The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those brilliantly crafted, heart-wrenching TV shows that sucks you into its perfectly formed world so completely, you’re practically compelled to watch the entire series in one sitting.
Ever since the politically charged dystopian series landed in Australia, it’s been an immense subject of discussion and debate among fans, proving that the best kind of TV shows are the ones whose essence leaps off the screen and into your real life.
The series is based on the beloved 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, and managed to stay true to the author’s original vision, characters and story, while also adding a whole other story dimension into the mix in the form of its meticulously crafted sets.
In season one of The Handmaid’s Tale, every element that catches your eye has been carefully placed there to advance the story and build up the world of Gilead.
The series, which stars Elisabeth Moss in the lead role of handmaid Offred, is set in the not-too-distant future where, following a Second American Civil War, women called “handmaids” are forced into sexual and child-bearing servitude.
However, if you were so gripped by the story that you raced through the episodes and hit the finish line in record time like we did, you may have missed all the little clues hidden on screen that tell another side to this blood-curdling tale.
With the DVD release on March 14 and season two coming soon, we’ve dived back into season one for all the story clues that make it worth a re-watch right now:
1. Offred’s bedroom is both a prison and a harsh reminder of the life she lost.
Commander Waterford’s (Joseph Fiennes) house, where Offred is being kept when we first meet her, is quite opulent and filled with creature comforts. But her bedroom is another story.
Instead of being a safe haven, it’s filled with reminders of her old life and nods to the prison she now finds herself in. There’s a desk in her room, but as a handmaid she is no longer permitted to read or write, so it sits there unused and reminds her of her past job as an editor, a role she will never hold again.
What’s missing from the room also speaks volumes about the situation she now finds herself in. On the wall there is a faded outline that shows the place where a mirror used to hang.
The handmaids are forbidden from being vain or changing their appearance, so every way they can see their face has been removed.
2. Serena Joy’s collection proves she is a real villain who has profiteered from this new world.
In the series we see that Commander Waterford’s wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) has filled their imposing home with an immense and enviable collection of art, which is something not often seen in the other homes of Gilead.
But if you take a closer look at the art collection it becomes much more sinister. The artworks are all depicted to be original pieces of high-profile art, as if the couple went directly into the Boston Museum of Modern Art once they took over the city.
The audience sees that Serena Joy is a watercolourist and enjoys nature, so she has taken all the Monets to sit on her own walls.
It's a small nod to the fact that these people have completely taken over this part of the world.
3. The roof of the Commander's office shows just how immense the takeover plan really was.
Ceilings are a part of rooms and sets that usually don't get a lot of love, as it's not a place where the audience is usually looking.
But since there are vital parts of the show where Offred is looking at the ceiling, during the horrendous fertility rituals for example, the set designs add in something special you might have missed.
Intricate designs can be found on the ceiling of the Waterford home’s private quarters, including a map of the United States on the ceiling of the Commander’s office. It's meant to represent his plan of attack, taking over one city at a time and working through the locations on the map until they were all under his control.
4. The Scrabble game wasn't just a Scrabble game.
Speaking of story clues found in the Commander's office, the scenes where he and Offred play Scrabble are even more loaded with importance than you first thought.
It's only under the cover of night, and the Commander's will, that Offred is allowed to partake in language and words, something that used to be her life's work.
It highlights how language is used as a power play in this new world, and how easily it can be taken away. Especially when the handmaids' language is limited to short slogans like the now-hauntingly iconic "praise be".
The Binge host Laura Brodnik explains all the little hidden story clues you missed in The Handmaid's Tale .
5. Some of the camera angles really hurt your eyes, and that's intentional.
The extensive world building in The Handmaid's Tale is not only reserved for the set designs, but also in the way they were shot.
The Handmaid’s Tale employs the use of very clever cinematography and masterfully angled shots to create scenes full of tension.
It's a subtle technique, but a very effective one. In multiple scenes where we see close-ups of the handmaids' faces, the viewer can immediately sense something is wrong and find it hard to look at them on screen.
This is happening because the image of their face has been mirrored – and the human eye watching it can tell that they're being showed a distorted image.
It all adds to the tension of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Handmaid's Tale is available on DVD for the first time on March 14. Buy your copy here.
What interesting little things have you noticed in The Handmaid's Tale? Share with us below!
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