Any fan of the Emmy Award-winning, “The Handmaid’s Tale” could not deny their anticipation for the premiere of the show’s fifth season on Sept. 14. Streamed on Hulu, “The Handmaid’s Tale” expands upon Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, telling the story of June Osborne’s life after being forced to become a Handmaid under the theocratic country of Gilead. As a Handmaid in this dystopian world, June Osborne was faced with bearing children for the Commander whose house she lived in under the guidelines of his wife. I think it’s safe to say the show is set on a pretty wild premise, but fans have shown dedication to watching the characters’ strength against a belief structure that sees them as property.
The fifth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” bluntly opens with a simple question: What now? In season four, fans saw June (Elizabeth Moss) finally escape Gilead and return to her husband and friends as a refugee in Canada, but her intense need for revenge against the vile Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) was at the forefront of her mind until she (literally) tore him apart in last season’s finale. After being cleared of any charges from that murder, June has to deal with the question of whether she is able to move on with her husband and young daughter.
This season deals heavily with forgiveness and our attempts at change. June and her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) do their best to readjust to living as a married couple, but they are still pulled into Gilead when they are reminded that their older daughter is still there. There’s a particularly striking scene in the second episode where we see cuts between scenes of June watching a ballet performance and scenes of Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) conducting a performance of her own at her husband’s televised performance, which is a very clear way of telling the audience that their rivalry isn’t going anywhere. Moreover, Gilead never leaves June as we see rising sentiment for Gilead’s theocratic structure in Canada itself, making the characters’ safe place no longer so. Though the characters living in both Canada and Gilead attempt to change their living conditions, everyone finds it’s not that easy.
And some characters are meant to stay in contact with each other. June would love nothing more than to never see Serena Joy again after all of the abuse and hate she faced from her in Gilead, and yet, she finds herself helping the Commander’s wife to have a baby in a barn this season. However, even though Serena has put June through so much pain, June ultimately decides that change can only happen if we stick to our principles in every situation.
The directors’ passion for the story this season is just as deeply embedded in the show as June’s beliefs. Though the show invites various directors to this 10-episode season, Moss directs multiple episodes, including the finale. While constructing scenes of June fleeing Toronto with her daughter while Gilead’s influence grows, Moss was deeply thinking of the current refugee crises in our own world, showing how a dystopian show like “The Handmaid’s Tale” can help us think through our own present-day problems.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is dark and twisting, but you can’t help but be amazed as the actors beautifully tell a story of human strife and strength against collecting vices of governments and society. The show allows us to see what happens when we make all the wrong choices in our world, but it still conveys that we should never give in to letting injustice take over our lives.
Title: “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season Five
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Madeline Brewer
Favorite episodes: “Ballet,” “Safe”
Where to watch: Hulu
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5
Contact Sophia at @smichett.nd.edu.