Critical Condition: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale (Lightbox, streaming now)

“If 2017 feels like both the best and worst of times for dystopian tales, it also continues to be an exceptional year for straight-to-streaming originals. And [Hulu’s] 10-part adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s landmark 1984 novel plays like true prestige television: A masterfully unnerving vision of a near future in which a Christian fundamentalist sect has turned what remains of America into a Fascist state called Gilead, and environmental ills have left only a handful of fertile females — Elisabeth Moss’s titular Handmaid among them — to carry on the human race.” — Entertainment Weekly.

“It’s worth wondering how this show will adapt a novel with a finite structure over the course of multiple seasons. I trust the creative team behind this project, including producer Margaret Atwood, to make use of the potential of television. They have already done it. The book is masterful at casting its spell, methodically building a fallen world and convincing you it might exist. The show, by contrast, plunges you into chaos immediately and forces you to keep up. At its best, it has a tension practically unmatched on television.” — Time.

“The problem with Hulu’s Handmaid is that nothing is dreadful enough … Ms. Moss’s Offred comments regularly on her condition with outraged, silent vulgarities, and seems appalled by rituals and outrages that had become routine in the book … But the original Offred was almost too terrorised to imagine defiance, much less exercise it. And such calibrated portraiture helped make the novel click.” — Wall Street Journal.

“It is heavy-handed in the best way, dramatising Offred’s claustrophobia through gorgeous tableaux of repression. It makes everything blunter and more explicit, almost pulpy at times … Atwood’s story may now be an artifact about an artifact, but it retains its great power as a reminder of the thin tissue between the past and the present.” — The New Yorker.

“Margaret Atwood has hordes of devotees but membership of her cult looks primed for expansion with this commanding new adaptation of a novel published in 1985 … Atwood purists may do a double take at the news that a second series has been commissioned for the streaming service Hulu, suggesting infidelity to the source. But hey, there’s already been a ballet, an opera, several plays and a film scripted by Harold Pinter. The more the scarier.” — The Telegraph.

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