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.