Margaret Atwood's never-out-of-print novel of a near-future American dystopia becomes a miniseries. Though written in 1986, its imagining of a right-wing theocratic totalitarian patriarchy feels germane to a moment in which reproductive rights are under attack and when – here and abroad – the religious beliefs of some are used to circumscribe the civil liberties and, indeed, the humanity of others.
Elisabeth Moss plays Offred, a "handmaid" whose job is to bear children for a ruling-class couple who can't. (Pollution and STDs have wreaked havoc on reproduction.) It is also, in a timely way, a text on the normalization of weirdness: "This may not seem ordinary to you now," the book's Offred is told of her new duty, "but after a time it will. It will become ordinary."
Already filmed once in 1990 by Volker Schlöndorff with a screenplay by Harold Pinter, the miniseries promises suspenseful action in its trailer ("My name is Offred, and I intend to survive" is the key line). And though the novel is subtler than a brief synopsis makes it sound, it wouldn't be hard to turn it into a sort of feminist "Logan's Run." But Moss is an actress who cuts facets into a role like a master jeweler, and any opportunity to watch her work is worth taking. Also in the cast: Samira Wiley, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, O.T. Fagbenle and "Gilmore Girl" Alexis Bledel, far from Stars Hollow.