'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 3 Review: Finally, Hope Instead of Despair
For the entirety of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 and 2, the story of a woman forced into sexual slavery as part of a Christian fundamentalist revolution in America always feels emotionally devastating enough to make the show un-bingeable. Handmaid’s Tale challenged our political beliefs and devastated us emotionally, but much like the emotional upswing in Game of Thrones Season 6 after Jon Snow was resurrected, The Handmaid’s Tale pivots in a more hopeful direction in Season 3.
A revolution is coming.
In narratives mired in despair, there’s always a nadir, the lowest point before the story pivots up in a more positive direction. After Game of Thrones resurrected Jon Snow, the show peaked a few episodes later with the Battle of the Bastards. In a similar fashion, as June joins the underground resistance in Gilead as part of Handmaid’s Tale Season 3, everything changes.
June returns to her life as a Handmaid, having helped her daughter Nichole and fellow Handmaid Emily escape in the Season 2 finale. June’s intention is to fight Gilead’s theocratic regime from within. Gone are the pangs of despair that once plagued her as she becomes firmly grounded as an resistance fighter.
The first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 landed on Hulu today, with the remaining 10 coming weekly at the stroke of midnight leading into every Wednesday.
When June made the maddening choice to remain in Gilead at the end of Season 2, it made little to no sense. She’s powerless in her station as a Handmaid, and yet she couldn’t leave her first daughter, Hannah, behind. Despite occasional help from the Waterfords’ Martha and Nick, June is short on allies. How could things work out?
Against the odds, The Handmaid’s Tale offers a few pleasant surprises in the first few episodes that inspire hope not only in June, but in the viewer. After years of misery and abuse, could June actually beat Gilead?
“Offred” becomes “Ofjoseph” when she’s transferred to Commander Lawrence, Bradley Whitford’s unpredictable, unhinged designer of Gilead’s political system.
In Season 2 he helped Emily and baby Nichole escape, and then takes June in as his own Handmaid. But is he truly an ally? Can he be trusted? This wavering uncertainty runs throughout Season 3’s first six episodes as June finds herself making an ally out of Serena Joy and, at times, even the wicked Aunt Lydia. (Yes, Aunt Lydia survived the attack from Emily.)
Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 focuses a great deal on baby Nichole, and what political impact her migration to Canada has on the world. The scariest scenes this season happen when powerful politicians in the rest of the world waver. Even free people can still be bullied by Gilead, which has been solidified as the most powerful and mysterious nation in the world.
We also see what the ultra-conservative Washington D.C. looks like in Gilead, and the results are enough to scare even Aunt Lydia.
“Season 3 is also about hope,” lead actress and executive producer Elisabeth Moss said in an official release. “I think it’s critical for our audience, for the world right now — to show that there is hope, that there is a way out. … We’re giving our heroine the power to carry hope forward.”
Figuring out how she can undermine Gilead by working with the Martha network and helping build the resistance enough to rescue Hannah is all that’s on June’s mind this season. But can she pull it off? The Handmaid’s Tale gives us all hope that it’s at least possible in Season 3.
The Handmaid’s Tale and its creators have already proven this world works when going off-book from the source material — unlike Game of Thrones. How will this new revolution end? We’ll have to watch to find out, but for once, things are looking up.
The Handmaid’s Tale will be released every Wednesday at the stroke of midnight, only on Hulu.