The Handmaid’s Tale continues, with society under pressure in the wake of recent events. The country remains a place run by hypocrites who insist they’re acting in the name of God and national interest, who preach a pro-family message while separating children from parents, exalting men who commit sexual assault, and denouncing the supposed falseness of reports against them while spouting blatant lies and obvious propaganda.

The cracks and contradictions in this society grow more apparent, and some of its most devout citizens begin to tremble at the monster they’ve helped create.

As a bonus, we get to see a little of life beyond Gilead. We make several trips to Canada, and we begin to feel the presence of the United States of America—that is, the parts that have neither been destroyed nor become a part of Gilead.1

Titles: “After,” “Women’s Work,” “Smart Power”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Kari Skogland, Jeremy Podeswa
Writers: Lynn Renee Maxcy, Nina Fiore, Dorothy Fortenberry, John Herrera, Bruce Miller, from the novel by Margaret Atwood

Elisabeth Moss as Offred / June Osborn
Max Minghella as Nick
Samira Wiley as Moira
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred Waterford
Alexis Bledel as Emily
O-T Fagbenle as Luke
Sydney Sweenye as Eden
Amanda Brugel as Rita
Clea DuVall a Sylvia
Madeline Brewer as Janine
Tattiawna Jones as Ofglen Mark II
Robert Curtis Brown as Andrew Pryce
Greg Bryk as Commander Cushing
Stephen Kunken as Warren Putnam
Ever Carradine as Naomi Putnam
Sam Jaeger as Mark Tuello
Erin Way as Erin
Greg Bryk as Ray Cushing
Rebecca Rittenhouse as Odette
Nina Kiri as Alma
Bahia Watson as Brianna
Jenessa Grant as Dolores
Rohan Mead as Isaac
Krista Morin as Rachel Tapping
James Gilbert as Stuart
Troy Blundell as Offred’s Guardian

Premise

June returns—very quietly—to her old rebellious self, and begins working with the Commander’s wife. Unfortunately, their actions, even on behalf of children’s lives, do not sit well with the Commander. Serena begins to recognize the horrors of the world she helped create, and the Americans reach out to her during a Canadian visit. Moira and Nick find a way to strike at Gilead.

The violence within Gilead, meanwhile, leads to some changes.

High Points

While the show remains focused on Elizabeth Moss, it has wisely delivered more storylines concerning other characters. Yvonne Strahovski and dowdy Ann Dowd work wonders as intelligent women only now confronting the evil of the world they helped birth.

I’m reminded of the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party meme. It’s a lot more disturbing when you see it played out seriously. It’s downright terrifying when you are the regretful collaborator.

Low Point

It’s not a huge issue, but “Women’s Work” drops and resolves a health problem a little too conveniently in order to make a point.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 3/6

Acting: 6/6

Story: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, these second-season episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale receive 33/42

Notes

1. We do not know which United States remain, save for Hawaii, but it seems likely they are concentrated on the west coast. If the series follows Atwood’s novel in its geography, Texas likely exists as an independent republic.