THE HANDMAID’S TALE MUSIC PROVIDES ‘IRONIC COUNTERPOINT’ TO SHOW’S DARK THEMES

With Emily fearing for her life, the sound of Lennox’s symphonic pop cut “Walking on Broken Glass” breaks the silence, materializing via car radio.

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The emotions of climactic scene of Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, which featured Alexis Bledel’s character Emily, were leavened by the use of an upbeat 1990s pop song by Annie Lennox. (GEORGE KRAYCHYK / HULO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale was brought to a close with a moment of cathartic violence. But one could argue the star of the scene wasn’t Alexis Bledel’s handmaid Emily but instead a voice off-screen: Annie Lennox.

With Emily fearing for her life, the sound of Lennox’s symphonic pop cut “Walking on Broken Glass” breaks the silence, materializing via car radio. The tune’s upbeat tone contrasts with the pain of the character and, in turn, attempts to bring greater emotional weight to the scene by highlighting the show’s extremes. It’s one example of how the Hulu series (which airs in Canada on Bravo) used familiar pop music throughout its second season not as a cause for celebration but as a tool to torture.

With “Broken Glass,” the desired effect was to make the audience uncomfortable. What at first starts as a simple juxtaposition soon becomes somewhat menacing.

As Emily sits, not knowing what, if any, punishment she will be dealt by Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), the latter dances along to the song. He’s either oblivious to Emily’s situation, or perhaps he’s hyperaware and purposely tormenting her. The music can play tricks on the characters as well as the viewers.

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