Has anyone in the history of television ever managed to fail to escape, or escape and be caught, as much as THE HANDMAID’S TALE June? I suspect not, so if you’re ready for some more of that then season 4 returns to your screens at the end of the month.
Season 3 ended with June rescuing a plane full of children and other refugees, but choosing to stay behind in Gilead with the hope of one day saving her eldest child, and we pick up shortly after this left off on both sides of the border. Up in Canada our time is split between the established lives of Luke and Moira, the newly escaped Rita, and the incarcerated couple Serena and Fred. Back in the old US of A time is spent solely with June and her band of escaped Handmaids.
The show has definitely learnt some lessons from its iffier second season, where the brutality reached quite impressive heights. Things remain largely toned down from back then, which certainly works to the show’s credit. Obviously, what’s happening in Gilead is horrible for many people who live, but at one point the show was veering on torture-porn levels of grimness so I’m glad that seems to have been firmly assigned to the past.
What it does still attempt to balance on is the line between the hardships and terrors faced by all its characters, whichever side of the border they live on, and the hopefulness that comes from June’s rebellious actions and their impact on the world. It is largely successful in this, but there are still some odd moments where it jumps a bit wildly from one to the other. Sometimes this works really well, illicitling at least one shocked gasp from me as I watched last night, but at other times it does feel a little strange.
One of the clearest areas of the show which remains a highlight is its music, which continues to fit the moment perfectly. Whether that’s a great piece of score or, more likely, an impressively well-chosen piece of commercial music, it all just works. For me though, the real highlight remains Madeline Brewer’s Janine. She’s gone from being a memorable side character to almost an audience proxy, taken along on June’s journey whether she wants to or not. In the fourth season she continues to steal every scene she’s in, and I love her for it.
Whilst THE HANDMAID’S TALE undeniably remains as one of the best shows on TV in its new season, it continues to feel a little like it’s struggling to reach the giddy heights where it began. Yes, it’s learnt the lessons of its past and this is certainly not its weakest set of episodes, but I still couldn’t quite get on board with everything it was selling. Part of the show’s horror was in its similarities to Trump’s policies and his armed followers, and things are clearly now different in that regard under Biden. Yet, thankfully the show manages to stay relevant in some of its newer storylines, and I hope that as the season progresses it manages to keep up the pace and keep us all interested.
The first 3 episodes of season 4 of THE HANDMAID’S TALE premiere on April 28th, with a new episode every Wednesday until the season finale on June 16th.
Do you plan to watch the series? Let me know in the comments!
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