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'The Handmaid’s Tale' is a harrowing TV show. Check out some of the most disturbing moments from season 1.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season 1: The most disturbing moments ranked

Blessed is the fruit – The Handmaid’s Tale season three hit Hulu on June 5th, more brutal, violent, and filled with defiance than the last two. As well as further lifting the curtain on the dreaded colonies, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) was back on the inside acting as a Coyote to help get other handmaids out to safety.

We’re predicting this new season will overtake both S1 and S2 in terms of disturbing scenes. It’s also going to give us some much-needed vengeance and rebellion we were all jonesing for while watching the previous installments.

If you can’t wait for season two to drop (you impatient little bingewatcher), we’re going back to where it all started. Here we rank the most sinister moments in The Handmaid’s Tale S1 so you can refresh your memory while getting suitably riled up before June 5th rolls round.

Painful protest

In one of the show’s many flashbacks, June and Moira are at a protest to advocate for women’s rights. When things escalate, instead of heading towards the crowd with batons or tear gas (which quite frankly are bad enough), they start showering the crowd with bullets.


We all shed a tear the moment June (later known as Offred) definitely reveals to the Mexican ambassador, Mrs. Castillo, about the rape, maiming, and torture that goes down in Gilead. While we hoped a high-ranking government official might be able to help, she simply tells Offred there hasn’t been a baby born alive in six years, thus proving her belief that handmaids are a means to an end. Cold (although at least her colleague brought something to the table).

Foiled escape plan

One of the most heroic moments in S1 occurs during Offred’s flashback to the time her and bestie Moira nearly escape from the Red Center. After forcing Aunt Elizabeth to swap clothes (red dress to brown gown) and tying her up, Moira and June make a run for it towards the tube station. They very nearly make it together, until an armed guard asks the latter for her ID card. Moira has no choice but to leave her bestie behind, making for one of the most harrowing departure scenes in TV history.

For those on the frontlines of the revolution, we bring you Reddit’s favorite theories about how season three of Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' will end.

Birthing ritual

The scene in which Janine gives birth to her mistress’s child is both disturbing and infuriating. Not only do the so-called “pure” women of Gilead treat the handmaids like utter dirt (that cookie scene will get those gears grinding), but it’s an insult of the highest kind that they stage a fake childbirth in a separate room, with the wife of Janine’s Commander acting out the delivery (with none of the added pain and trauma).

'The Handmaid's Tale' show is a form of escapism, offering insight into a terrifying world. However, its tropes are all based on real-life events.

The salvaging

Margaret Atwood (the author whose book inspired the show) called it the “salvaging” – a truly disturbing ceremony in which the women are asked to punish a man who raped a pregnant handmaid. You could argue it’s justice for a truly repugnant crime, but you can be sure the only reason the state enforced such punishment has nothing to do with the rape and everything to do with what they gain from that childbirth.

It’s her fault

In a flashback to the Red Center in which the handmaids receive their “training”, Janine – one of the women who turns out to be a central character in the show – confesses to being sexually assaulted as a teenager. Instead of offering counselling, empathy, and support like any humane person would, Aunt Lydia forces the girls to point at her and chant that it’s “her fault”. The most hardcore form of dystopian slut-shaming ever.


Speaking of the Red Center, June and the other handmaids’ introduction to their new lives is merciless, watching the disobedient women being chastised with cattle prods and experiencing the inhuman treatment of Janine among others. But what’s most insidious about the whole thing is Aunt Lydia’s blasé reminder that “soon this will all be normal.”

'The Handmaid's Tale' is set in a society ruled by a fundamentalist regime in which the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude.

The Ceremony

While the upper-class might call it “The Ceremony”, there’s no two ways about it – the handmaids are repeatedly raped by their commanders each and every time it comes round to the monthly ovulation cycle. Some of the most harrowing scenes are having to watch Alfred as Commander Waterford and Serena hold her down on the bed – especially that time he took it to the next level (if you’ve seen S1, you know what we mean).

Genital mutilation

June’s enemy-turned-ally gets caught with her secret sexual partner, one of the housemaids classified as Martha. For commiting one of the most sinful crimes in Gilead – gender treachery – Emily (known as Ofglen) is cuffed, gagged, and forced to watch her partner hanged. After being shipped away having witnessed the worst atrocity imaginable, she wakes up in a white sterile room to find she’s been genitally mutilated.

“You can still have children of course, but things will be so much easier for you now,” chimes Aunt Lydia. Nice one, Lyds. They absolutely nail it with the soundtrack, choosing Jay Reatard’s “Waiting For Something” to reflect Ofglen’s trauma.

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