What critics have to say about ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season 3

Read what the reviews -- both good and bad -- say about the third installment of Hulu's dystopian hit.

handmaid's tale season 3 review
The Hulu series "The Handmaid's Tale" on location on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Feb.15. –Calla Kessler / The Washington Post

Red cloaks are back in season.

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s interpretation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, returns to the streaming platform with three new episodes on Wednesday. While the first two seasons firmly planted the series in Boston, it seems viewers will get a wider view of the dystopian universe this time around, namely through action in Canada and Washington D.C.

The third installment appears to have a warm response, with a 78 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article’s publication. Still, critics had quite a bit to say about the six episodes made available for reviewing purposes. If you’re considering whether or not to rejoin June and the rest of Gilead for a third round, read on for the good, bad, and middling reviews of season three of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The good


For The Verge, Samantha Nelson wrote that season 3 is off to a “rousing start.” She especially praised the show’s supplementary characters, such as former handmaid Emily (Alexis Bledel). 

“The scenes involving June’s husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) trying to push her out of the protective nest of his home, hoping she’ll reconnect with her wife and son, provide a heart-wrenching look at the effects of trauma, and how hard it can be to understand it from the outside.”

According to USA Today’s Kelly Lawler, season 3 didn’t live up to the show’s first season, but also improved on the second. 

“It’s in June’s sometimes clumsy and misguided efforts to join the resistance that “Handmaid’s” gains the momentum the series has long been missing. It’s invigorating to get out of the claustrophobic Waterford house, to see new faces (especially Bradley Whitford’s semi-psychotic Commander Lawrence) and for the story to move forward instead of trotting in miserable place as it did for so long last year. “

The so-so

Vulture‘s Jen Chaney acknowledged the show’s shortcomings, but still found it “reasonably compelling.”

“So yes, The Handmaid’s Tale has flaws, and your tolerance of those flaws may vary, both personally and from episode to episode. But as aware as I am of those flaws, I still can’t look away. Not yet, not when these characters, and by extension, those of us watching, are still so desperate to taste some form of justice.”

For Ben Travers of IndieWire, the fault of the “The Handmaid’s Tale” laid in stringing  its impressive elements into one effective narrative.

“Season 3 isn’t short on powerful moments (like the shot of the monument) or personal growth (like the argument had at his feet), but it does falter at times while trying to bring the two together.”

The Washington Post‘s TV critic Hank Stuever applauded the performances, but said the series was “getting boring.” 

“Miller and company often struggle to move their ongoing story of June (Elisabeth Moss) along at a pace that is both consistent and intriguing. They’ll rev it up in one episode, only to ramp it down in the next; they’ll terrify us in one moment and then rectify a life-threatening crisis almost as fast.”

The ugly


Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the show has run out of things to say.

“Even the show’s visual and narrative flourishes are starting to feel like stylistic tics: The extreme close-ups, June’s profane voice-over prayers (“This is the valley of death, and there’s a f—ton of evil to fear”), the use of slow-motion to signal that what we’re seeing is an Important Moment.”

The A.V. Club‘s Gwen Ihnat said that the promised revolution of this season took too long to gain momentum.

“Maybe the second half of the season will turn things around. Unfortunately, six hours is a long time to slog through a story that just seems to get more and more depressing. June glaring into the camera with apparent promises of revolt, backed by a revolutionary-themed rock song (which happens more than once), doesn’t count as actual plot progression.”