Published:  12:15 AM, 07 August 2018

The women against extremism

The women against extremism

The second season of The Handmaid's Tale started from April 25th of 2018 and ended in July 11th and comprised of 13 episodes. It was grueling, visceral and raw experience that made the viewers understand what happens when one lives in an extremist nation where misogyny and religiosity, and fanaticism go hand in hand. In the novel by Margaret Atwood, which this series was based on, June/Offred's fate is unknown. 

We are meant to believe she was either saved or went into hiding after she is accused of killing the Commander she was "given" to. The second series takes all the ideas and subtle details that are given in the novel and puts it in the flesh. 

The paper would like to issue trigger warnings for sexual assault, rape, child abuse/murder, misogyny, body mutilation and other forms of torture. The paper does not condone or encourage these actions but are detailing events present in the show.
The performance given by Elizabeth Moss as June/Offred stays with you. From close-ups of her face, to the blankness of her expressions, to the subtle gestures she picks up on and even her small victories. Everything in this TV show cannot be taken for granted, when one is living under a totalitarian regime things are not meant to be nice. 

Many critics were affected by the gruesome, bloody and torturing nature of the show. Gilead, what used to be once the United States of America, is a barren wasteland where one can clandestinely hope. As June says in one episode that at least she has circumstances. It is one woman's fight against a beast and a machinery that wants to dehumanize her at every level and at every turn. It is not going to be pretty but it is going to be real. 

Max Minghella, who plays Nick, a Guardian in charge of taking care of the Waterfords and is June's lover, explains in an interview to Harper Bazaar concerning Moss: "Yeah, she's very involved in everything. 

People obviously know that she stars in the show, but I don't think people realize how much she really produces the show. It's far from a vanity credit, she really is our day-to-day producer, and is very, very much involved in the scripts and the edits."

Minghella is said to the only man in Gilead to still possess some moral and ethical compass. His feelings for June are real and he loves her despite knowing she has a husband called Luke Bankole (O.T. Fagbenie) and a daughter with him, Hannah Bankole (Jordana Blake). 

Minghella says in the same interview that Nick is a romantic person like him in real life thus his actions towards June are always very honest and truthful. This is refreshing because Nick is always having to lie to a certain extent, the actor acknowledged, and suppress his emotions because Gilead is not a safe place at all. 

The opening scenes of Season 2 show June being punished for not punishing Janine (Madeline Brewer). It is one of the most disturbing scenes a television show can open with. 

Many "disobedient" handmaids are rounded up. Their mouths strapped with masks so they cannot speak and herded like animals to slaughter (the tunnel they are taking through looks like a slaughter house). 

One unknown handmaid grabs June's hand for support but it is taken away. They are supposed to be hanged. One handmaid urinates on herself for fear. June is ready to face death - only it doesn't happen. 

Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) comes out and tells the women (she calls them "girls" usually to infantilize them and to ignore their agency) that this is what will happen if they continue to misbehave. 

For now, they will still be punished. While giving them punishments Lydia realizes that June is pregnant and wants to give her preferential treatment. June is noncompliant and Lydia then threatens to dehumanize her further by saying a list of severe things that will be done with her if she doesn't comply.

The series already starts bleak. We see June's cold but seething anger as she sees herself and the handmaids being treated worse than cattle. However, June escapes. She is taken from one safe place to another. She is soon brought to the previous headquarters of The Boston Globe. She first does not know this - she looks at strewn paper, a stilettoed shoe here and a photo there until she reaches the basement. Nick comes for her and is shown to have helped her escape. 

June is terrified and wants to leave - she realized there were journalists murdered. When she stays on she makes them a memorial and prays for them. 

June stays in the Globe's offices for three months and understands through interviews that how the Sons of Jacob, who later formed Gilead, came to be.

It shows how extremism, such as Nazism and other forms of terrorist groups, prey on the weak and vulnerable, and then strike to fulfil their own agendas. When June is supposed to be moved again by a man named Omar (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), things go south. 

Their safe house is compromised but Omar gives shelter to June in his home. Omar and his family pretend to be Christian churchgoers but June soon finds out that he is Muslim and that is a very touching scene in the show. 

This is where the show explores how men in the lower echelon of Gilead society live. If they are good they are given wives and allowed to keep or have children of their own. Omar has a wife named Heather and a son named Adam. 

Heather looks on with disdain at June, as she is a handmaid. She cannot understand how a mother can give up her own child not understanding that June would be forced to part with her child. 

Heather is a "econowife", the non-higher tiered wives of the society. When Omar and his family are taking time to come back from church June suspects something is wrong so she attempts to escape as a Econowife. She is captured and Aunt Lydia starts mentally torturing her.

Lydia tries to show her that she as June and Offred are two "different" people, with Offred being the "best" and "pious" of them. She says that if Offred agrees to go back to Commader Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serene Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), she will live. If she resists as June she will be killed after she gives birth. Soon, June breaks down when she sees Omar's hanging corpse. 

Lydia casually tells her that Adam was given away to another family and Heather has been made into a handmaid to "repent" for her "sins." 

This crushes Offred to an almost submissive state that she stops being herself and her mind goes black and one of the episodes ends so gruesomely with her just repeating in her head "We are having nice weather today, we are having nice weather today…" 

The second series also focuses heavily on Emily who used to be a biology professor and on Moira, who was once a surrogate mother. Moira and Emily are both lesbian woman and Moira had a fiancé, named Odette who has gone missing. 

Luke is frantically trying to get his wife back but is shocked by the violence around him. Emily was once married to a woman named Sylvia (Clea Duvall) and they had a son Oliver. Emily was Oliver's biological mother. 

Emily had been sent to the colonies where handmaids who can't give birth to a child in two years and "disobedient" woman are sent. All the torture, the separation for her family has a horrible impact on both Emily and Moira. Moira is clearly suffering from trauma and PTSD and cannot give her name when she hooks up with women in gay bars in Canada. 

She uses her alias Ruby and hates herself for it. Still she finds comfort in working in a rehabilitation center for people who have fled Gilead in Canada's "Little America."

Some circumstances make June snap out of her depression and she decides to fight for her identity and her right. Emily softens when she meets an optimistic Janine in the colonies. This article will be continued next week. 

The writer is a Copy Editor at The Asian Age

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