The Handmaid’s Tale | Episode 1, “Offred” Review

When I sat down to review Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I thought I would watch the first three episodes, take some notes, and come up with a few hundred words. What I found was a show too heavy (and often uncomfortable) to binge watch—something that that can be digested only one part at a time. So much happens in the first episode alone that I watched it, let it burrow into my head for a few days, watched it again, and found that I could write thousands of words about it alone. For now, I will be reviewing just the first episode; in the future, depending on how much I have to say, I may continue one-by-one or review multiple episodes at a time.

I plan to avoid dwelling on the similarities and differences between the adaptation and the book. Years have passed since I read Margaret Atwood’s novel, and in that time, I’ve lost track of most of its characters and all but the most basic plot beats. While I will spend some time later discussing the challenges of adapting a relatively short novel into a (now multiseason) television series, I will not be rereading the novel alongside the show. For now, I would like to judge the show on its own merits.

A fair warning: spoilers follow as the review begins in earnest below.

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Pacing Banality | Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s “The Bears”

A small handful of articles have been published online about Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s “The Bears,” a story first published in Glimmertrain that now appears in Best American Short Stories 2016. These articles largely discuss (or criticize) the story’s adherence to the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale—something Bynum writes about herself in her contributor’s note. But what I’ve not seen discussed is the sublimity of the story’s final pages: the way Bynum uses a sudden shifts in pacing to contrast wonder with banality.

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