For the novel of the same name, see The Handmaid's Tale (Novel).
"My name is Offred, and I intended to survive."
Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalism in its militarized ‘return to traditional values'. As one of the few remaining fertile women, June (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in Commander Fred’s household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate the world. In this terrifying society, Offred must navigate between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her.
|1.||"Offred"||April 26, 2017|
|Offred struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful figure and his resentful wife.|
|2.||"Birth Day"||April 26, 2017|
|When Offred and her fellow handmaids assist with the delivery of Janine's baby, Offred remembers her own daughter's birth; Offred and Ofglen grow closer.|
|3.||"Late"||April 26, 2017|
|Offred visits Janine's baby and recalls the early days of the revolution before Gilead; Ofglen is faced with a challenge.|
|4.||"Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum"||May 3, 2017|
|Punished by Serena Joy, Offred begins to unravel and reflects on her time with Moira at the Red Center. A complication during the Ceremony threatens Offred’s survival with the Commander and Serena Joy.|
|5.||"Faithful"||May 10, 2017|
|Serena Joy makes Offred a surprising proposition. Offred remembers the unconventional beginnings of her relationship with her husband.|
|6.||"A Woman's Place"||May 17, 2017|
|A Mexican Ambassador visiting Gilead questions Offred about her life as a Handmaid. Serena Joy reflects on her marriage and the role she once played in Gilead’s inception.|
|7.||"The Other Side"||May 24, 2017|
|Remembering her family’s treacherous escape attempt, a shocking revelation from life before Gilead provides a new perspective on Offred’s life.|
|8.||"Jezebels"||May 31, 2017|
|Mr. Waterford takes Offred out for the evening while Serena Joy is away. That evening Offred is reunited with someone from her past.|
|9.||"The Bridge"||June 7, 2017|
|Janine is forced to give up her baby. Offred and Mr. Waterford return to Jezebel's.|
|10.||"Night"||June 14, 2017|
|Offred finds out some huge, life-changing news. Moira manages to escape to Canada.|
|1.||"June"||June and Hannah||April 25, 2018|
|Offred reckons with the consequences of a dangerous decision while haunted by memories from her past and the violent beginnings of Gilead.|
|2.||"Unwomen"||Emily||April 25, 2018|
|Offred adjusts to a new way of life; The arrival of an unexpected person disrupts the Colonies; A family is torn apart by the rise of Gilead.|
|3.||"Baggage"||June and Holly||May 2, 2018|
|Offred reflects on her relationship with her mother as she navigates her way through Gilead. In Little America, Moira tries to cope with the trauma she endured.|
|4.||"Other Women"||June and Annie||May 9, 2018|
|A baby shower provokes a troubling shift in Offred’s relationship with Serena Joy. Offred reckons with the choice she made that led her to become a Handmaid.|
|5.||"Seeds"||May 16, 2018|
|Offred spirals as a Gilead ceremony disrupts her relationship with Nick; Janine tries to adjust to life in the Colonies, jeopardizing her friendship with Emily.|
|6.||"First Blood"||Serena and Fred||May 23, 2018|
|Offred finds unexpected allies and obstacles in her search for a way to protect Hannah. The Commander prepares for the dedication of a new Red Center. Nick struggles with his new assignation.|
|7.||"After"||Moira||May 30, 2018|
|An attack sends shockwaves through both Gilead and Little America; Serena makes a dangerous choice; Moira searches for someone from her past.|
|8.||"Women's Work"||June 6, 2018|
|A sick baby tests Offred and Serena. Janine finally faces Naomi.|
|9.||"Smart Power"||June 13, 2018|
|The Waterfords embark on a diplomatic trip abroad. Serena faces the temptation of life outside Gilead. Luke and Moira grapple with survivor's guilt. Offred seeks support from allies.|
|10.||"The Last Ceremony"||June 20, 2018|
|A frustrated Serena becomes desperate. The Commander tries to make amends with Offred. Nick pushes Eden farther away. Offred is faced with an unexpected reunion.|
|11.||"Holly"||June 27, 2018|
|Offred faces a grueling challenge as she recalls her life as a mother. Serena Joy and the Commander deal with the fallout of their actions towards Offred.|
|12.||"Postpartum"||July 4, 2018|
|Offred is sent to a familiar place. Emily is assigned to a mysterious new house.|
|13.||"The Word"||July 11, 2018|
|Serena and the other Wives strive to make change. Emily learns more about her new Commander. Offred faces a difficult decision.|
|1.||"Night"||June 5, 2019|
|June embarks on a bold mission with unexpected consequences. Emily and Nichole make a harrowing journey. The Waterfords reckon with Serena Joy’s choice to send Nichole away.|
|2.||"Mary and Martha"||June 5, 2019|
|June helps Marthas with a dangerous task while navigating a relationship with her pious and untrustworthy new walking partner.|
|3.||"Useful"||June 5, 2019|
|June navigates a challenging meeting. Serena Joy attempts to recuperate. Lawrence teaches June a hard lesson about the difficult decisions he makes as a Commander.|
|4.||"God Bless the Child"||June 12, 2019|
|June negotiates a truce in the Waterfords’ fractured relationship.|
|5.||"Unknown Caller"||June 19, 2019|
|June and Serena grapple with a new revelation about Nichole, leading to an incident that will have far-reaching ramifications|
|6.||"Household"||June 26, 2019|
|June accompanies the Waterfords on a trip, where a powerful family offers a glimpse of the future of Gilead.|
|7.||"Under His Eye"||July 3, 2019|
|June escalates her risky efforts to find Hannah. Emily must face her past crimes as the ongoing international diplomatic crisis becomes more complicated.|
|8.||"Unfit"||July 10, 2019|
|June and the rest of the Handmaids shun Ofmatthew, and both are pushed to their limit at the hands of Aunt Lydia. Aunt Lydia reflects on her life and relationships before the rise of Gilead.|
|9.||"Heroic"||July 17, 2019|
|Confined in a hospital, June’s sanity begins to fray. An encounter with Serena Joy forces June to reassess her recent actions.|
|10.||"Witness"||July 24, 2019|
|June must deal with a devious ploy on the part of Commander Waterford.|
|11.||"Liars"||July 31, 2019|
|A return to Jezebel's puts everything in jeopardy. Serena Joy and Commander Waterford take a clandestine trip.|
|12.||"Sacrifice"||August 7, 2019|
|Gilead's leadership has been rocked by the losses among their own. Luke and Moira adjust to new arrivals in Canada. June worries about disruptions to her plan, only to have tragedy strike the entire household.|
|13.||"Mayday"||August 14, 2019|
|June must decide how far she's willing to go. The Waterfords think about a new way forward.|
|1.||"Pigs"||April 28, 2021|
|On the run, an injured June and the fugitive Handmaids find refuge at a farm, where the 14-year-old Wife nurses June back to health. June restores her role as the women's leader. In Gilead, an imprisoned Lawrence tries to avoid a death sentence, and Aunt Lydia reels from the loss of 86 children on Angels' Flight. The combative Waterfords, in custody in Toronto, learn of June's feat.|
|2.||"Nightshade"||April 28, 2021|
|June plots revenge at the local Jezebels, before she and the Handmaids plan to leave the farm for the next safe house. In Toronto, Moira deals with the fallout of June's choices, and Serena and Fred are bound together by a miracle.|
|3.||"The Crossing"||April 28, 2021|
|Captured by Gilead, June faces a vengeful Aunt Lydia and endures a torturous interrogation. Nick and Lawrence collaborate to protect June. In Toronto, Luke struggles with how to help June and Hannah.|
|4.||"Milk"||May 5, 2021|
|June takes a harrowing journey with Janine, trying to escape Gilead, as Janine remembers a stressful experience in her past. In Toronto, Serena tries to manipulate Rita, who seeks advice from Moira.|
|5.||"Chicago"||May 12, 2021|
|June seeks out more active rebels in the Chicago war zone, while Janine tries to help her fit in with their new group of survivors. Moira goes on her first field aid mission.|
|6.||"Vows"||May 19, 2021|
|After a shocking reunion with a dear friend, June contemplates the possibility of freedom, and confronts the unfulfilled promises she's made to herself and to Luke.|
|7.||"Home"||May 26, 2021|
|June struggles with her newfound freedom, reuniting with loved ones and confronting her nemesis, Serena.|
|8.||"Testimony"||June 2, 2021|
|June confronts Fred and Serena in court and challenges Emily to face a painful reminder of her Gilead past. Lawrence presents Aunt Lydia with a newly captured, familiar Handmaid.|
|9.||"Progress"||June 9, 2021|
|June and Luke work together to save Hannah. Serena and Fred greet unexpected visitors from Gilead. Janine tries to assist Aunt Lydia when a Handmaid-in-training goes on hunger strike.|
|10.||"The Wilderness"||June 16, 2021|
|June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice.|
Differences from the Novel & Film
Novel vs. TV series Differences
One of the major details that the TV series changed from the start is to drop all of book-Gilead's racial ideology, discriminating against non-whites. In the books, black women are not used as Handmaids but at best used as Martha servants, often sent to the Colonies to be worked to death. In the TV Show, Moira herself is black and a Handmaid. The TV producers have discussed their reasoning behind this change in several interviews—largely it was to focus on the misogyny of Gilead and because, logically, they believed that Gilead's rampant infertility would require them to not discriminate between the ethnicity of fertile women—they need all the child-bearing women they can to maintain the population and fulfill their goals. Nevertheless, most members of the ruling class of Gilead, Commanders and Wives, have been depicted as caucasians so far.
In the series, Commander Waterford states in a flashback that there were three coordinated attacks against the US government when Gilead took over, sequentially: "Congress first, then the White House, then the [Supreme] Court". In the novel, there was one large attack against a joint session of both Houses of Congress being addressed by the President at the time.
Film vs. TV series Differences
There are an abundance of differences between the film and the TV series. They include:
- In the film, Offred's real name is Kate, not June.
- Luke is confirmed to be dead in the film, while in the series, Luke is alive and has an active presence in the show.
- Offred ends up killing the Commander in the film, whereas in the series, the Commander is still alive and in her life.
- Offred first meets Moira at the Red Center in the film, whereas in the series they have known each other since adolescence.
- In the film, Offred is shown escaping from Gilead with Mayday's help and living in a trailer, her future uncertain, but free. In the series, Offred is still in Gilead (fate undetermined because the series isn't over).
- Offred is shown to be pregnant with Nick's child at the end of the film. In the series, she gave birth to Nick's child—Nichole.
- Handmaids in the film don't wear the white, wing-like headdresses as in the TV series, but rather simple red veils.
- In the film the Sons of Jacob quickly take control that a border wall was constructed since it at first faced almost no resistance but it progresses when shortages of food is seen at the Red Center that the handmaid's in training take pills. In the TV series the Sons of Jacob consolidated power in a steady fashion that the fighting takes years to reach half of the Pacific States since it encounter resistance in response to murdering protestors.
A straight-to-series order by Hulu of The Handmaid's Tale was announced in April 2016, with Elisabeth Moss set to star. Based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, the series was created by Bruce Miller, who is also an executive producer with Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, and Warren Littlefield. Atwood served as consulting producer, and had a small cameo role. Moss is also a producer. In June 2016, Reed Morano was announced as director of the series. Samira Wiley, Max Minghella, and Ann Dowd joined the cast in July 2016. Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer and Yvonne Strahovski were cast in August 2016, followed by O.T. Fagbenle and Amanda Brugel in September 2016. In October 2016, Ever Carradine joined the cast, and Alexis Bledel was added in January 2017.
Filming on the series took place in Toronto and Hamilton from September 2016 to February 2017. The first full trailer of the TV series was released by Hulu on YouTube on March 23, 2017. The series premiered on April 26, 2017. On May 3, 2017, The Handmaid's Tale was renewed for a second season to premiere in 2018.
The Handmaid's Tale has received acclaim from television critics. On Metacritic, after the first season, it had a score of 92 out of 100 based on 39 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". The first season had a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 9.1 out of 10 based on 67 reviews. The site's critical consensus is, "Haunting and vivid, The Handmaid's Tale is an endlessly engrossing adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel that's anchored by a terrific central performance from Elisabeth Moss."
Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter called it "probably the spring's best new show and certainly its most important." Jen Chaney of Vulture gave it a highly positive review, and wrote that it is "A faithful adaptation of the book that also brings new layers to Atwood's totalitarian, sexist world of forced surrogate motherhood" and that "this series is meticulously paced, brutal, visually stunning, and so suspenseful from moment to moment that only at the end of each hour will you feel fully at liberty to exhale."
- Outstanding Drama Series, 2017
- Lead Actress - Drama Series, 2017 · Elisabeth Moss
- Supporting Actress - Drama Series, 2017 · Ann Dowd
- Writing - Drama Series, 2017 · Bruce Miller
- Supporting Actress - Drama Series, 2017 · Samira Wiley
- Guest Actress - Drama, 2018 · Samira Wiley
- Outstanding Drama Series, 2018 (Nominated)
- Lead Actress - Drama Series, 2018 · Elisabeth Moss (Nominated)
- Supporting Actor - Drama Series, 2018 · Joseph Fiennes (Nominated)
- Supporting Actress - Drama Series, 2018 · Alexis Bledel (Nominated)
- Supporting Actress - Drama Series, 2018 · Ann Dowd (Nominated)
- Supporting Actress - Drama Series, 2018 · Yvonne Strahovski (Nominated)
- Guest Actress - Drama, 2018 · Kelly Jenrette (Nominated)
- Guest Actress - Drama, 2018 · Cherry Jones (Nominated)
- Casting - Drama Series, 2018 · Sharon Bialy, Robin D. Cook, Sherry Thomas (Nominated)
- Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, 2018 · Ane Crabtree, Natalie Bronfman (Nominated)
- Best Television Series - Drama, 2018
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, Elisabeth Moss, 2018
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Ann Dowd, 2018 (Nominated)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama, Elisabeth Moss, 2019 (Nominated)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Yvonne Strahovski, 2019 (Nominated)
- BAFTA TV Award, Best International, 2018
- Jessica Goldstein, "Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ shows how diverse casting can elevate a classic," ThinkProgress, April 25, 2017.
- Episode 6, "A Woman's Place"