The Handmaid’s Tale released an unsettling trailer for its third season, and — praise be — it looks like there could finally be a takedown of Gilead’s oppressive regime.
Though we see few distinct plot revelations for the upcoming season, the trailer does tease us with the prospect of a potential uprising. One particularly rousing moment shows a crowd of handmaids assembled shoulder-to-shoulder across from what was once the Washington Monument. (It appears that the monument has since gotten the theocratic treatment, as it has been fashioned into a giant cross.) As the camera pans across the crowd, you can hear June say, “They should have never given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.”
I can only hope this is the beginning of a revolution because the show desperately needs to shake things up if it wants to survive.
The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale largely stuck to the book and was compelling from start to finish. We all watched in abject horror as women not so different from ourselves were thrust into abhorrent circumstances; the series deftly switched back and forth from their nightmarish present to the simmering buildup of the past events that got them there.
The trauma, of which there was plenty, felt purposeful and seemed to come with a potential expiration date. It seemed very plausible in those early episodes that Nick, June’s covert lover, would smuggle her out of Gilead, or that she would be able to escape of her own volition.
When the end of the first season coincided with the conclusion of the book, the writers were left in uncharted territory and it seemed like they didn’t quite know how to move the story forward.
As a result, the second season felt muddled, aimless, and gratuitously masochistic.
While the show’s first season had its moments of levity and optimism, however brief, season two was like nothing but a downward spiral into darkness. Any glimmer of hope was completely extinguished; even escape attempts were halfhearted and coated in malaise, as if the characters already knew they would be futile.
Moreover, episodes increasingly felt like a horrible parallel to the events unfolding in our current administration: separated families, the fight over body autonomy, a literal and figurative massacre of journalism. At the end of every episode I felt depleted; eventually, I found myself selecting more lighthearted fare from my Hulu queue over The Handmaid’s Tale. After all, if I wanted to watch unrelenting tragedy I’d just turn on the news.
The season two finale left us with a cliffhanger ending. June smuggled her infant daughter, Nicole, out of Gilead while she inexplicably chose to stay behind. Even if you could potentially reconcile this decision as her inability to abandon her other daughter Hannah, the issue remains: we simply cannot spend another season trapped in the relentless bleakness that is Gilead. June needs to get out, if simply for the fact that the show’s audience can’t continue to watch this endless cycle of masochism and trauma du jour.
If The Handmaid’s Tale is going to survive, it’s going to need to become a different kind of show. Whether the plot pivots to handmaids planning an uprising, the unfolding of an underground resistance, or even a takedown of the government from beyond Gilead’s borders, the series just needs a definitive direction. And hopefully, if the trailer is to be believed, it looks like it has found a positive one.
Until now, the show’s women have been largely siloed; they are rarely seen making connections aside from scattered whispers exchanged during mandated daily walks. Rather, they have been segregated into their assigned domestic roles and constantly pitted against one another.
Perhaps that’s why it was so exciting that this trailer featured a sea of ladies cloaked in red, standing side-by-side as they looked upon the (updated) Washington monument. They looked emboldened and defiant and ready to fight. They looked like an army. And I can’t wait for them to launch a revolution.