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Bruce Miller
Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski

Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 519 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 4/5/22

• “One Burning Question” Featurettes


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Handmaid's Tale: The Complete Fourth Season (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2022)

After one year’s hiatus – presumably due to the COVID-19 pandemic - The Handmaid’s Tale returned. After Season Three ended in August 2019, Season Four came to us in April 2021.

With this three-disc DVD set, we get all 10 episodes from The Handmaid’s Tale’s fourth season. The plot synopses come from IMDB.

Pigs: “On the run, an injured June (Elisabeth Moss) and the fugitive Handmaids find refuge at a farm. In Gilead, an imprisoned Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) tries to avoid a death sentence. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) reels from the loss of 86 children on Angels' Flight.”

Though I liked the first two seasons of Tale, S3 largely left me cold. At least this opened room for improvement with S4.

Does “Pigs” portend a rebound? Maybe – it seems hard to tell after just one show. However, I see some promising signs, so I hope to get a bounce back from subsequent episodes.

Nightshade: “June plots revenge at the local Jezebels, before she and the Handmaids plan to leave the farm for the next safe house. In Toronto, Moira (Samira Wiley) deals with the fallout of June's choices. Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and Fred (Joseph Fiennes) are bound together by a miracle.”

Does “Nightshade” thicken some plot points? Sure – it moves along events in a moderate manner.

I can’t claim that it helps substantially renew my interest after the doldrums of S3, though. Perhaps matters will intensify as we go, but through two episodes, S4 feels underwhelming.

The Crossing: “Captured by Gilead, June faces a vengeful Aunt Lydia and endures a torturous interrogation. Nick (Max Minghella) and Lawrence collaborate to protect June. In Toronto, Luke (O-T Fagbenle) struggles with how to help June and Hannah (Jordana Blake).”

With “Crossing”, we get some stakes cranked up, and tension/drama result. However, the overall narrative seen so far in S4 just doesn’t feel all that strong, as the series tends toward basic character threats without much other dimensionality so far.

Milk: “June takes a harrowing journey with Janine, trying to escape Gilead, as Janine (Madeline Brewer) remembers a stressful experience in her past. In Toronto, Serena tries to manipulate Rita (Amanda Brugel), who seeks advice from Moira.”

During the series’ first two seasons, it felt like it made important social comments. Now it feels more like a generic character drama – when it doesn’t echo The Fugitive. I continue to hold out hope that S4 will improve, but so far it seems without a lot of real narrative drive.

Chicago: “June seeks out more active rebels in the Chicago war zone, while Janine tries to help her fit in with their new group of survivors. Moira goes on her first field aid mission.”

As I mentioned, prior S4 episodes largely avoided the social/political commentary of the first few seasons. That changes here, but not in a positive manner, as “Chicago” makes ham-fisted allusions to the Trump era. Throw in more dull character meandering and “Chicago” lacks punch.

Vows: “After a shocking reunion with a dear friend, June contemplates the possibility of freedom, and confronts the unfulfilled promises she's made to herself and to Luke.”

In theory, “Vows” ratchets up the drama, as it brings some real life or death consequences on a bigger than usual scale. Some of this adds drama but the ennui of the prior episodes seems hard to overcome. Still, “Vows” acts as a step in the right direction, so hopefully S4 will continue to improve from here.

Home: “June struggles with her newfound freedom, reuniting with loved ones and confronting her nemesis, Serena.”

After some fairly dramatic moments in “Vows”, “Home” feels less compelling, mainly because it goes into semi-dull legal issues and some melodrama. I continue to think that Tale used all its social commentary juice in its first two years and it tends to sputter now with less obvious purpose.

Testimony: “June confronts Fred and Serena in court and challenges Emily (Alexis Bledel) to face a painful reminder of her Gilead past. Lawrence presents Aunt Lydia with a newly captured and familiar Handmaid.”

Given June’s ability to confront her tormentors, one might expect some real tension and fireworks from “Testimony”. Instead, we largely find the usual moribund melodrama.

Progress: “June and Luke work together to save Hannah. Serena and Fred greet unexpected visitors from Gilead. Janine tries to assist Aunt Lydia when a Handmaid-in-training goes on hunger strike.”

With little time left in S4, one would expect “Progress” to push toward a big climax. One would expect incorrectly, as it becomes just another collection of mopey character beats that fails to make much impact.

The Wilderness: “June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice.”

Whereas the first couple of seasons used June as a way to depict the social structure and political domains of the Tale universe, subsequent shows got too caught up in June to the exclusion of much else. This becomes why I see S4 as character melodrama and not a lot else, for the series lost its ability to provide biting commentary.

“Wilderness” tends to feel like “fan service” as June seeks her revenge and redemption. This should pay off emotionally but it doesn’t, so “Wilderness” offers a flaccid conclusion to a forgettable season.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D

The Handmaid’s Tale appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the shows have been enhanced for 16X9 sets. Even for SD-DVD, the episodes looked blah.

Sharpness felt lackluster. Closeups offered reasonable delineation, but anything wider became soft and iffy.

The episodes lacked signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, but the visuals could feel blocky at times. In addition, no source defects occurred, but artifacts gave the shows a messy vibe.

Colors favored teal much of the time, a choice that allowed the reds of the handmaids’ dresses to become prominent. Some ambers appeared as well. The tones appeared dull and flat.

Blacks seemed reasonably deep and dense, but shadows became too thick. S4 became the first to appear only on DVD and not on Blu-ray, and this meant a severe decline in picture quality.

As for the series’ Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, it worked better than expected. Though the episodes emphasized environmental information, they did so in a more active and involving manner than I anticipated.

This meant a very good sense of place, with active use of the surrounds for elements like footsteps and weather. While not equivalent to what we’d get from an action spectacular, the soundfield nonetheless fared nicely.

As expected, audio quality seemed positive, with speech that came across as natural and concise. Music boasted broad, rich tones as well.

Effects became accurate and dynamic, with deep low-end during the louder sequences. All of this added up to a very good soundtrack.

Across all 10 episodes, we get featurettes called One Burning Question. These last from five minutes, 38 seconds to eight minutes, 35 seconds for a total of one hour, 13 minutes, 41 seconds of material.

Along with host Stacey Wilson Hunt, across these we hear from actors Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Bradley Whitford, Max Minghella, Sam Jaeger, Ever Carradine, Amanda Brugel, Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski and fans Rachel Lindsay and Whitney Cummings.

Apparently these segments ran after the conclusion of each S4 episode, and they offered on-the-spot discussions of issues reflected in those shows. This means much character/story introspection, some of which works pretty well. The featurettes don’t change my mind about S4, but they give the programs a little more depth.

After two good years, Season Three of The Handmaid’s Tale showed a decline, and that continued for Season Four. More character melodrama than engaging material, S4 becomes mediocre and tedious. The DVDs offer very good audio but visuals seem erratic and the discs lack substantial bonus materials. Perhaps Season Five will bounce back, but I don’t feel optimistic.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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