TV & Movies

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Review and Thoughts

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So, I finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 and I have thoughts. Lots of them!!

In one sentence – as an attempt to make it a spoiler free feedback – I would say the season was sadly not one of their strongest but saved itself by the end thanks to the dramatics.

(Now, was that too harsh; I really hope not? Frankly, I loved the first two seasons so, SO much that I have no idea how to be disappointed at this series. Huh! This season definitely made me cranky.)

Here’s a thing about fiction – the end of the story makes the story. The feeling you have while turning the final chapters, the last few pages, determines how you’ll remember the story. While watching a show or reading a book that instantly appears great, my apprehension about their endings often increases. You can’t blame me though; too many good stories, especially these modern drama shows, have disappointed with their finales. The Handmaid’s Tale is one such show. Not the disappointment part, but the apprehension one. It started at its peak and I want it to end on one. Season 4 gives a probable glimpse of how it all might come to an end.

Talking about the season specifically, I have to say I was worried at the start. Probably the weakest season premiere of the series yet; nonetheless, it got better. The start, or in fact the whole first half of the season, seemed off. Directionless! But it got better in the second half and takes a turn where things actually get interesting again. Somehow the narration reached to a point by the end where it left me wanting to come back for the next season, and that’s… positive.

I will never talk about The Handmaid’s Tale without talking about her. Elizabeth Moss! She puts on the director’s hat this season. And I must say, I felt so proud for some unimaginable reason. I recently finished watching Mad Men. (Thoughts and reviews on that can be expected in future *winks*) From that pilot episode of Mad Men where she plays a new, shy and intimidated secretary who has dreams but has no idea how to pursue them to now directing the hell out of an emmy winning show in which she is the protagonist and appears almost in every frame. Like I said, I’m in awe. She is as natural behind the camera as she is in front. Her direction was at par with the standard of the show, which is high praise considered how unique and impactful this show’s direction has been so far.

To move forward, we have to get into the spoiler zone. So, this is me, giving a big – SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t read the latest season, read no more.

Thoughts – SPOILER Alert

The Decapitation of the Waterfords finally happened. HA HA HA! Can you see my evil grin? Now, who wasn’t waiting for THAT? Commander Fred Waterford wailing and screaming – “I’m a man, and I have rights!” on top of his voice wasn’t just poetic but one of the most satisfactory moments of the entire series. It was one thing every viewer of the show was waiting for since the pilot episode, the dethroning of the Waterfords. And while the process started last season, the second half of season 4 is much more decisive about their fate.

The Wordfords have always been the strongest aspects of this story. They built Gilead and by the virtue of our protagonist spending so much of her handmaid days with them, we understood Gilead from their eyes. From the very first episode, the Handmaid’s Tale made it clear that Serena Waterford was as much a participant in the making of Gilead as were the men we saw ruling it later. Even when Serena’s figure was cut off for crime of reading (since women in Gilead aren’t allowed to read), Serena’s belief in the system that she played an influential role in creating was evident when she mentions how it was as per the “law of the state.” To say men were responsible for this dystopian state become a reality is a lie. The fact remains, women not only participated but some like Mrs Waterford even became the architect of Gilead. She played a significant role and now she can’t pretend. At least not in front of the commander. There was a moment this season when Commander Waterford reminds us – and Serena – this truth in flesh – “I am as you made me” he tells the woman who definitely has a lot to answer for, if not more than anyone else.

One thing, Fred, Serena and June (Offred) – I needed more of this trio. I won’t lie I was hoping for more fireworks and a much intense faceoff. Some may find the plot with the Waterfords underwhelming, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to this arc so I’m going to accept what the Handmaid’s Tale writers did.

Next, we have June finally escaping. It was a surprise to be honest, and I wasn’t expecting that to happen till the end of this season, especially after watching the first few episodes. Nevertheless, she did and we have to be glad. June’s Arc, after she reunites with Luke, Nichole, Moira and Emily, took the interesting turn I was hoping it will take whenever she sees the normal light of the day. After everything the woman has been through, what does life even looks like after this? Trauma and its effects are complicated. You can’t just escape abuse in such severity and find solace in your safety or even family. I’m glad the writers accepted this and are making us face the music. “We are the ones we have been waiting for” June’s mother used to tell her and she made sure to repeat these words when they are needed the most.

June and Luke’s relationship has been through a journey that no couple can even imagine. This season finally shows them together in the present time and what exactly we thought was going to happen. Do they just start living like they used to before? How? Do they talk? About what? Everything about these two presents such a nuanced point of contention in fiction, the Handmaid’s Tale did its best to do justice. Some rough and disturbing scenes here address the problem in a way that will always remain debatable. The scene where June rapes Luke (yes, the debate of whether it was rape of not is long concluded; it was in fact rape) remains one of the defining moments. It blurred many lines. Lines between characters, between relationships, between good or bad. It was an interesting choice, though I wouldn’t call it brave per se. The creators have crossed ticked the bravery bracket a long time ago.

Then we have June and Nick. Talking about Nick Blaine – well, hero is usually someone you don’t expect to be one. I would be lying if I say I wasn’t rooting for these two to be together. Not in a shipping way, but for the simple fact that no one would ever understand what June survived more than Nick. But Nick has to stay where he belongs to continue what was started and that underlines the fact that every hell has its share of good men being sent there for thing reasons we will never understand.

I want to talk about Janine. We have been watching her since the first season and although she endured more than any of the handmaids, Janine has always been the one to be taken lightly by everyone. Even by June, who was present throughout Janine’s struggles and was a witness to her strength in moments of absolute hell. June underestimated Janine. We all did. This season finally addressed it. I’m glad she survived because she deserves to see the end of it all more than anyone.

Here’s a serious question as an end thought – what is the plan for Mrs Keyes? The character was introduced with such fanfare in season premiere and then just forgotten for half of the season. This, however, increasingly continues to be a problem with many TV shows. Introduction of characters with big promises with no follow through. I hope we see some development here next season.

I think I know what the issue with The Handmaid’s Tale has been. It’s started brilliantly. The show was able to set the standards of cinematic brilliance so high that disappointment at continuation was inevitable. Which is probably why even after loving so many aspects of writing, performance and plot choices, I am not calling this season one of their strongest. Anyhow, I’m won’t lie, I am looking forward to the next season. Like an irritating yet loyal admirer, I complain but I will stand by it till the end.

(Check my The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 , Season 2 , and Season 3 review posts. You are obviously free to skip, but I would recommend against it.)

Books

Twist in the “tale” of Cat Person – Reading Recommendation

This is a recommendation post. I usually stick to book recommendations, but I’m here with something more than that today. This is about a short story and a recent revelation from the person who’s life it was based on. This revelation, now almost 5 years after the short story was first published and went viral, has opened a whole new debate.

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I don’t know how many of you are aware or still remember viral items from almost 5 years ago. But for the sake of this, I’m guessing you are not. This is about a 2017 viral short story written by Kristen Roupenian – Cat Person! This short fiction gathered a lot of attention online during those delicate days when #metoo movement was gaining momentum worldwide. Women across the world were facing the reality much more than men as we ourselves were so used to hiding from it. Emotions were running high and it is safe to say that the story resonated with many, irrespective of gender. Some liked it, some not so much. Discourse was inevitable.

I remember reading Cat Person sometime in early 2018. I didn’t appreciate it and was immediate to question the intention. The story felt personal. Invasive. Incorrect. Immoral. The writing was mediocre. But somehow Roupenian managed to add everything that would get the reading community talking. In short, this small piece of fiction opened a painfully long episode of online debates with people sharing their feelings, disappointments, appreciation and rants. Not to say, Twitter went into its usual frenzy. 

Now, all that happened in 2017. Continued for sometime and probably remained in the minds of a few. When I say a few, it includes the one person who’s life the story was based on.

Cut to… we are in 2021 and we have a twist in the tale. A twist that I am not going to reveal for obvious reasons. (Wouldn’t you want to read it yourself??) But I am telling you – you have to read this.

Alexis Nowicki, an Associate Publicist based in New York, recently published an essay in Slate dot com. And she.. well, she talked about Cat Person, the story. She talked about the story and how it was basically……. her life.

Alexis’s essay is what I am here to recommend. The essay not just present a chilling twist in the tale but also rightfully opens a whole new debate around fiction being borrowed from reality and the question of ethics behind it. It is much more than what initially may seem. Yes, she is talking about fiction and her life but the piece is quietly raising many questions. More than anything, it opens the question of perception about people and how we assume things that are not real. We pass judgements, sometimes based on our personal experiences and sometimes well, because of our shortsightedness.

I highly recommend reading Alexis’s essay. It is one of the finest and most nuanced writings I have seen in recent times.

Links to both “stories” are below along with an article written in 2017 that captures the mood of reading community and the discourse that followed the release of the short fiction. Frankly speaking, I really hope you guys read these. This rekindled debate is worth a notice. And if you do, please leave a comment below to share how you feel about this, would love to hear more perspectives.

(I recommend reading these in below order by the way.)

Read Cat Person here.
Read about the 2017 discourse here.
Read Alexis’s recently published essay here.

Short Stories

In that moment..

The moment he was hit with realisation, he panicked. For the moment. And just in that moment he knew there’s no escape. Whatever was about to happen, will happen. He can’t run, he can’t hide, he can’t resist, and it was certainly too late to turn around or walk backwards. The choice he made in the moment before this moment brought him here. There’s no changing the past. And as he was panicking, he had no idea how to alter the future. So, what was he supposed to do was the thought that captured him after the moment of panic passed, somewhat. Was he just supposed to welcome this or accept this? That sounded more like submission. In a mechanical or instinctive movement, he closed his eyes. As if that was natural. He closed his eyes and it was all dark. Was he expecting something else? In the moment he was to open his eyes, he saw a tinge of blue. The colour. Of water. First in a small stretch and then the whole wide sky-like ocean. Welcoming. Smirking. All in front of him. Eyes still close, his smile appeared from nowhere.

Short Stories

A dream like a dream..

The buttermilk was all over the floor.
Just in that moment, there was a knock on the door.
An old lady was humming a song that night.
It was morning already when I opened my eyes.
There was a road. An empty one.
And a lamp post. Like the early sun.
I remember it was raining in the hall.
Or may be it was the sound of the distant waterfall.
You stuck around to see how I was feeling low.
Still through the window I had to see you go.
We were all really on our way.
All I have left is fuzzy memories that had to stay.
Like I said, it was morning already.
I closed my eyes for one minute and the storm was ready.

Books

Some Days by María Wernicke – Book Review

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Book Title – Some Days
Author – María Wernicke
Translator – Lawrence Schimel
Category – Children’s Picture Book
Illustrator – María Wernicke
Page Count – 24

Ratings – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis – From an Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee comes a touching story of family, security, and loss.

Thoughts

You don’t need many words to create literary magic. Sometimes, the tiniest dynamites of fiction leave the greatest impressions. Some Days by María Wernicke fall in the category of such little dynamites.

Although it is widely projected as Children’s picture book, this extremely short story quickly turns into meaningful poetic prose.

A little girl having a conversation with her mother about a passageway in their backyard. A simple conversation promising a thousand of meanings. I read it three times to make sure I’m not missing something only to realize I’ll be missing some meaning or nuance even if I read it ten times. I’m not sure if children reading this alone would ever be able to decipher what is actually being said, but then today’s children are not really children, are they?

The illustrations are impressive and intertwine with the written word perfectly.

In short, Some Days by María Wernicke is a work of art. Highly recommend it if you are looking for something heart pleasing.

Life Notes

Sorry I was MIA…

This month was weird, to say the least. Weird in a way that I just today realised that it is over. It’s gonna be a new month tomorrow. Life as such has been so blurry it completely slipped my mind that time was continuing. I thought I would stop and everything would stop with me. But turns out I was wrong.

I just wasn’t here. It was a much needed online break. I couldn’t come online. Or may be I just didn’t want to. Whatever it was, it did me good. I feel better, although I do feel like a break from virtual world have now put my mind to sleep.

Anyway, I have many scattered thoughts, jumbled sentences and lost words that all seems to be making some sort of sense at the end. So.. if my anxiety permits, hopefully… I will be able to express a lot better next month. May be I can take a writing challenge? Oooooooo, that could shake me out of this messy mind slumber.

It’s July tomorrow, can you believe it? JULY? Half of the year is gone. Huh!

Awards · Life Notes

“Get To Know Me Better” Tag – #ThisOrThat

First thing that comes to mind about “Get To Know Me Better” Tag is how irrelevant I am. Yes, that’s where my self worth dangles at. But self worth is a whole another blog topic for another day. Today, we are knowing me better. The thought that someone would be interested in “knowing me better” is so bizarre, I mean, isn’t it? What’s the point in that? Having said that, if I can be honest, I have done pointless things all my life.

So, here I am.

I was tagged by the charming and ultra talented Pavithra, one of the most delightful bloggers I have met here. Check Pavithra’s blog at introvertbags. She covers music, kpop and books, but I like everything that she does over that virtual corner. The point is, Pavithra is great and you all must check her corner, NOW. Before starting, I want to thank Pavithra for the tag.

Rules…

  • Thank the person who nominated/tagged you.
  • Answer all the 50 ThisOrThat questions in your post. You can do less if you want.
  • Link back to the creator @Poorwa’s blog
  • Nominate at least 7 people or more for this tag.
  • Use #ThisOrThat for easy accessibility.
  • Have fun!

So let’s get started…

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1. Friends or Internet? – Internet, it’s definitely more accommodating.
2. Pop or Rock? – None, I am more into classical music.
3. Phone Call or Text? – Text, my brain needs time to process and respond.
4. Morning or Evening? – Evening, it feels almost like I survived.
5. Apartment or House? – House in dreams, apartment in reality.
6. Instagram or Twitter? – Twitter, Insta seems aesthetically out of reach.
7. Day or Night? – Night, I like my darkness.
8. Mobile Games or Console Games? – None, I have never gravitated to these.
9. While doing something: Music or Podcasts? – None, I can’t multitask.
10. Book or Movie? – Both, it’s criminal to make me choose.
11. Rain or Snow? – Rain, it has a rhythm.
12. Cake or Pie? – Cake, simpler life is all I need.
13. Swimming or Sunbathing? – Can’t swim, not too tolerant to direct sunlight.
14. Comedy or Horror? – Comedy, how’s that even a choice?
15. Aquarium or Zoo? – Aquarium, I think I understand their language.
16. Big Party or Small Gathering? – None, would never socialize, if allowed.
17. New Clothes or New Phone? – New Clothes, if I genuinely need them.
18. Rich Friend or Loyal Friend? – Rich friends, loyal I have, I need some rich ones.
19. Flowers or Trees? – Trees, they keep me alive.
20. Work Hard or Play Hard? – Work Hard, there’s no alternative for people like me.
21. Nice Car or Nice Home Interior? – None, nice holiday.
22. Phone or Computer? – Computer, a much significant gadget.
23. Jogging or Hiking? – Hiking, exploring is fun.
24. Milk or Juice? – Juice, milk is just not it after an age.
25. Blue or Grey? – Grey, for some reason.
26. Straight or Curly Hair? – Curly, since mine are straight and have hated them all my life.
27. Fruits or Vegetables? – Vegetable, maybe because they can be cooked.
28. Roses or Daisies? – Daisies, but I’m not into flowers per se.
29. Money or Fame? – Money, fame is too scary.
30. Receive: Email or Letter? – Letter, haven’t received one in so long.
31. Passenger or Driver? – Driver, it’s liberating.
32. Watch or Play? – Play, better to participate.
33. Someone Intelligent or Funny? – Funny, you can’t be funny if you aren’t intelligent.
34. Mountains or Beaches? – Beaches, mountains seem angry, beaches are peaceful.
35. Cinderella or Elsa? – Elsa, just because Cinderella is delusional.
36. Money or Free Time? – Money, trust me, it can buy happiness.
37. Iron Man or Captain America? – None, no superheroes for me, please.
38. Video games or Board games? – Board games, they are more fun in my opinion.
39. Singing or Dancing? – Dancing, I am trained one.
40. Long hair or Short hair? – Short hair, it’s always better even though I’m trying to grow mine.
41. Cats or Dogs? – Cats, they are comedians.
42. Cleaning or Cooking? – Cleaning, keep me away from fire.
43. Winter or Summer? – Winter, it’s the season of smarter clothing.
45. Ninjas or Pirates? – Ninjas, who doesn’t want that agility.
46. Sweater or Hoodie? – Hoodie, they feel safer.
47. Working alone or Working in a team? – Working, alone or team doesn’t matter as long as good work is being done.
48. Save or Spend? – Save, I’m not a spender.
49. Meat or Vegetables? – Meat, that’s just how I am.
50. Honesty or Other’s feelings? – Other’s feelings, honesty is overrated and quite impossible to achieve in absolute sense.

Phew……that wasn’t so hard, in fact, I think I get the flow. Frankly, I don’t mind answering another 50 of these. (What’s wrong with me, seriously?)

Anyway….

For my nomination, I nominate anyone who’s reading this. If you want to give this a try, please feel free to consider yourself tagged.

This was such fun. I want to thank the creator – Poorwa and here’s the way to her beautiful blog.

Books

“So as to choose” – Thought of the day

Today, all I’m thinking about is this excerpt from The Portrait Of A Lady.

“I always want to know the things one shouldn’t do.”
“So as to do them?” asked her aunt.
“So as to choose,” said Isabel”

“So as to choose” – this is everything what life is about. Choices.. that’s all we have, or not. But that’s all that is defining what we are and what we are going to be. And although we are making choices every passing minute, it is evident none of us are great at it. Every choice you made yesterday, whether it turned to be good or bad today, is a matter of chance. Even then, here we are trying to make the right choice, not knowing how. 

As for The Portrait Of A Lady, safe to say Isabel Archer is one of my favorite fictional leading ladies of all times. Truly, the more flawed she turned out to be, the more inspiring her whole arc somehow became. She is no classic heroine and it isn’t easy to fall for her, but I still did.    

My The Portrait Of A Lady book review 

Short Stories · Women

Oh, my feminist soul!

So, these two incidents happened. Not making it up at all. These are true stories. Judge them all you want; I am not sorry. Men had this long time coming. 

Anyway…

Cut to –

Scene One

Male Colleague (politely) : Hey, do you need help with that?
Me (clearly struggling, confused about the task) – NO… no, no.. I’m fine. I’m good. Thanks.
Me (internal monologue) – Here we go….Dude, like seriously….huh! Read the room man; do I even know you? This is scary; why is he trying to be friendly for no reason? Errrrrr..

Scene Two

Female Colleague (emotionless) – Let me help you with that. That’s not how it’s done.
Me (on the verge of finishing the task comfortably) – Oh… really? Yeah… yeah, sure, please I was having doubts about the way I am doing it anyway. Here.. thanks for your help. 
Me (internal monologue) *big smile* – She is so sweet.


🙂 🙂 🙂

inspiration · Life Notes

Reminder:

Life is marathon, not a sprint.

So… today, it is okay to stop and breathe.
To take your time,
To drink some water.
So what if the one running next you has already crossed two milestones successfully.
In life, they aren’t getting a trophy for reaching the finishing line first.
So what if you missed your chance at the run-up.
You maybe not be running as fast as you initially thought, you can always gain momentum later.
So what if your competitor looks like they are winning.
Even if they beat you, they will end up in the same space, probably waiting for you.

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So… today, it’s okay to sit back and reflect.
Or to sit back and do nothing.

#YourMentalHealthMattersTheMost
#HappyJune