Plot: What’s it about?
With the hundreds, nay – thousands of networks out there I’m always amazed at how I can say “there’s nothing on.” That’s wrong. There’s always something on! Always! Having heard nothing more than some passing comments about The Handmaid’s Tale, I’d never had any desire to sit down and watch the show. That changed when Fox sent along the first season. Looking at the box, the cast and doing a bit of research into it, I was a bit intrigued. I’d heard, albeit briefly, about Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name. I was a fan of Moss in Mad Men, so I was out of excuses.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s award-winning, best-selling novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, one of the castes of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world. In this terrifying society where one wrong word could end her life, Offred must navigate between Commanders, their cruel wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – with one goal: to survive and find the daughter who was taken from her.
Video: How’s it look?
Fox’s 1.78:1 AVC HD image (the original aspect ratio is 2.0:1, it’s been “slimmed down” for this Blu-ray release) has a very unique look and feel to it. Its use of lighting really sets the tone and overall mood in a majority of the scenes. The entire show seems to have a bit of a muted look and feel to it and Elisabeth Moss’s pale complexion fits the bill. There is a sense of depth in some of the close-ups that showcase the Blu-ray’s resolution, so for those wanting a good-looking image – it’s here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio mix has several moments as well, though the majority of the series is devoted to dialogue (and wisely so). There are some overarching, broad examples of sound and its use serves to intensify the mood. Vocals are top notch with the clarity and precision never lacking. I was quite drawn to the overall soundstage as it sets the tone and ambiance like few shows do. This is an interesting mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- From Script to Screen – Go inside the premiere episode’s “Salvaging”, a harrowing scene where Handmaids violently participate in the execution of an alleged attacker. Interviews with series Showrunner/Executive Producer Bruce Miller, Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd and Madeline Brewer, as well as an in-depth look at the story points, character arcs and complexity of shooting this sequence with Director of episodes one through three, Reed Morano.
- Hope in Gilead – Examine the reasons why The Handmaid’s Tale has captivated millions and become a cultural phenomenon. The cast and crew discuss parallels with today’s political climate as well as the series’ themes of hope, resilience and the fight for freedom.
The Bottom Line
Likely The Handmaid’s Tale won’t be for everyone. I wasn’t expecting too much when I popped the disc in, but a day or so later I found myself finishing up the third disc and checking to see when the next season would air. If you’re a fan of Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men, she’s got a better character to play with here. The subject matter is a bit difficult to swallow sometimes, but if you’ve got the inclination – it’s worth the wait.