Ralph Potts reviews The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two, the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning drama series that returns with a second season shaped by Offred’s (Elisabeth Moss) pregnancy and her ongoing fight to free her future child from the dystopian horrors of Gilead.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2018
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Feature running time: 718 minutes
Genre: TV Drama
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Joseph Fiennes, Max Minghella, Yvonne Strahovsky, Madeline Brewer, Alexis Bledel, O-T Fagbenle, Samira Wiley, Amanda Brugel
Directed by: Various
Music by: Adam Taylor
Written by: Bruce Miller, Margaret Atwood, Nina Fiore, John Hererra
Region Code: A
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Based on Margaret Atwood’s award-winning, best-selling novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, 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 castes 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 must navigate between Commanders, their cruel wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – with one goal: to survive and find the daughter who was taken from her.
The Handmaid’s Tale paints a bleak dystopian world where the birth of children has declined due to the lack of fertility in childrearing women and led to a society where women are stripped of all titles, independence, financial gain, and civil rights. They are divided into domestics, laborers, and worst of all, concubines, in servitude of the male populace. Wow. I haven’t read the novel, but my wife, who watched season one with me, and my daughter have.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a gripping television drama whose story is primarily seen through the eyes of a young woman, who, was kidnapped by the governing body of Gilead, and because she was fertile, forced to become a slave, assigned to one of the “Commanders” and his barren wife, required to participate in a monthly “Ceremony” where the Commander, in the presence of his wife, would have intercourse with her in order to impregnate her. In the meantime, these “Handmaids” perform menial tasks in service of not only their Commanders, but, the Gilead. All of this falling under the guise of religious order.
The show’s depiction of the atrocities undergone by the Handmaids is disturbingly evocative, as its narrative shapes and chronicles the primary context of a world gone mad. Season Two picks up right where last season left off with Offred, now pregnant, struggling to contend with her new status, while continuing to navigate in Gilead’s suffocating darkness. Season Two reveals details about the “Colony” and opens doors that show another side of the Commanders wives, the fact that escape is possible and that there are those in the world outside of Gilead that haven’t given up on the captured.
As the storyline plays out, we see not just Offred but, others that share her fate, opting to push back, despite the consequences, some of which are severe or final. As with season one, my wife and I were completely drawn into the show’s elements, finding its drama, humanity, and at times, difficult subject material to be thoroughly compelling. I liked the evolution of the relationship between the Waterfords and the integration of the subplots involving Nick, Emily, and Janine. Once again, the show built to a rewarding and engaging series of final episodes. Season Two of the series garnered three Emmy Awards.
Elizabeth Moss is simply incredible in this role. Additionally, the cast, as an ensemble, underscores this show’s subject matter, and terrific execution, by its creative team.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two’s 13 episodes are spread over four BD-50 Blu-ray discs, with the bonus content located on disc 4. The set comes housed in a standard amaray style case, with each disc having its own push button/storage space.
Here is Season Two’ episode listing:
- Other Women
- First Blood
- Women’s Work
- Smart Power
- The Last Ceremony
- The Word
The show contains violence, language, strong sexual content, nudity and strong thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialog Reproduction:
- DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.
This television series effectively uses visual aesthetics (predominantly lighting) to set the tone based upon the subject matter or mood of a particular scene. In all respects there is a pleasing blend of primary colors that are capably offset by delineated secondary hues. Fleshtones are on the pallid side but are tonally balanced and lifelike in depiction. Resolution is estimable as close ups and midlevel pans have appreciable depth while exhibiting varying levels of refinement.
Fine detail isn’t always copiously on display which results in images appearing less delineated at times. On the contrary there are many instances where the video has defining sharpness and lucidity. Contrast is stable and blacks are respectable, but, on occasion, mildly crushed, which in some instances makes subtle gradations harder to detect. This isn’t problematic as there are few instances of low-level sequences where it is even noticeable. I didn’t see any obvious signs of video related anomalies.
The DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialog, robust dynamics and a subtle, yet enriching surround sound mix. I was pleased with its use of spatial dimension and directional cues to create an apropos and occasionally immersive sound field. This worked hand in hand with show’s music and accentuated the show’s thematic elements. I thought it sounded quite good.
- Season Two: Off Book
- Dressing Dystopia
Based on Margaret Atwood’s award-winning, best-selling novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is a gripping and evocative TV drama that resonates, thanks to terrific writing/direction and, superb performances from its ensemble cast. Its second season comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video, and a lackluster supplemental package. The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t an uplifting TV drama but, it’s among the more compelling series on television. Can’t wait for the start of season three. If you’re a fan and want to own it, this Blu-ray offering looks and sounds great.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems