With the return of Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, fans can expect even more torment and rebellion against the patriarchy. Elisabeth Moss stars in the Hulu drama about a former Handmaid turned state enemy named June Osborne, whose crusade to topple the totalitarian Republic of Gilead gets bloodier every year. Every now and then, watching The Handmaid’s Tale can be excruciatingly difficult because of how engrossing, enraging and enlightening it is at the same time.
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‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ set in the late 2010s, captured the political climate and warned of the dangers a country could face if it were to fall into the wrong hands. While waiting for new episodes of your favorite show, try binge-watching these other dramas that explore the same big ideas. This list has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for more dystopian stories, stories about women overcoming sexism or stories about people undermining the government (even if you enjoy being miserable).
1. The Americans
The Americans may not take place in a dystopian future, but it does raise the possibility that the real dystopia has always existed within the borders of the United States.
Cold War spy thriller starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell from Joe Weisberg, set in the 1980s, follows two Russian intelligence officers who pose as a suburban American couple and conduct covert operations in their picture-perfect home’s cellar. Even though their plot against the government is less explosive, it is more tense and exciting than June’s. However, The Americans is primarily a family drama about the difficulties of marriage and parenthood in a foreign country. By placing Philip and Elizabeth as foreigners in American society, The Handmaid’s Tale uncovers the country’s political and cultural underpinnings in a startling new light. Both shows play on parents’ fears of raising children in a violent world, and no show has ever done it better than The Americans in this regard. You can see it on Amazon.
2. The Plot Against America
The Plot Against America got lost in the shuffle when it first aired in March 2020, but it’s one to keep an eye out for. In an alternate version of American history, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh ran for president in 1940 and defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt on a fascist, isolationist platform, as written by The Wire’s David Simon and Ed Burns and based on Philip Roth’s novel. Working-class Jewish Americans in Newark, New Jersey, who are trying to achieve the American dream, see it crumble before their eyes as the country heads toward fascism. Similar to the book The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a dark parable about how hateful people can be and what can happen to the world as a result. It’s a gut punch like no other. [HBO Max subscribers: check this out]
3. Alias Grace
Visit Margaret Atwood’s world by reading a book or by watching the film adaptation of the same name, which is both succinct and brutal in its treatment of the author.
It takes a long time to get through The Handmaid’s Tale. There is another harrowing look at the horrors inflicted on women in the six part miniseries directed by Mary Harron and written by actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley, but this one rails against the past patriarchy rather than near future. While Sarah Gadon plays Grace Marks, the maid famous for the unsolved murder she can’t remember, a psychiatrist is sent to determine whether or not she’s insane. It’s a period piece based on a true crime story about a serial killer who operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
4. Mad Men
Watch an episode of Mad Men for even more toxic patriarchy.
While Matthew Weiner’s glossy period drama about 1960s advertising lives up to expectations, it offers far more to Handmaid’s Tale fans than just another stellar performance by Eliabeth Moss (although it has that too). When women try to live lives outside of what is expected of them in a male-dominated society, they are shamed and diminished. This is especially evident in the AMC series. It costs a lot for Mad Men’s women, like Peggy Olson, played by Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, and Betty Draper, played by January Jones, to define themselves. Because it takes place during a turbulent decade, Mad Men does a better job than any other show at conveying what it’s like to live through history. [Watch on AMC+ or for free on IMDb TV with ads]
5. The Good Fight
When it comes to the Trump era, The Handmaid’s Tale goes for the gloom, while The Good Fight goes for the absurd.
Follow-up to the hit show The Good Wife from Robert and Michelle King follows Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart as she joins a predominantly Black law firm that frequently finds itself in politically charged situations. In one episode, a client who may or may not be Melania Trump considers divorcing her husband.
Whether it’s a catchy animated musical sequence about impeachment or Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theories, The Good Fight will do anything to win. However, the show’s incendiary rage against an unequal justice system is served by the outrageously controlled chaos. The Good Fight takes on corporate feminism and liberals who compromise their principles in order to succeed, delving deeper into the relationship between race and power than The Handmaid’s Tale does. It’s also a lot of fun! It’s a courtroom drama for the post-rules era. [Purchase Paramount+ to view]
If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale but wished there had been more time spent inside Jezebel’s brothel and sex club, take a look at Harlots. Samatha Morton’s Margaret Wells, the brothel madam in 18th-century London, is the focus of this British-American period piece. Most of these women can’t advance in society without sex work, and the show explores how it can be empowering one day and abusive the next. Women are compelled to use their bodies to survive on Harlots, just as they were in The Handmaid’s Tale. Nevertheless, Harlots can also be a soapy, naughty pleasure while delving into the power dynamics of sex work. That it manages to be both serious and a romp is impressive.
It will satisfy your cravings for dystopia as well as sci-fi if you watch The Colony. A near-future Los Angeles is the setting for the USA Network series, which was created by Lost’s Carlton Cuse and Ryan J. Condal. Will Bowman (Josh Holloway), a former FBI agent, and his family, which includes wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), find themselves on opposing sides of the resistance as they struggle to survive. There are plenty of similarities between Colony and The Handmaid’s Tale, as Cuse and Condal envisioned the drama as a metaphor for the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. Colony doesn’t care as much about sci-fi explanations as it does about how people feel living under a repressive regime. Both shows serve as metaphors for how people cope when the government turns against them and starts enforcing its will on them. You can see it on Netflix.
For a dystopian thriller that leans more toward young adult, check out Netflix’s Brazilian production 3 percent. When 20-year-olds compete to get to an island paradise, 3 percent follows a diverse group of hopefuls who each enter the competition known as The Process for their own reasons to escape their impoverished home country. It’s like a less violent version of The Hunger Games. It’s also a story fueled by social tensions, like The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale. 3 percent debunks the myth that the wealthy have the right to oppress those who are less fortunate. Does this sound familiar to you? You can see it on Netflix.