The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale has come to an end after bringing to life the hellish existence of Offred (Elisabeth Moss), a woman forced into maternal servitude, in a dystopian world ruled by an oppressive theocracy. The Hulu series, based on Margaret Atwood’s celebrated novel, has been renewed for a second season (though not everyone agrees it should be) but there’s probably going to be a long wait before it arrives. So if you want to fill The Handmaid’s Tale void in your TV schedule here’s a few other shows on the streaming service that might tickle your fancy.
This British period drama has a lighter tone than The Handmaid’s Tale but still tackles the issues of sexism, prostitution, and consent 127 years before the term “feminism” was even coined. It was a time when marrying well or selling your body was the only way women could advance in wealth or status in a male-dominated society. Samantha Morton (Minority Report, Fantastic Beasts) takes the lead in Harlots, as brothel owner Margaret Wells, whose attempt to secure a more upmarket establishment for her girls is constantly frustrated by a rival Madame and religious reformers. As Wells tries to climb the social ladder, she often steps on her daughters to get there, even auctioning off their virginities to the highest bidder to further her own economic ambitions. Harlots is all about female ambition, struggle, and survival and will have you rooting for these girls not in spite of their flaws but because of them.
The themes of oppression and subordination are rife in this miniseries, based on the Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It tells the story of Kunta (Malachi Kirby), an 18th-century West African who is snatched, transported to West Virginia, and sold into slavery. The series is split into four parts and follows Kunta’s harrowing life as a slave and that of his children and grandchildren over 200 years. Roots earned critical acclaim for its dark and honest depiction of America’s greatest shame as well as for the performances of its stellar cast including Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin, Mekhi Phifer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anika Noni Rose and Matthew Goode, with Laurence Fishburne providing the narration as author Haley. If you didn’t watch Roots when it was on History, A&E, Lifetime or BBC Four then now is definitely the time.
Like the 1973 film, The Exorcist is not for the faint hearted and is certainly a darker choice for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale who are looking for a chilling and tense series with strong religious undertones. This modern interpretation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel centers on the Rance family and the demonic possession of their youngest daughter, Casey (Hannah Kasulka). Geena Davis plays her mother Angela, a devout Catholic who looks to the progressive Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) for help getting her daughter back. He, in turn, enlists Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) – a gritty rebooted version of Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin – to help exorcise the demon in Casey. Critics have praised this series and it’s already been renewed for a second season, with a whole new family in need of an exorcist.
The Path is another TV series that explores the chilling oppressiveness of religion. Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan play husband and wife, Eddie and Sarah Lane, members of the Meyerist Movement – a seemingly idyllic religious sect heavily inspired by Scientology, Christian mysticism and elements of Freemasonry. Returning from a spiritual retreat in Peru, Eddie begins to secretly question his faith, causing Sarah to become suspicious and thus beginning a chain of events that bring out the dark truths of Meyerism as the series progresses. The show paces itself similarly to The Handmaid’s Tale, drawing you in slowly so that by the time you’re halfway through there’s no turning back, and with a third season being ordered you’ll be one happy convert.
Spirituality, jealousy, heroism, and sexual desire are just a few of the themes explored in WGN America’s critically-acclaimed period drama series, as it offers an authentic and inspired look at slavery in the US. Underground takes the slave narrative and switches it on its head, daring to question historic notions of what it means to be a slave and whether they are always the victim. The series is set at the brink of the Civil War, in 1857, where a group of Georgian plantation slaves rally together to escape their shackles and journey 600 miles north towards the promise of freedom. It brings to life the stories of the Underground railroad with Jurnee Smollett-Bell leading the charge. Even though Underground is struggling to find a home following its post-season two cancellation, the series is still a worthy and important series to watch.
Have you seen any of these shows? What do you plan to watch once the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale is over? Let us hear about it in the comments!