"Season 4 does something I’ve never quite seen a TV show do, which is that it tells a story that retroactively makes sense of its dour second season and scattered third season but also proves how much the storytelling in those seasons failed to explain what The Handmaid’s Tale was trying to do," says Emily VanDerWerff. "Now that I can see the plan, I wish the show had spent more time assuring me it had a plan. Yet Season 4 also gains at least some power from the moment in which it is airing...The Handmaid’s Tale has always been accidentally timely, but Season 4 is its most accidentally timely season. It’s kind of about the long hangover from Covid-19 and quarantine and kind of about a whole bunch of other things. Most of all, it’s about telling yourself things are okay because your circumstances have changed while the lives of millions of others remain as terrible as they were before. Season 4 doesn’t take place in our world, but also it does. Call its reality Joe Biden’s Gilead." VanDerWerff adds: "At times, Season 4 seems like it’s adapting the consistent Twitter invocation from the 2020 election: Once Trump is out of office, we can’t just go 'back to brunch.' This shorthand was always at least a little misogynist — 'going to brunch' is vaguely coded as an activity that women enjoy in American society, so the 'we' is too often assumed to be vaguely feminine — but there was something true about it all the same. A lot of people, many of them upper-class white women from blue states, saw Trump as almost an anomaly, whose defeat would mean a return to normalcy. But that return to normalcy would mostly be reserved for people whose suffering under any president would still be less than that of others. The election of Joe Biden didn’t end or even significantly curb racial injustice or workplace sexual harassment. It could not prevent a wave of anti-trans legislation at the state level. It has not dramatically upended the US military’s actions overseas. If you are someone directly affected by any of those things, your life might have changed marginally around the edges, but was it enough to make any material difference? I am not trying to shame anyone for wanting to get back to brunch in the wake of a world-changing pandemic. I am also not exempting myself from thinking more about what normalcy means for those with less power and privilege. (I’ve been back to brunch myself; it feels good to be outside with friends, enjoying the sunshine and some nice breakfast-y foods.) What I am trying to say is that The Handmaid’s Tale, because it is positioned as a show about the very crowd being mocked with the 'back to brunch' gibes, is accidentally well-suited to discussing how uneven normality really is."
TOPICS: The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu, Joseph Fiennes