Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Chance’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

‘CHANCE’ (HULU) “Chance” is one of those curiosities of the streaming television era. Conceived as Hugh Laurie’s triumphant follow-up to “House,” big things were expected and Hulu signed it for two seasons to start. By the end, things hadn’t worked out the way everyone expected, and Hulu formally announced in January there would be no third season. That’s a shame.

The series centers around Eldon Chance (Laurie), a neuropsychologist who gets mixed up with some darker elements in his patients, which sprawls into his own life. In particular, the darkness awakens something in him that he has attempted to keep at bay for years, revealing hidden secrets of his own. In the first series, the show adapts the novel of the same name and takes a noir-ish tone as Chance tries to help an abused patient, while the second series expands it into a more ensemble show that chronicles broken people dealing with their brokenness by not quite dismissing it altogether, as spun around a serial killer plot.

It’s the characters that make the stories engaging, particularly the hulking, erudite and disturbed D (Ethan Suplee), who has turned his dysfunction into an armor as he becomes Chance’s violent enforcer sidekick, and Chance’s daughter, Nicole (Stefania LaVie Owen), a plucky, inquisitive kid who finds her dark side that stems directly from her father.

While it’s disappointing the show doesn’t go further, it at least has a satisfying conclusion. Now that it can be viewed as a complete package, it’s a good time to give “Chance” a look. It’s portrayal of people on the outside of what we consider normal, and the ways they choose to make use of what separates them, is ultimately inventive, touching and, yep, even fun.


With season 2, “The Handmaid’s Tale” moved into the uncharted waters beyond its source material, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, and worked to expand on the themes, on the landscape and on the grayness of its characters.

Dystopian fiction has boomed in popularity over the last decade, but I notice that the most vigorously embraced present vigorous rebellions against the dystopic regimes, and that may be what sets “The Handmaid’s Tale” apart. It’s a bleak television show, no wonder since it’s about a bleak society with a bleak outlook. There are hints of people fighting back, but no overwhelming instance of it. What rebellion there is are more the Underground Railroad, focusing on freedom rather than confrontation.

At the center of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is June (Elizabeth Moss), who tries to balance her natural defiance with patience, with the understanding that rebellion must sometimes be a subtle action. I would argue that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the story of June’s coming of age, that despite being a parent already, this is the story where she learns what that means in the darkest of moments, what comprises a life that is not entirely your own, at least emotionally. And the show tracks this growth right down to the season finale, when June has to put this maturation into action.”The Handmaid’s Tale” has always been not only a brutal depiction of the ruthless privilege of men, but also the importance of collusion by women to turn the privilege into control, to help create the brutality.

Many of the show’s best moments revolve around the woman of June’s household, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), one of the architects of the misogynist theocracy of Gilead, who learns again and again what her work has done to her own life, and how the personal pain heaped on her is directly related to her earlier political actions. She’s a remarkable character that begs empathy and disdain at the same time, offering the viewer a chance to see inside the worst of us, to compare our own struggles with that person and to examine where we would draw the line.

And as June has learned over the course of two seasons, sympathy for the enemy is just a part of a strategy.

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