The second season of The Handmaid's Tale was undoubtedly the most anticipated TV premiere of the year and finally, last night, we returned to Gilead in what was a double episode bonanza that reminded you from the get go just how harrowing this series could be.
Elizabeth Moss (June) had previously warned viewers of the opening scene saying that nobody would guess what would happen, telling TV Guide. "You will never get it, and I mean that objectively as a viewer. You just won't guess, and I love that so much."
She was right. We couldn't have guessed nor would we have wanted to. The show didn't pull any punches and brought us into an apparent mass handmaid hanging as punishment for their defiance of Aunt Lydia. The gut-wrenching scene was accompanied by the haunting voice of Kate Bush which was jarringly beautiful in its juxtaposition to the anguish we were watching. Yep, The Handmaid's Tale gave us a nose dive into extreme Gilead with June seamlessly stepping into the viewers thoughts over the opening credits, to say "Seriously, what the actual f*ck?"
That's essentially the sentiment felt throughout the episode which seemed relentless in its gory and torture from the hand burning to June's Van Gogh-like move at the end of the episode. The only release was given through the flashbacks which have, for the most part, proved an important plot device in The Handmaid's Tale but in this opening episode didn't seem to convey anything of importance. Yes, we knew a hell of a lot went down in the days before Gilead took over, no need to show us again.
The episode two flashbacks of Emily (Alexis Bledel) in her Rory Gilmore-esque life were more appreciated however and a reminder of just how much she has lost. While it felt like we were coming upon Emily in the colonies as a broken woman, her move at the end over Marisa Tomei's blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo shows that the will to rebel in her is still there.
June proved as much herself in the opening episode and while her unexpected race for freedom seemed almost to come too soon, it leaves us wide open for how this second season can escalate now that she's out of the house of horrors that is the Waterfords.
Both episodes, as relentlessly grim as they were, gave us brief glimpses of hope, mainly in the strength of the female characters. Both June and Emily should have broke by now, and perhaps they have, in many different ways, but time and time again they dig deep and find the strength to carry on. To fight.
It may be difficult to watch but The Handmaid's Tale does something that is so rare for a show to do - it makes us feel right down to our very core. It gets so under your skin that in those opening moments we all wondered what it could possibly be like to know you were only minutes from your death; to wonder what you would think about, or whom.
Or to feel the heartbreak of saying goodbye to your loved ones not knowing if you will ever see them again.
To watch everything you ever believed in fall apart and wonder if you too could find a way to survive.
So yeah, it's intense.
It's probably best we can't binge on this in one fell swoop and will have to wait a whole week for our next installment. We'll need it.