What do you do when one of the best shows you've ever seen is also one that you hate to watch?

This is the dilemma with The Handmaid's Tale. It pains me to watch, purely because it's so horrific. But for all those dark times, there are moments of triumph and defiance which are utterly addictive.

Throughout the first season, this dystopian universe was shrouded in mystery and so intensely focused on June's story that we were a bit sheltered from the bigger picture.

But in the first two episodes of season two, which premiered on Lightbox last night, the world was blown open and we finally got a sense of how everything went down - from the micro aggressions infiltrating every day life, to the full-scale terror attacks, to the background law reforms. And it is terrifying.

The opening scene of episode one makes you regret turning it on, as women are compared to cattle - a commodity to be utilised and traded. The real horror in these opening moments is that we are reminded time and again that there is so much more to fear than death.


When you grow up female-identifying, there comes a certain point where sexual violence stops being a possibility and starts being a likelihood. You're not scared of it in the way you're scared you might one day have a car crash, you're scared of it in the way you'd be scared to drive with your eyes closed. You know you probably won't make it unscathed, and even if you're hurt, everyone will ask why you had your eyes closed in the first place.

Offred is taken to the slaughterhouse. Photo / George Kraychyk, Hulu
Offred is taken to the slaughterhouse. Photo / George Kraychyk, Hulu

So when we see June still battling, and that realisation dawns on her that the worst is probably yet to come, it is heartbreaking to watch - but it's one hell of a set up for the rest of the season.

The beauty of this season is it's already shown the women fighting back more than ever. Even in its bleakest moments there are some tear-jerking acts of defiance - sometimes as simple as two strangers clasping hands in solidarity.

We see powerful scenes where June reclaims her identity, body and sexuality, despite her fear and pain.

We see Emily - who suffered horrific tortures last season - subdued and downtrodden in the colonies, but fighting on quietly as she did before the world changed.

We’re a long way from home.

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We learn her back story, watch her fight the homophobic and patriarchal double standards in academia and declare "we can't let them scare us back into the closet". And we see that fighting spirit return in a truly haunting storyline which I won't spoil here.

The Handmaid's Tale has always been terrifying because it's so possible.

Because there is an uprising happening which saw Trump elected, the KKK rallying in public spaces again and an outpouring of discontent over women declaring #MeToo.


Because #MeToo proved that almost every woman has suffered injustices that made us feel the way this show does.

Because the last time I wrote a column, scores of men emailed me telling me not to overstep my station and to stay in my lane. And because every woman I know has been made to feel at some point, that they're not even existing correctly.

And that's why I have to keep watching this show, even though it fills me with rage and makes me cry and hurts to watch sometimes.

Because for all its horrors, it's a reminder of the power of women, sisterhood and the things we can endure and most of all, that we have to keep fighting - and we can.

*The Handmaid's Tale is streaming now on Lightbox.