Arts

TV Critic’s Corner

A well-timed ‘Handmaid’s’ hiatus

Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
George Kraychyk/Hulu
Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Usually, when shows I treasure leave for the season, I feel a degree of sorrow. I’m already jonesing for more “Barry” and “Killing Eve,” and they only just finished up.

Not so with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a drama that is of the highest quality, but one that I’m ready to go without for a long while. The acting is superb, the cinematography is arresting, and the dystopian story is haunting, timely, and well told. Last year, the first season was my pick for the No. 1 show of the year, and while season 2 hasn’t been quite as transporting and narratively tight, still it has been excellent.

But the darkness, oh the darkness. It can be overwhelming, as each episode puts Elisabeth Moss’ June — as well as many others — into the most horrible kinds of jeopardy. Moss has secured our empathy with her riveting and eye-centric performance, so each near-miss is excruciating. I’m definitely not saying I want the show to go away for good, but a respite will certainly be welcome. This Wednesday, Hulu will begin streaming the second-season finale.

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I’m also hoping that the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will be its last. The show features the kind of dense, explosive storytelling that benefits from a clear beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes, I get all tsk-tsky thinking about what a classic “Homeland”could have been if we’d only gotten the first two fine seasons. Of course, the success of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will probably tempt all involved to keep the train running for as long as possible, but I hope they — like June — have the power to resist.

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If we find ourselves in season 5 of the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” with June still undergoing torture after almost escaping, over and over again, the early emotional power of the drama will become diffused.

It will be reduced to “The Perils of Ofpaul.”