and not the variety that let you off with jail time. In Gilead, the dystopian world that handmaid Offred belongs to, punishment usually was execution or a road to death. There was no choice of redemption. The only way to survive the madness of it all was to serve your masters whether you were a handmaid, a martha, unwomen or wife. In season 1, the violence was always bubbling beneath the surface. The shock was mostly connected to the way the women were treated. Can being in a same-sex relationship really mean execution? It did in 'The Handmaid's Tale' and that was just the beginning.
The second season took it up a notch because all the violence that was buried deep down had to boil over some day. There was whipping, rape, bombing, and even mock mass hangings and all of that affected the audience; in some cases adversely too. Many wondered if the show was unnecessarily trying to lend a darker tone to the show after its successful first season but Kira Snyder, the writer of the show, said to Refinery, " There are topics that are just straight up hard for people to watch. This season, in particular, is about motherhood and being pregnant, and depending on your circumstance, I imagine you might want to give yourself some time to get to [it]. But we're never ever trying to be shocking or dark for shock or darkness' sake, and it's really important to all of us, and to me, to make sure that we find the lightness and the hope inside that."
The Guardian's writer Fiona Sturges wrote, "But in its second phase, The Handmaid’s Tale has stripped away all hope, swallowed its fury, abandoned Atwood’s social commentary and descended into cynical, pointless cruelty. It has left us as mere rubberneckers, peering stupidly at the carnage." This was in comparison to the first season, which the writer considered was more of a social commentary in keeping with Atwood's novel.
This brings us to the third season. Will the makers take it further or will they curtail it to make space for the revolution that they have been teasing? The trailer of the new season hints at the Marthas, the Handmaids and if things go Offred-June Osborne's (Elisabeth Moss) way, then even the wives in Gilead bring down the patriarchal, regressive system. If violence were to be a part of the season, would it be defensive in nature? Would the women of Gilead take the route of violence to achieve their goal? We will have to wait and watch out for the same when 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 3 premieres on Hulu on June 5.
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