The Best Episodes of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Fans still have a year to go until the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale premieres on Hulu. Until then, fans can watch the three seasons of the show all over again. With 36 episodes that are each almost an hour long, binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale again is no easy feat. For fans who just want to watch the highlights, these are the best episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid's Tale
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

‘Offred’ sets the tone of the entire series

The first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale is titled “Offred.” The episode expertly introduces the characters and the totalitarian society of Gilead. Directed by Reed Morano, “Offred” sets the tone of the entire series.

Morano won an Emmy Award for her direction of the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. She also won a Directors Guild of America Award for her work on “Offred.” To this day, The Handmaid’s Tale still incorporates the cinematography and directing style used in the first episode.

The third season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ ended on an engaging note

The third season of The Handmaid’s Tale suffered from a noticeable decrease in quality. After a lull in the plot about halfway through the season, the show picked back up in “Witness.” By the time the season finale rolled around, The Handmaid’s Tale moved at an exciting pace.

“Mayday” is the season finale of the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. The episode saw Serena Joy Waterford finally face the consequences of her actions while June spearheaded the rebellion. In a triumphant moment, June’s mission is successful and over 50 children are rescued from Gilead. The ending of “Mayday” promised viewers that fans should expect a completely different show when it returns for a fourth season.

‘A Woman’s Place’ examines feminism and complacency

The sixth episode of the first season is called “A Woman’s Place.” Viewers are treated with Serena’s backstory before Gilead, which in turn shows just how involved she was in the start of Gilead. In the episode, an ambassador from Mexico visits Gilead.

Using Serena and the Mexican ambassador, The Handmaid’s Tale explores the ideas of feminism and complacency. Serena is a villain and helped design Gilead from her position of privilege. She did not mind oppressing other women if the ends benefited her. When her complacency results in Gilead oppressing her, Serena becomes the designer of her own prison.

“She believes the rhetoric of Gilead so thoroughly because she helped create it,” writes Angelica Jade Bastién in Vulture. “… she thought she’d be the exception, not the rule… Serena Joy has no such illusions. She knows the terrifying horror brought upon Handmaids benefits a select few, of which she isn’t fully included.”

At the end of the episode, June hopes she has an ally with Mrs. Castillo, the Mexican ambassador, because she is a woman. June tells her of the horrors of Gilead, but Mrs. Castillo chooses to turn a blind eye. The ambassador effectively chooses complacency over the lives of the women in Gilead.

‘Smart Power’ takes ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ out of Gilead

One of the ways The Handmaid’s Tale improved on Margaret Atwood’s novel is the way the show expanded on the world outside of Gilead. In “Smart Power,” the ninth episode of the second season, the show takes viewers to Canada. While the book and show often referenced Canada as a refuge for those who escaped Gilead, not much more is known about it until “Smart Power.”

Fred and Serena take a trip to Canada with Nick on a diplomatic mission. The episode gives insight to what the rest of the world thinks of Gilead. “Smart Power” also crosses story lines when Luke confronts Fred and later meets with Nick.