Four episodes into season 2, and the The Handmaid's Tale show no sign of ceasing the theme of unending bleakness established in season 1. June (Elisabeth Moss) is oppressed, and only spared from more brutal punishment because she is carrying a child and is thus considered of value. Gender traitors and rebels are hanged on the wall, a continual threat that any deviance from Gilead will not be tolerated. There is no escape.
Even if the seasons have thematic and tonal unity, there still is a major difference between them. The Handmaid's Tale show no longer adheres to Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name. Instead, the show's writers could create new storylines within Atwood's precisely imagined world. But the write remained tethered to Atwood's most important tradition: Everything we see in the show happened sometime in history. “It’s easy to come up with fictional cruelties, and especially with perverse cruelties towards women, then it just turns into pornography," creator Bruce Miller said at a TCA conference. "You have to keep it tethered to the world. It is a loser on almost every front to imagine evils.”
We've found historical or textual precedent for much of the context of Gilead, from birthing ceremonies to public executions.