Season Two of The Handmaid’s Tale explores new aspects of Gileadean society, reveals the pasts of characters, weds Nick to a child-bride, and then….

Titles: “Baggage,” “Other Women,” “Seeds,” “First Blood”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Dorothy Fortenberry, Yahlin Chang, Kira Snyder, Eric Tuchman
Writers: Kari Skogland and Mike Barker, from the novel by Margaret Atwood

Elisabeth Moss as Offred / June Osborn
Alexis Bledel as Emily
Tattiawna Jones as Ofglen Mark II
O-T Fagbenle as Luke
Max Minghella as Nick
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred Waterford
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
Sydney Sweenye as Eden
Amanda Brugel as Rita
Clea DuVall a Sylvia
Madeline Brewer as Janine
Kristian Bruun as Doctor
Robert Curtis Brown as Andrew Pryce
Greg Bryk as Commander Cushing
Stephen Kunken as Warren Putnam
Samira Wiley as Moira
Cherry Jones as Holly Maddox
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Omar
Vas Saranga as Kyle
Asia Rempel as Young June
Erin Way as Erin
Nina Kiri as Alma
Kelly Jenrette as Annie
Ever Carradine as Naomi Putnam
Shahi Teruko as Gwendolyn
Jenessa Grant as Ofsamuel
Bahia Watson as Oferic
Jordana Blake as Hannah

Premise

June spends some time on the run before being recaptured and returned to the Waterford House. We see glimpses of characters’ pasts, the rise of Gilead, and the hideous reality of the Colonies. Just when the central storyline risks becoming grimly uninteresting in contrast to the rest of the show, “First Blood” delivers an incendiary charge that will change The Handmaid’s Tale forever.

High Points

The show develops the backstory and expands on the world-building, with disturbing results. We learn a good deal more about these characters and the forces that have shaped them. We also feel uncomfortably certain that this society could exist.

Low Point

Offred/June’s storyline not only undercuts the first season/novel’s finale, it pales beside the other plots. While still brilliantly acted and staged, Offred’s life, after her brief time on the run, plays like a soap opera set in a dystopian world.

And, as I noted last season, the show’s version of Aunt Lydia really gets around.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 4/6 The show remains strong, visually, and this season includes some special effects. The most prominent, recent one, is clearly CGI.

Acting: 6/6 Sydney Sweenye and others enhance an already impressive cast.

Story: 5/6 I found June’s life on the run compelling. Just when the show seems to slog down in Offred/June’s unpleasant life, “First Blood” delivers an explosive, story-changing surprise.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, these four episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale receive 35/42