THE Handmaid’s Tale is without a doubt one of the most intense TV shows to watch thanks to its setting in a dystopian America.
Based on the acclaimed book by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale sees the totalitarian state of Gilead rule parts of America after a military coop wipes out the Government.
Gilead subjects fertile women to child-bearing slavery, while the likes of homosexuals, priests and people of other professions before the civil war are persecuted.
The Gilead way of life makes for harrowing viewing as the Handmaids, including Elisabeth Moss’ lead character Offred/June Osborne struggles to survive.
With three seasons under its belt so far, the Hulu series has gone beyond Margaret’s original book and ushered in some disturbing scenes as it went.
The ‘New Normal’
Season one flashes between three different time frames, life before Gilead, the first days and weeks of the new regime and the present. Viewers see June and other scared women introduced to their new roles as Handmaids at the Red Centre by Aunt Lydia, who isn’t afraid to show them who is boss if they don’t cooperate. The Aunt’s use cattle prods and other sadistic methods to get the women to comply, with Aunt Lydia telling them in a matter of fact manner: “Soon this will all be normal”.
Infertility had become rife in the America that existed before Gilead, and the new regime introduces a monthly ‘Ceremony’ to try and help the Commanders – who rule Gilead – and their wives have children. Viewers get to see the Ceremony take place between June, Commander Waterford and his wife Serena Joy. June – now called Offred after her Commander, lying with her head in Serena’s lap and the pair holding hands, as the Commander has sex with her at the end of the bed.
Another Handmaid, Ofglen, is found guilty of committing ‘gender treachery’ after having a secret relationship with a maid, known in Gilead as a Martha. Ofglen is forced to watch her lover be hanged before she wakes up in a sterile room and discovers she has been genitally mutilated. Ofglen’s struggles continue into season two when she is shipped off to the Colonies, where she is forced to shovel chemical waste until it kills her. Thankfully she manages to survive but the harrowing experiences she faces across the series certainly leave their mark on her, as well as viewers.
While Serena Joy was a dedicated member of the Gilead upper classes in season one, by season two, she has started to realise the regime she helped create isn’t necessarily right. Women in Gilead – even those of Serena’s stature – are banned from reading, and when the former author challenges this in front of her husband and his fellow Commanders by reading from the Bible, she pays the price and has her little finger chopped off.
June raped by the Waterfords
As if their treatment of June wasn’t bad enough, in season two they take things to a whole other grotesque level when they decide to rape their heavily pregnant handmaid. June was denied a placement near her daughter from before Gilead, Hannah, by Commander Waterford, leading her to lash out and say the baby wasn’t his and that he’ll never have a child of his own. While she didn’t reveal the baby was her lover Nick’s, her words were enough to cause Commander Waterford to take revenge in the most unforgivable way, forcing himself on June as Serena helped hold her down.
Infidelity is a crime in Gilead, and a person either has to repent their sin or drown if they are found out. In season two, teenager Eden falls for a Guardian called Isaac after being forced into a marriage with Nick. Eden is a dedicated member of Gilead, but it’s not enough to save her, and when her clandestine affair is discovered, both Isaac and Eden are taken to a public pool where they are chained and weighed down. As the Waterford’s, her mother, June and the Handmaids watch on, the brutal scene sees Eden and Isaac fail to repent their sins as they stand on a diving board, before being pushed off and drown at the bottom of the pool.
The Reluctant Ceremony
In one of the most psychologically harrowing scenes, June has to convince her new Commander, Commander Lawrence, to go ahead with the Ceremony after other Commanders become suspicious of him. Commander Lawrence helped create Gilead, but as time goes on it is clear he regrets a lot of his actions, and doesn’t make his wife of his handmaid go through with the Ceremony. However, to keep both of the positions secure, June talks Lawrence into going through with it under the watchful eye of his peers.
Natalie becomes June’s new shopping companion but her seemingly unwavering dedication to Gilead angers June. When she discovers Natalie is spying on her, and that her information got Frances killed, June turns on her in spectacularly horrendous fashion. June gets Natalie ostracized by the other handmaid’s before revealing Natalie’s doubts over having a fourth baby. Natalie begins to unravel under all the stress being piled on around her, leading her to attack June and be shot by the guards, leaving her brain dead.
Despite June’s antics, she is somehow invited along with the Waterfords and Aunt Lydia to Washington D.C from Boston. June and even Aunt Lydia are horrified to discover how life is for the Handmaids there, as they are constantly muzzled so people cannot see that their mouths are pierced shut. The reveal is one of the most chilling and disturbing images so far.
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/tv/1749877/the-handmaids-tale-most-harrowing-moments/