The Handmaid’s Tale Review: “Night”

The Hand-maid’s Tale ends its first season with rays of hope. Moira arrives in Canada, and the Handmaids engage in an act of defiance.

We see the novel’s actual conclusion, but not its famous epilogue.

Titles: “Night”

Cast and Crew

Director: Kari Skogland
Writer: Bruce Miller, from the novel by Margaret Atwood

Elisabeth Moss as Offred / June
Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred Waterford
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
Madeline Brewer as Janine
Max Minghella as Nick
Samira Wiley as Moira
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Amanda Brugel as Rita
O-T Fagbenle as Luke
Tattiawna Jones as Ofglen #2
Stephen Kunken as Commander Putnam
Nina Kiri as Alma
Jenessa Grant as Ofsamuel
Bruce Tubbe as Matthew
Jordana Blake as Hannah
David Kirby as Commander Bennett
Ryan Perlus as Surgeon
Lisa Michelle Cornelius as Volunteer
Andrew Moodie as Mike Ahn

Premise

As Moira heads for the Canadian border, June discovers the contents of the package, and learns she is pregnant.

Commander Putnam receives sentencing.

After an act of defiance by the Handmaids, the Eyes comes for June/Offred.

High Point

The show is brilliantly crafted, well-acted, and frequently harrowing.

It also reminds us, without being excessive, that these things happen. Public stonings in the modern era? Medical people participating in inhumane legal punishments? Oppressed people helping shape the system that oppresses them? Family Values as a justification to tear families apart? Religious and political and ideology being used as a cudgel to restrict information, or deny its factually accuracy?

Look around you. These things have happened. These things are happening.

And—particularly when we abandon reason—they happen here.

Low Point

I didn’t so much mind “American Girl playing at the closing, but the other, earlier song felt out of place.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 Although the episode features a literal adaptation of Atwood’s novel—the best choice, in my opinion—several new scenes precede it that indicate Gilead has started to unravel. The novel’s epilogue show us it won’t last forever; the series will feature another season, apparently, that will move the story in that direction. The new scenes work very well.
We also have an original scene in which Serena Joy makes a sinister power-play.

Effects: 3/6

Acting: 6/6 The cast all do brilliantly here, from disturbed Janine to distraught and, later, defiant June. Yvonne Strahovski shows us Serena Joy at her worst. Ann Dowd also puts in another performance that shows us the psychological pressures faced by Aunt Lydia. She has become comprehensible in the show, without being any less of a villain. She has sown the wind; like the rest of Gilead, she shall reap the whirlwind.

Story: 6/6

Emotional Response: 6/6

Production: 6/6 Atrocities occurs against backgrounds that appear so very familiar to us.

Overall: 6/6 I don’t know that I will watch a future season. The story has been told.

In total, “Night” receives 37/42

8 replies on “The Handmaid’s Tale Review: “Night””

  1. Brian says:

    Does anyone know if this will get a DVD release? I assume that if any, it would be just before season two would hit the “airwaves.”

  2. zocalo says:

    Not sure on watching future seasons either, but I’ll probably let them air a few episodes, see what the reviews are like then binge watch to catch up if it looks like they’ve managed to come up with an interesting direction to go in.

    I deeply suspect it’ll morph fairly quickly into a standard “overthrow the evil regime” arc with the usual changes in allegiance, fake-outs, shock reveals, and implausibly lucky heroes though, which would really cheapen the source material – as you say, the story (epilogue aside) is done. How many seasons they get is going to depend on how many feel the same way, particularly fans of the book who feel the story is now done, and how that translates into reduced viewing figures. If the numbers crash, season 3 would be as unlikely as a plausible overthrow of Gilead in a single season – although I suppose they could always wrap with the book’s epilogue at any suitable cliff-hanger point.

  3. Jethro says:

    Please no spoilers.

    I’ve skipped past all the text, but I wanted to ask this:

    How much is this show like the book?

    Because while I think the book is very well-written, it was incredibly difficult for me to read. The kind of subjugation and de-personalisation describe in it are just extremely hard for me to deal with – the implied helplessness and despair of the characters and the situations along with, well, me not being able to do anything about it… ugh.

    So I’m not sure I could watch it if that carries over.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      The show has quite a bit of the elements you mention, and it certainly follows the same basic plot.

      You don’t have the first-person narration (occasionally), so you see things the novel’s Offred could not narrate. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation, but it takes its own directions. Much of it is very bleak, and the characters face considerable helplessness. The last episode offers more overt hope than the novel’s last chapter, since the series lacks the epilogue that tells us Gilead doesn’t last.

      • Jethro says:

        OK, thanks! Followup question: I’m inferring from your comment that the season is over and the show is now bingeable?

        • JD DeLuzio says:

          Season’s over.
          We’re at the end of Atwood’s novel.
          I don’t know if I’ll watch Season Two.

          But the entire show can be watched. In fact (downloads aside) the Canadian carrier is running the entire season, I think, Thursday or Friday.

          • Jethro says:

            Ah, yet another excuse to move to Canada!

            No, seriously, can I move to Canada? That was my Plan A but I ended up in the US…

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