The Handmaid’s Tale returns for season 5 to show the fissures of Gilead

For its fifth season, which can now be seen on HBO Max in Spain and on Paramount+ in Latin America, the series. The Handmaid’s Tale finds a point of hope for the first time. With June (Elisabeth Moss) becoming a refugee in Canada, the tone of the series changes. Or, at least, it varies enough to allow its cruel and violent atmosphere to take a slight tinge toward a new perception. Can the State of Gilead have an end? The question is posed by the argument in its first two chapters, which, of course, is no accident.

The story of The Handmaid’s Talewhich received a sixth and final renewal, is heading towards its conclusion. One that must encompass, in one way or another, the downfall of central theocratic fascism or, at least, glimpses of its inner weakness. The new season does that. But it also incorporates novel elements that sustain the idea of political horror becoming part of common life. Gilead is no longer an invincible colossus destined to endure despite any effort against it. Its weakness is more evident, but, just for that reason, it becomes more dangerous. And his need to remain at all costs, more urgent.

The Handmaid’s Talewhose earlier chapters were accused of perpetuating an explicit cruelty in favor of spectacularity reaches a new equilibrium. One that shows Gilead as a superpower destined to collapse, but whose foundations are sustained in fear. Even, of those who have fled and can already look at the brutal landscape of the state from a distance.

With precise narrative skill, The Handmaid’s Tale uses June (Elisabeth Moss) to demonstrate the depth of what will be the conflict of the season. It does so with such neatness as to make the sense of menace and stalking more insistent than ever. That, despite the fact that the character is the living demonstration of the possibility of subversion from the powerhouse of the dangerous fascism from which she escaped.

But, even with all her rebellious quality, June remains a victim. One who, moreover, knows that Gilead still claims her from a distance with a bond she cannot escape from. So the plot shows the unsalvageable. The character must analyze her options and realize that what claims her across the border cannot be saved. She managed to escape the rigors of Gilead, but left behind her eldest daughter. Again, the script discusses one of its hardest points to assimilate. Achieving freedom (or a share of it) at the cost of unrelenting suffering.

The Handmaid’s Tale: back to the place of terror

Earlier, the script delved in lurid detail about the violence involved in controlling patriarchal totalitarianism that crushes its characters. But in the new episodes it asks questions about its fissures. Also, it shows what is the cost (physical and mental) of facing a political apparatus aimed at the annihilation of personality and dehumanization. June suffers, she is filled with a destructive anger that threatens her mental stability at the moment when she needs it most urgently.
The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale has also always been a story of survival. In the new episodes, direct questions are asked about what can provoke such an experience for a victim under prolonged terror. June is one, and even though she stands with her husband Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley), darkness is not far behind. The series makes the wise decision to show the splintered quality of the character’s mind as she struggles to come to terms with the present. But not only does she fail to do so, she knows that the past and everything he went through – is closer than ever.

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The camera follows June through her new life with a stark gaze. Baby Nichole’s bath, the unrealistically beautiful sunrises, the meetings between acquaintances. The wide, unguarded streets, the total independence she enjoys. But it is not enough. June is marked by a need for revenge that she did not succeed in fulfilling and that, now, is more urgent than ever.

Indeed, the series ponders about the inescapability of retaliation. What happened to Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) at the end of the previous season is not enough; it was punctual and not general. June wants something more, she needs to confront a real monster that is still part of her life. It is from that premise that the plot begins to build the new threads of her story.

A new look at old pains

So far, The Handmaid’s Tale went through an evolution that did not always benefit the central story. If before the attention to physical suffering was considered almost pornographic detail, the new season does the same with emotional suffering. A transition that allows the series to grow and become ever deeper in its approaches. This time, the weight of pain is not in the visible wounds, in the torture sessions or in the total power over the victims. It is in the opposite place and the change of tone reinvents the series from its foundations.

June is another woman. She tries, she believes it and, during the first sequences, it seems inevitable to assume that crossing the border changed her life essentially. But, in reality, the victim who confronted cruelty with all weapons and triumphed exceeds the peaceful life he now enjoys. The series places special emphasis in its first two chapters on making it clear that June is a broken hero. A shattered character whose mental and emotional pieces are permanently damaged. What does June, who is finally beyond the reach of the totalitarian power that martyred her, need?

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The question in the series has no answers. Not immediate ones, though obvious ones. June looks at herself in the mirror, pacing back and forth in silence. The camera concentrates on Moss’s pained, tense expressiveness to achieve a message between the lines. The character is close to making a determination and the pace of the plot follows the rhythm of her mind. Canada is bright, clean, placid. A timeless landscape that is nothing more than a small pause between something bigger.
The Handmaid's Tale, June

The horror turned into a past that does not disappear in The Handmaid’s Tale

June is broken to levels that are difficult for those around her to comprehend. The series uses long close-ups to analyze her suffering and, at least for the first episode, the question is obvious. Can an experience like she went through be overcome one way or the other? The character holds back tears, clings to an apparent tranquility. Also to anger. The one that pushes her to begin to ponder a decision that for her cannot be postponed.

Of course, the series plays again with the paradox of the forced. June keeps remembering the tortures, Hannah trapped in an increasingly corrosive and violent place. Actually, Did June manage to leave Gilead? The series makes it clear that this brief space of tranquility is only a moment to gather strength. To create a plan, so that the strategy of confronting power becomes firmer.

That, while in Gilead the horror remains the same. Which, perhaps, is one of the low points of the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale. Gilead does not changedespite the demonstration of power at the end of the previous one.

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There is the possibility of rebellion. But, in reality, the series is more interested in demonstrating that the monster of totalitarianism heals its wounds with greater control. What might result from the confrontation between a victim convinced of her need to fight against darkness and an implacable system? That is the big question that The Handmaid’s Tale will have to answer for its new episodes.