Cue the aerial shot of me working on my laptop.
I’m dressed in bright red against the grey, bleak backdrop of my workspace. My face is determined. My eyes are glowering. My lips are twitching in a half-smile. As the camera pans away in slow motion, a beloved pop song from my youth begins to play—maybe it’s “Bye Bye Bye” by *NSYNC, maybe it’s “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake—it’s definitely something involving a member of a boy band, just to ensure it will ruin a beloved song forever.
And now I’m ready to discuss the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale. The show has become so stylized, Elizabeth Moss’ facial expressions are so expected, and the plot is in such a repetitive Groundhog Day’s day cycle. (Exactly how many times can June almost escape and fail?) In many ways it’s become a parody of itself. Am I watching the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale or the season premiere of Saturday Night Live?
The third season finale remedied some, but definitely not all, of these issues. Shall we start with the good news? Praise be finally something happy finally happened. Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena (Yvonne Stahovski) were arrested in Canada for war crimes. The fact that Serena turned on Fred and then Fred turned on Serena made their incarceration that much more delightful. Although I could do without them staying in a prison that looks more like a Westin hotel. Led by June, children and their Marthas escaped Gilead and landed in Canada. If you didn’t tear up when the father said “Rebecca?” as the little girl de-boarded the plane then your heart is two sizes too small.
But, of course, we can’t be too happy. There was poor Luke (O-T Fagbenle) just waiting and waiting, with a hopeful, expectant look on his face, for his daughter to get off the plane. There was June struck down by bullets, barely breathing. And, of course, there’s the news that the series has been renewed for a fourth season. The Handmaid’s Tale is an iconic show that made Hulu a real player in the streaming field and was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on television. It shouldn’t limp its way to completion.
But blessed be the fruit, I have a plan to get the dystopian drama in good shape for the fourth and hopefully final season:
1. Enough already with the stylization: As stated above, it’s too much. All the time. What was once striking aesthetically is now expected, and the show is using all of its stylized ticks as a crutch.
2. Maybe June does die? Look she’s killed two people and purposely let another die. Like the show, she has become a caricature of herself. There wasn’t the triumphant delight one would have expected when she said to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), “So go to your office and find me a fucking map.” Obviously, Gilead has changed June as Fred so smugly told Luke (Fred is the worst), but now her character has gone so far over the edge in a way that doesn’t quite track. Is there any coming back from it? Do we need or want her to come back? Would it be better for June to die saving all those children? Just as Orange Is the New Black moved away from Piper as its central focus, it’s time for The Handmaid’s Tale to let June go. Moss is an amazing actress. June is an amazing character. But it’s time.
3. There’s only so much misogyny we can take: The last straw were the handmaids who had their mouths sewn shut. This is a show about how women are treated like property, raped, mutilated, dehumanized and silenced. We get that. We don’t need the show’s treatment of women to get any worse. It’s already awful enough.
4. More Emily, more Canada: Was Emily (Alexis Bledel) able to rejoin her family and fully reunite with Sylvia (Clea DuVall), or was it too hard? Did her horrific experiences in Gilead cause too much of a rift? Bledel’s episodes were some of the most compelling this season. More Emily please and more of how everyone is doing in Canada. Next season, show us Luke and Moira (Samira Wiley) and the children they’ve rescued. Show us Serena and Fred’s war crimes trial.
5. Bring back the flashbacks: Yes Aunt Lydia’s flashback was kind of a cliched bust, but there are still so many characters we don’t know enough about starting with Nick (Max Minghella). The flashbacks often broke up the dismal, depressing narrative of the show. Or here’s an idea, pull a Lost and flash forward, showing us what it’s like for these characters ten years in the future.
Under his eye, I still have hope for the fourth season.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).