Warning, Spoilers Ahead For Season Four Of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Beware all ye who enter here. In all honesty, that should be the warning for anyone watching, The Handmaid’s Tale. This show is a brutally honest look at a dystopian society where women are subject to horrible atrocities that are deemed acceptable by the men ruling this world. The premise of the show is based on the novel of the same title written by Margaret Atwood.
Readers witness Gilead in all it’s horror through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid. Hats off to Hulu and the show’s creators for bringing this story to life and not pulling any punches. It is a show that is extremely fitting for the times we are living in and it draws viewers in from the moment it begins.
A Quick Recap Of The First Three Seasons
Throughout the first three seasons, viewers witness the story of June/Offred and her trials and tribulations as well as those of her counterpart, Serena Joy Waterford, played to perfection by Yvonne Strahovski. Hulu has built a stunning and epic world and the excitement for season four was immense.
At the end of season three, June orchestrated a daring escape that involved 86 children, several Martha’s and her friend, Rita. June stayed behind with several other handmaids to distract the Gilead forces and give the plane time to get away. in the final moments of the episode, June is shot and viewers were left wondering what would happen next.
What no one could have anticipated was the arrival of Covid-19 and the proceeding pandemic that devastated the world and stopped all productions including The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu chose to pause filming for the safety of the cast and crew but after many months, the network announced filming had commenced and sporadically teased its very patient viewers with behind the scenes clips and photos in preparation for season four.
Back To Season Four, Spoilers Are Ahead
The first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale season four picks up exactly where it left off. June suffers from a gunshot wound that will not stop bleeding. Alma and Jeanine and a few other handmaids take her to an abandoned MAC store and use a curling iron to cauterize the wound so that she can travel to their next destination. With dogged determination and despite her injuries, June leads her friends to the promised safehouse which turns out to be a farm out in the middle of nowhere. It is here where she recovers and plans their next steps.
The story takes an open look at what one would have to do to survive without access to the proper medical equipment and supplies. June uses mold scraped off fruit to treat her infected wound and learns the ins and outs of farming. While recovering, June meets Mrs. Keyes, played unnervingly by McKenna Grace. McKenna adds a definite shock factor as she is so young and already a Wife to a Commander.
She has a strong will and a desire to help Mayday and June. The addition of Mrs. Keyes reminds viewers that all are suffering and have their own trauma from Gilead. The atrocities that these young women are forced to endure have warped and shaped them into different people.
Some Welcome Returns For Past Characters
One welcome returning character to the series is that of Nick Blaine, played by Max Minghella. Minghella, affectionately nicknamed “Eyebrows” by fans, has a phenomenal gift for translating his emotions all through his eyes. Nick is a very stoic character who doesn’t speak very often but when he does, you know it is important. His eyes tell the viewer so much without his having to say a word. The absence of his character was noted most vehemently by fans during season three so getting to watch Minghella bring Nick to glorious life and in such a way, is worthy of note.
Nick has taken his Commander role very seriously but has always kept June and their baby daughter, Nicole, never far from his thoughts. It is through Nick that we learn what has happened to Commander Lawrence after June’s daring escape and subsequent saving of many lives.
Commander Lawrence Is Back And Better Than Ever
It is with joy that we see Commander Lawrence back on screen. Bradley Whitford plays the role masterfully and his character is the ever present enigma. Viewers were left thinking he would be dead after his actions in season three but his return is a welcome one.
Despite facing death and a loss of all he has ever known, Lawrence’s snark paired with his wit, still makes you root for him. Lawrence’s absolute contempt for the world that he helped create and his willingness to do anything to get what he wants is in clear view this season and fans will be in for a treat.
More Phenomenal Performances In Season Four
One cannot mention superb acting without bringing up Ann Dowd and her phenomenal turn as Aunt Lydia. Viewers will remember that Aunt Lydia was left a broken and beaten individual but with a fierce desire in her to survive. Dowd brings such an inner fire to Aunt Lydia that you simply cannot take your eyes off her whenever she graces the screen. She is a force to be reckoned with. Whether she is facing a tribunal of Commanders or trying to convince Commander Lawrence to reinstate her as an Aunt.
Aunt Lydia is the true character you love to hate and Dowd plays her with such relish its a joy to behold. Aunt Lydia has fallen from grace, so to speak, during the first few episodes of this season, and to see how she twists the rules of Gilead to work for her is an abject lesson in manipulation. She is the Dolores Umbridge of this series and one wonders how truly far this character will go to get what she wants and revenge on those who have wronged her. It is a guarantee that viewers will look forward to seeing where Aunt Lydia goes from here.
Last Bit About Characters
Season four also brings back the Waterfords and for better or worse, they are here to stay. Both Fred and Serena are still in Canadian custody at the start of the episode and struggling to both get what they want. An unexpected *bump* in the road furthers their storyline in such a way that viewers truly won’t know what to expect. While the story is ongoing between them and many arguments and double crosses occur, you truly see how a system like Gilead’s would warp even the most innocent and further destroy the idea of what was once the basis our the United States of America and its long held ideologies. Once Gilead has you in it’s clutches, it is hard to escape.
The Costume And Production Design Is Top Notch
It is an interesting side note to watch the show and see the clever usage of face masks in the costume design. It is a wonderful addition to the costumes that doesn’t detract from the story and truly makes you want to thank the costume designer, who most definitely was thinking of how to integrate them in a way that would work to both further the story and keep the performers safe.
Bravo To The Handmaid’s Tale
The production design in season four builds on the destroyed landscape of what used to be the United States of America. Be it the spray paint on the walls of a destroyed building; or the lighting used to show an underground bunker it captures the eye and really gives an overall sense of hopelessness. It is here where the show excels. Everything you see is grounded in some form of reality.
Season four is ready for both old and new fans alike. The new season will officially drop on Hulu on April 28, 2021 and the first three episodes will be ready to stream immediately. After that, a new episode will be released every week on Wednesdays. Buckle up, viewers, you are in for a wild ride!
For more on Hulu or The Handmaid’s Tale stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.