“The Handmaid’s Tale” is only in its third week of airing on Hulu but the buzz about the show is really gaining momentum and it looks like Elisabeth Moss could finally take home an Emmy after seven previous losses. Moss, who was nominated once for the miniseries “Top of the Lake” and six times for her star-making role as Peggy Olson on “Mad Men,” plays a handmaid named Offred who tries to survive in the male-dominated totalitarian regime of Gilead. Despite “Mad Men’s” huge success and critical acclaim the show always had a great deal of difficulty scoring Emmys for its cast. In fact, the only regular star to win an Emmy during the show’s run was Jon Hamm for the final season.
Even though it’s a brand new show on a streaming network, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has managed to make it into the national dialogue. The show was the basis of a sketch this week on “Saturday Night Live” and was even mentioned by Hillary Clinton in a speech she gave last week to the Planned Parenthood organization. Should the series take home an award as Best Drama Series and Moss win Best Actress, it would be a bit of a landmark in Emmy history since female-driven shows have rarely been able to score both top trophies. In the last 20 years, only “Homeland” and its star Claire Danes were able to pull off the double win in 2012.
Critics are praising Moss’s Best Drama Actress-eligible performance of Offred with Dominic Patten (Deadline) writing, “The Elisabeth Moss-led small-screen version of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel is not just felicitous but a certain Emmy contender.” And Daniel Fienberg (Hollywood Reporter) flat-out predicts an Emmy triumph for Moss, noting, “With ‘The West Wing,’ ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Top of the Lake,’ the actress has built one of the great resumes of the Peak TV Era, lacking only an Emmy for final validation. That drought should end here.”
Moss has excelled in early episodes of the series, playing the repressed rage and fear her character is going through as she tries to survive in the strange new regime that has taken over her country. In Episode 5, titled “Faithful,” she gets a chance to show other elements of her character in flashbacks that reveal how she met her husband and their early dating experiences. Moss is wonderful in these scenes since we get to see that only a few years prior to her current situation she was a modern, happy young woman. The contrast between the repressed, cautious handmaid forced to wear a nun-like garment and the funny, vibrant person she used to be only makes her current situation all the more painful.
Moss is also doing wonderful voice-over work as we get to hear her character’s inner thoughts and even a hint of a sense of humor, despite her currently grim reality. Hulu announced last week that there will be a second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which not only gives Moss a better Emmy shot as voters will see it as a success story, but it gives viewers more seasons to watch Moss’s increasingly fascinating performance.
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