When talking about the newest season of The Handmaid’s Tale, one must acknowledge the popularity of the first two seasons before starting to explore the latest episodes. The show has not only featured an interesting storyline but was also full of clever observations on societal structures, working mechanisms of everyday relationships and possible reactions to oppression. The show which was based on a novel written by Margaret Atwood did not only introduce us to the lives of those living in a dictatorial state, but it also depicted what sociology looks like when it is wrapped in a fiction novel. There was a new oppressive system being born on the screen and the viewer could witness the integration of citizens into the freshly formed society. The show takes a social scientist perspective by addressing the aforementioned issues; however, it is not far-fetched or directly scientific in an alienating way, but it is included in the plot. When watching it, consideration of social issues will come naturally to the viewer, just as empathy towards the characters.
During the first two seasons, both characters and viewers cumulated anger and the feeling of despair. The third season focuses on releasing these. The inability to change circumstances, unavoidable oppression managed to touch the audience: when watching The Handmaid’s Tale, we could all get a sense of what it is like to be powerless. After depicting endless injustice in a closed system, from which there is no escape, one could finally feel some hope. However, when watching Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) burning down the house, June (Elizabeth Moss) looking back and whispering ‘burn motherfucker’, one does not associate the events with heroic aspirations or a metanarrative guiding the main characters. What their actions give away is the only possible emotion left after being tortured, mutilated or raped: pure anger. The anger that gives the viewers relief from the despair of not seeing any possibility for change.
I have to admit, when I watched the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I felt energised and even a bit liberated. However, after exploring the episodes more and focusing on the possible aim of the author, I did not think this was the best possible way to continue the story of Gilead, the state where the events of the series took place. Is it not too optimistic to assume, that only because the women of the story have gathered their strength and decided to take actions, partial success would be guaranteed? What has changed in Gilead since season 1? What makes it possible for the network of Marthas to save countless children and help them find their way out of the country? Is it because June has finally formed a relationship with commander Lawrence, who has access to more sources she could ever imagine? The need for excitement should not mean negligence towards rationality, nor should it undermine what the previous seasons have built up. However, looking at the entire season, one could still not be overly unsatisfied, since there is plenty of character development put on screen. The character of Emily (played by Alexis Bledel) was shown in a completely new and challenging situation as she escaped Gilead and reunited with her wife and son. The acclimatisation after leaving the terror behind has not been easy and did not happen overnight. It shows real sensitivity to include this process in the story, instead of looking at the character as if her difficulties came to an end after leaving the dictatorial state.
I would not say the TV show has taken an unfortunate turn from where there is no coming back. Despite the increased number of superficially designed scenes, there is still a lot to tell about these women whose struggles we have been following in the last years. I could not be more curious about the next season and how it is going to continue the breath-taking tale.
Image: Lindsay Silveira via flickr