Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: First look at gripping new TV show

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Ever since we learned that Margaret Atwood’s iconic dystopian novel was being adapted into a star-studded TV show, we’ve been desperate for our first glimpse at the ten-part series.

Now, finally, Hulu – the production company behind the feminist drama – have lifted the curtain on The Handmaid’s Tale with a series of stills.

And it looks every bit as phenomenal as we’d hoped.

The images follow Offred (played by Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss) as she goes about her day-to-day life; in one scene, we see her sat alone in her window, dressed in the modest red gown and white bonnet forced upon all of the Handmaids in Gilead.

In the second shot, the power of this outfit is made clear; when Offred dons her uniform, she becomes anonymous – just one of many women dressed in red. Her sole purpose is to reproduce; her only asset, according to the patriarchal government, is her “viable womb”.

The uniform is just one way that they strip her of her identity (her name, Offred, simply means ‘Of Fred’ – further highlighting that she is nothing more than a possession of the man she has been issued to); it seeks to define her by her reproductive role in society, and strips her of all individuality.

In the third image, we see Offred lying motionless on a four-poster bed, as her ‘owner’ (played by Joseph Fiennes) stands in the foreground and adjusts his suit.

As fans of the book will know, Gilead (the faction governing a not-so-distant United States of America) rose to power largely because of a widespread fertility crisis. Their solution to this problem was to force fertile women into becoming ‘Handmaids’ – aka surrogates – to powerful men and their wives.

In order to ensure that a baby born to a Handmaid is legitimate, however, citizens are required to follow strict sexual ceremonies. As such, the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) must be present and involved during each and every sexual encounter.

Speaking as the narrator of Atwood’s novel, Offred describes how she is always forced to lie on her back between Serena’s legs, her head resting on Serena’s pubic bone. Serena remains fully clothed, while Offred’s skirt is hiked up and her underwear is off, and the two women hold hands as the Commander has sex with Offred in a brisk, impersonal fashion.

The final image shows Offred lying awake in bed, her hair free from its white cap and spread out over the pillow. Her eyes are large and staring upwards at the ceiling, her expression unreadable; however, with her red gown firmly absent, it seems as if this is a moment when Offred’s individuality is restored.

Only at night, when she is away from the prying eyes of Gilead, can Offred think about her past – and remember a time when she was something more than Fred’s surrogate. A time when she was a woman, with rights, and hopes, and dreams of becoming more than just a Handmaid.

The official synopsis for The Handmaid’s Tale – according to Collider – reads: “The drama series, based on the award-winning, best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States.

“Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birth rate, 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 caste 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 navigates between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her.”

The cast for the show looks phenomenal; as well as Moss, Fiennes, and Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale also boasts the talents of Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley, who is set to play a rebellious and tenacious lesbian named Moira.

Meanwhile O-T Fagbenle will play Luke, whom fans of the book will know as Offred’s (Moss) husband from the world before Gilead, after divorcing his first wife to marry her.

And Max Minghella (The Social Network) and Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) are also set to take on leading roles in this tale of gender relations and the patriarchy.

Speaking about the 10-part series, which is expected to air on Hulu in 2017, Atwood said: “I am thrilled that MGM and Hulu are developing The Handmaid's Tale as a series, and extra thrilled that the very talented Elisabeth Moss will be playing the central character.  

The Handmaid's Tale is more relevant now than when it was written, and I am sure the series will be watched with great interest.  I have read the first two scripts and they are excellent; I can hardly wait to see the finished episodes.”

Fans of the author will be pleased to know that she is also on board as a consulting producer, so it’s safe to say that the adaptation is in very good hands indeed.