Season two of The Handmaid’s Tale picks up with the handmaids facing punishment for their refusal to stone Janine (Madeline Brewer) to death. June (Elisabeth Moss) is spared due to her pregnancy but the growing child inside her means her relationships with Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Nick (Max Minghella) become ever more complex.
The series continues to explore the past, delving into how Moria (Samira Wiley) became a mother, June’s own relationship with her mother and the origins of Gilead, which begins to give a more holistic picture of Serena Joy. There’s also a further exploration into the start of June and Luke’s (O.T. Fanbegle) relationship and Nick’s past.
With the series decoupled from Margaret Atwood’s novel, there is room to explore other perspectives and trip to Canada for Serena Joy and the Commander gives an interesting insight into how Gilead is perceived by the outside world. Further to this, Nick is assigned a bride (Sydney Sweeney), which challenges his perspective of the regime even further. The wives start to realise just how limited their privilege is and what they have sacrificed for the world they thought they wanted.
In many ways The Handmaid’s Tale continues to be a great series. It is brutal, challenging and deeply upsetting. There were episodes involving June’s pregnancy and her desperate desire to see her estranged daughter, Hannah that had me sobbing. The ideas and topics it explores are current and relevant and its packed with outstanding performances.
In other ways though, there is a decline in quality since the first season. There are too many odd abortive storylines. I struggle to see the point of June’s failed escape or why Moira’s trauma in her new life is just abandoned as a topic. The pacing fluctuates between glacial and overly rapid and there are some lazy coincidences. The biggest bugbear I have (and I don’t seem to be alone) is the ending. [SPOILER ALERT]. Where does this underground Martha network suddenly come from? And how is Emily’s (Alexis Bledel) new commander just tootling along doing whatever the fuck he likes with no one noticing?
All of this said, it’s still one of the better things on TV at the moment and I am interested to see where the third season takes us. Is a women’s rebellion afoot (I bloody hope so). 3.5/5