The Handmaid’s Arrival

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On Wednesday, April 26, the awaited Hulu original The Handmaid’s Tale premiered with three striking episodes that marked the beginning of the TV show adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s most famous novel.

In the two decades since the novel was first published, many adaptations were made, even as a ballet and opera, but the Hulu original marked the first time the novel was adapted into a series. Since its first trailer was released in March and the spreading of production rumors that happened even before then, Atwood fans, like myself, have waited patiently for the April release date.

What most experienced Atwood readers will love most about the show is how true to the book the show remains. The story of both the novel and the show follows the life of  Offred (Elisabeth Moss), who is a handmaid, a woman kept for reproductive services in a frightening, future world of alarmingly low fertility rates. These handmaids are assigned to certain “commanders” at different posts to provide him and his wife children. The show follows the details truthfully to  fully immerse the audience. From the repetition of chilling phrases to the symbolic wardrobe, the show almost never misses a point. However, the points that the show does miss are noteworthy — such as the reveal of Offred’s true name to be June — but do not detract from the show greatly.

The mood of the show is artfully created. From the very first chase scene, I found myself unable to look away from the screen. The story is not told simply through the dialogue. Certain shots defined by purposeful cinematography add depth to the tale of the handmaid. The music is also orchestrated to strike familiar yet dissonant chords in our hearts, eliciting fear but also reminding us that this is a future that is as guaranteed as it is not. All of these aspects work together in a resonant scene in the novel, the first Salvaging, where many handmaids violently attack a rapist.

My attention to the show’s story was only amplified by the great acting of the cast. We get familiar faces of Joseph Fiennes who plays “The Commander” and Orange is the New Black star Samira Wiley, who plays the brave and steadfast Moira. Moss’s performance is what dominates the show, simultaneously emulating hatred, hope, and perseverance in subtle emotions that would not be seen as a threat to the totalitarian world around her.

Despite all of these aspects, my favorite part of the show is it’s relevance. While the premise of the show may seem farfetched, certain moments in the show blur the line between fiction and reality. These instances are quick or subtle — when Moira mentions Uber to June in a flashback and when Offred visits the local market that looks generic enough to be any modern local market today.

Written in the mid-1990s, this novel was meant to predict a far-off and nearly unbelievable future society. When the show is able to so easily mix our current reality to the written future, the audience is forced to question whether our future has been shown to us through this show and if yes, how much longer we would wait until we fulfill this prophecy. And this effect is what creates a good show. The Handmaid’s Tale is extremely relevant and makes us question our current values as a society with its artful execution. From judging the first episode alone, I look forward to future episodes and give the premiere 4/5 stars.

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