Praise Be!!! … Indeed …

The Handmaid’s Tale, streaming on Hulu, is not for the faint of heart, y’all. I’d […]

Howie Espenshied / 8.23.19

The Handmaid’s Tale, streaming on Hulu, is not for the faint of heart, y’all. I’d argue, though, that it’s worth the ride. “HMT” rejects the instincts in us that reduce religion to a power-play, useful only for control and exploitation. It also embraces the Gospel. If you’re privy to the main story, you know that HMT sets up an odd semi-post-apocolyptic world where the majority of women in the United States have been afflicted with infertility because of some kind of (intentionally) unexplained virus.

Guess who steps in to save the day? Yeah, the cultic Christian fringe that can’t abide not procreating. God forbid that “go forth and multiply” doesn’t happen. They won’t stand for it. In season one, they embark on a successful military take over of the US government, and they then proclaim that all “fertile women” are hereby slaves of the state, for the noble purpose of preserving the propagation of mankind. Thus, any female who can have babies is an asset. She’s not a human. She’s an asset. It’s a cult.

Our protagonist, June, bears the burden of being fertile. Before the insurrection, she was happily married with a daughter. She was a writer for The Boston Globe. The New World Order’s main colony is called Gilead. June is taken from her husband, and her daughter is “re-assigned” to a Gilead family (because the daughter may be fertile, too). That’s the set up for Handmaid’s Tale. Sans spoilers, you’re caught up.

Season 3 ended last week. There is a lot to say, but there is a lot not to spoil. Here’s what you should know. The protagonist/writer, June, is cast into a male-dominated hierarchy in which women (fertile or not) are not allowed to read, or have a voice with regard to things that matter. Seriously — they aren’t allowed to read. June is having none of it, so she sets out to find her way back to her daughter (assigned to some other family, God knows where).

HMT is prolific with flashbacks — meaning that we see glimpses of the key characters’ prior lives before the insurrection. In this most recent season (3), we flash back to June’s Christening of her and her husband’s daughter at their Catholic church.  Back in that moment, June wasn’t feeling the “make our daughter religious” thing, but her husband insisted on it. That Christening is sweet, and tense, and beautiful. That scene is contrasted with another Christening — June’s new child, who was brought to be (supposedly) via the union of her with her blessed Commander Fred Waterford. That Christening is weird and awkward and not-in-a-good-way religious, and the product of a rape culture…and jacked up.

In both ceremonies, “Praise Be!” and “Praise Jesus” are uttered. What is fascinating is that when “Praise Be” is exclaimed at the first ceremony, it is beautiful, and on-point. When it’s spoken weirdly in the second ceremony, it’s bordering on a scene from a horror movie. The difference is the context, and this particular contrast displays itself throughout the series.

June has somehow desperately latched onto her very, heretofore, nondescript Christian faith — that’s what’s so cool. She has been violently thrust into a cult (and has been on the receiving end of unspeakable things, mostly off-screen, repeatedly) but she he has kept her mustard seed of faith in a “God who IS”.  The God is who IS is the REAL protagonist in HMT. When various handmaids are forced to say “praise be” (countless times), they do so to survive. HMT does something amazingly well, though…its handmaids don’t punt the Gospel. They embrace it, because it’s all they have to hold onto. Again, it’s not an easy watch, but it’s worth the binge.

This played over the credits in season 3’s finale…