I don’t really have a clever introduction for this list but damn, this show is fantastic. Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name, The Handmaid’s Tale is currently filming a long awaited 5th season. So, in preparation for the new series to come out, why not look back at the best episodes from the award winning series? Before I get into the list properly, here is some history about the show.
The Handmaid’s Tale first debuted on Hulu in April 2017 and as mentioned above is currently on its fourth season, with a fifth on the way. The show (at least until Season 2) is adapted from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. The show follows June Osborne who becomes trapped in a totalitarian, theonomic state called Gilead as a sex slave for powerful commanders and how she tries to escape her imprisonment to be reunited with her daughter and husband. Widely praised for Elisabeth Moss’s phenomenal performance amongst other things, The Handmaid’s Tale has swept through the Emmys winning countless awards. So, without further ado here are the best Handmaid’s Tale episodes.
10: The Bridge (S1, E9)
Kicking off the list of best Handmaid’s Tale episodes is The Bridge. So what makes this episode so good? Well, mostly Madeline Brewer’s performance. This is shown when Janine is forced to relocate to a different commander and also to give up her baby. This is even worse because she has to leave the baby to the family who raped her. This leads to a fantastic scene where Janine is threatening to jump off a bridge with her baby and only June can talk her down. Utterly phenomenal example of the chemistry between Brewer and Moss.
9: A Woman’s Place (S1, E6)
Next up on the best Handmaid’s Tale episodes is A Woman’s Place. While this episode isn’t quite as good as The Bridge it makes up for it in a key story development. With Gilead’s economy struggling, the Waterfords receive a trade delegate from Mexico. Unfortunately, June is warned not to say anything about Gilead’s humanitarian crisis. Whilst this seems to kill any hope of June getting a message out, all is not lost. The ending sees June get a message out via the Mexican Ambassador to her husband, that she is alive. A decent episode overall.
8: Women’s Work (S2, E8)
Following on from A Woman’s Place is Women’s Work. This episode centres around Serena and June’s dynamic after Fred is temporarily out of the picture. Despite knowing the risk of her actions, Serena breaks her own law to try and help a sick child. More specifically, Janine’s sick child. This leads to an incredibly emotive scene of Janine somehow miraculously helping in the baby’s recovery. But the episode sees the tragic and violent repercussions for Serena’s actions in the end. Man, this show messes with your heartstrings.
7: First Blood (S2, E6)
As will become apparent in a later entry, Yvonne Strahovski (Serena) is phenomenal at making audiences feel sympathy for her. This is in spite of her reprehensible actions towards June. After June nearly suffers a miscarriage, Serena attempts to make the house a less stressful environment for the baby she plans to steal. Utterly monstrous from Serena. Anyway, June tries to take advantage of this kindness by asking about seeing her daughter, Hannah. Somehow, this ends up with Fred giving June a picture of Hannah as a way of getting closer to her. Damn, sometimes there are no more words necessary…..
6: June (S2, E1)
The opening for Season 2 certainly had a difficult task of departing from the source material (albeit until the Testaments was released) but it more than delivered. So, how does it deliver? Well, it pays off the cliffhanger from Season 1 about what happens to the Handmaids for refusing to stone Janine. In the end, Aunt Lydia uses scare tactics to keep the Handmaids in line. If that isn’t enough reason to be invested in this episode, then June makes an escape attempt with her and Nick’s unborn child. Not bad for having no source material to work off….
5: Smart Power (S2, E9)
Remember when I mentioned Yvonne Strahovski is phenomenal at making you feel sympathy for Serena? Well, take that feeling and multiply it by 100 because this is a near masterclass from her in this episode. For example, despite the cold reception from Canadian officials Serena receives an offer of US citizenship if she betrays Gilead’s secrets. That scene alone shows how good Strahovski is. Oh, also the fact that the Waterfords get some comeuppance in the form of first hand accounts from women in Gilead that Nick gives to Luke. That felt long overdue.
4: The Last Ceremony (S2, E10)
Narrowly missing out on the top three best Handmaid’s Tale episodes is The Last Ceremony and this episode gets very brutal to watch. Yeah, even for the Handmaid’s Tale. When June nearly has the child, Serena decides to help Fred rape her in order to induce the pregnancy. Jesus… Then as if this is in any way a fair trade Fred feels so bad he lets June meet Hannah in a secluded location. Throughout this episode, Elisabeth Moss’s performance is phenomenal with her speech to her unborn baby being particularly moving. Just the fact she has to let her child go again is heartbreakingly perfect and moving….
3: Night (S1, E10)
Kicking off the top three best Handmaid’s Tale episodes is Night. Why does this episode rank so highly? Well, it’s the culmination of a fantastic first season. Night features so moments it’s honestly hard to list them all but here I go. Serena discovers Fred and June’s relationship and takes it out on June. Oh, also June discovers she’s pregnant. On top of that, this is where the Handmaids refuse to stone Janine and it sees more development in Nick and June’s relationship. Damn, that’s a lot but sometimes more is more…..
2: Liars (S3, E11)
So the question is who is the title referring to? Well, the Canadian government in this case. This is because they trick Fred and Serena into thinking they are going to get ‘their’ baby but instead they get arrested. Truly a feel-good moment. Oh, and also June tries to procure a plane to help 52 children get to Canada. Despite attempting to remain discreet, June ends up killing a guy in order to avoid rape. In addition to this, there’s more development in June and Commander Lawrence’s complicated friendship with Bradley Whitford being the one of the most underrated actors in the series.
1: Mayday (S3, E13)
And the best episode of the Handmaid’s tale is….. Mayday. The series 3 finale and what a finale. June’s plan to get the 52 children to Canada is well under way and succeeds, leading to a wonderfully poignant reunion in the Great White North. Also, Serena gets more comeuppance when her backstabbing of Fred leads him to backstab her attempts to see June’s child. Yeah, I made that more complicated than it is but it’s a great moment nonetheless. Oh, also the showrunners and the series end on a cliff hanger with June having been shot. So many examples of high stakes in this episode.
What are your favourite Handmaid’s Tale episodes? Let me know in the comments below!