The Handmaid’s Tale debuted recently and immediately became one of the most talked about shows on television. Unfortunately, its first season was a mere six episodes long so it has already come to an end. But if you are anything like us, you’d love to see more. While that isn’t possible until it returns for a second season, we can always strive to find other series that include some of the most powerful elements of The Handmaid’s Tale.
One of the biggest reasons why we enjoyed what we’ve seen of The Handmaid’s Tale so far, is that it is a series unlike anything we can think of. However, one of the strongest elements of the series is the fact that it features some of the strongest women we’ve seen at the center of a show. In the world of the series, women have been subjugated to the will of male leaders through violent and threatening means, but that doesn’t stop the humanity of many of from shining through. Since that is one of the show’s main calling cards, we think it would be great to find other shows for our readers to watch with similarly strong female characters. That is what inspired us to put together this list of fifteen shows to binge-watch after you finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale.
In order for a show to be considered for inclusion here, it must pass the Bechdel test. That is to say that there are at least two women featured that talk to one another about things other than men. Additionally, we put a premium on looking for shows with women that we feel exhibit strong character traits. That said, the shows can include strong male characters as well, and we haven’t limited ourselves to dramatic fair. We also only considered shows that have aired at least for an entire season that can be consumed at the time of this writing. Finally, the only other thing to keep in mind is that we put a premium on shows that are more recent unless they may have flown under the radar for a sizable group.
15. The Newsroom
A show that isn’t going to be for everyone based on its politics soundly landing on the democratic side and the dialogue style of its creator, Aaron Sorkin, this may be one to approach with caution. That said, if that is of interest to you or is something you can look past, then The Newsroom features some of the most intelligent and indomitable ladies we remember on TV. Callbacks to the likes of Murphy Brown, the women played by Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Kelen Coleman, and Grace Gummer are smart and powerful in the news and politics worlds. Immensely different than the political reality the women in The Handmaid’s Tale find themselves in, this is likely to be a wonderful palate cleanser.
14. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
About as different in tone as a show possibly could be from The Handmaid’s Tale, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in some ways feels like a fun and entertaining sequel series to it. Starring Ellie Kemper as the title character, she plays a woman that was held against her will at the pleasure of a man that uses religion and fear to force her to follow his wishes. Eventually able to break free of her prison, Kimmy must rejoin society and we get to watch in delight as she makes new friends and a happy life for herself while still grappling with her emotional wounds. It is almost like this show is the happily ever after that we haven’t seen in The Handmaid’s Tale and who among us couldn’t use a pick me up?
13. Game of Thrones
When Game of Thrones is discussed, a disproportionate amount of the conversation is based on the violence, nudity, and s*x that are calling cards for the series. While we aren’t here to argue that those aren’t major parts of the series, we would say that oftentimes, there isn’t enough attention paid to the fact that it features many female characters for viewers to look up to. Between the likes of Sansa, Arya, Ygritte, Yara, Cersei, Daenerys, and Brienne, these are but a sampling of the women in the series you do not want to mess with. That is to say nothing of Lyanna Mormont who is one of the most interesting young women we’ve seen on TV ever. Need we say more?
12. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
We know this isn’t a traditional show and is a more of a satire of the news, but it is still a show that can still be binge-watched as it isn’t wholly reliable on the news of the day. Featuring the seemingly effortless comic timing that Samantha Bee honed after years of serving as one the correspondents on The Daily Show, this series is equal parts hilarious and infuriating. It makes us upset for one reason because each episode focuses on much of society’s ills. But there are also segments where the host and her cohorts reveal how to fight back. Watching strong women that aren’t afraid to tackle a world that wishes to silence them, is likely to be a welcome respite for viewers of The Handmaid’s Tale.
11. Marvel’s Agent Carter
A show that ran for two seasons, Marvel’s Agent Carter focused on the story of a woman in her forties that had to deal with a power structure that largely had no interest in taking her seriously. Working for an embryonic version of SHIELD, the law enforcement entity from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she shows drive and fearlessness in the face of danger. Played by Hayley Atwell, a woman who seems to have a great deal of confidence in herself both on and off-screen, Peggy Carter, the titular character, is a force to be reckoned with. Still, she exists in a framework that would do anything it could to hold her down aside from a few people that on the surface could be allies in her fight but may not be as they seem. Reminds us an awful lot of the situation we’ve come to know in The Handmaid’s Tale.
10. Grace And Frankie
The only series on this list that stars a pair of women above the age of fifty, Grace and Frankie is only one of a handful of shows in the history of television that focus on ladies of a certain age. Featuring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the title roles, they begin the series reacting to the fact that their husbands are in love and want to marry but their love life is not their defining characteristic. Instead, based more on a type of friendship that is rarely seen on screen, the series has become critically acclaimed including wins at the Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys. A Netflix original that has aired three seasons so far, you have plenty of time to catch up before the fourth season becomes available to watch in 2018.
Scandal is a Shonda Rhimes political thriller that stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager with her own firm in Washington D.C. She is the person politicians turn to in times of peril. An overtly intelligent woman that sees ways out of controversies that seem insurmountable in other people’s hands, she is a complicated person who isn’t great at making the best choices privately. Also featuring a number of other fierce females like Abby Whelan, Quinn Perkins, Mellie Grant, and Elizabeth North, this is a show with a number of nuanced characters played by women. This is also a marvelous example of a show that treats gender and race as aspects of a character, but strives to make them interesting beyond those base definitions.
8. Freaks And Geeks
By far the oldest show on this list, Freaks and Geeks debuted in 1999, lasted only one season, and featured a cast that was dominated by males. So, you may be wondering why we included it on this list. To that, we say that it has some of the most interesting female characters in the history of TV comedy. Focused on the exploits of a family and the friends of their kids, Lindsay Weir as played by Linda Cardellini and Jean Weir as played by Becky Ann Baker are extremely nuanced characters.
For Lindsay’s part, she is a high schooler struggling to find who she wants to be in this world. But with the help of her friend, Kim, played by Busy Phillips, she figures out that it is her feelings that matter. Then, there’s Jean who, at first, seems like someone who defines herself as a mother, but over the short run, is given a great deal of character growth. Considering that the women in The Handmaid’s Tale are viewed by society as little more than baby factories, this type of character will certainly be a breath of fresh air.
7. Orphan Black
If you haven’t discovered the science fiction show Orphan Black yet, then you’ve been missing the boat. A series that is often compared to classics like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, each episode allows viewers to discover a new and interesting environment. Led by the character Sarah Manning that is played by the series breakout star, Tatiana Maslany, she soon discovers that there are many clone Sarahs. As a result, we get to see this immensely talented actress thrust into a long list of situations and that is to say nothing of the fact that there are several other prominent female characters in the show. At its heart, this show rages against many of society’s social ills, including our increasingly corporate culture. And if one episode doesn’t catch your fancy, the next one may be wildly different.
We’re going to give away a few spoilers for the comedy, Veep, in this entry. But don’t worry, this show is far more about the characters and their reactions than plot contrivances. In the first episode of this show, we are introduced to the Vice President of the United States, Selina Meyer, who is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. A powerful woman surrounded by people that do whatever they can to curry her favor, from the get-go, that’s the polar opposite of the women in The Handmaid’s Tale. When she then ascends to the position of President, she cements how different of a world this show exists in than the drama this list is based on. That makes it a great show to watch next. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good change of pace?
5. Orange Is The New Black
Over the years, movies have tackled prison life again and again. The sad thing, though, is that with few exceptions when films took place in a men’s film, they were often dramatic and interesting while women’s prison were an excuse for softcore s*x scenes. Fortunately, that changed with the creation of the series Orange is the New Black, which follows in the footsteps of shows like OZ that was willing to show s*x on screen but focused more on character. Featuring an ensemble cast that includes women that run the gamut, this show includes women that deal with adversity in a variety of ways which is what makes it so great. The cherry on the sundae here is the inclusion of actress Samira Wiley who played Moira, the friend of June in The Handmaid’s Tale.
4. The Americans
These days, there is a great deal of discussion about a new golden age of television. But if you are like us, then you take such hyperbole with a grain of salt. However, when you realize a show as magnificent as The Americans has gone relatively unheralded despite its impressive quality, it is hard to argue that we aren’t seeing some of the best TV in years. Set during the Cold War era of the 1980’s, the stars of the series are the married couple Elizabeth and Philip who are KGB officers living in Washington D.C. with their two children. Giving us a slew of characters that are both fearsome and relatable, including Keri Russell’s glorious work as the series lead, we will refrain from revealing any of the machinations that unfold in each episode. Suffice it to say, this is a series that is great at keeping an audience’s attention and contains some truly startling moments.
3. Jessica Jones
While we already touched on a series that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this show is the first one that really includes a lot of super-powered people. That may leave you wondering what exactly a superhero show like Jessica Jones has in common with The Handmaid’s Tale. The first season of this show sees Jessica and her allies tangling with a villain named Kilgrave who has the ability to exert his will over others. Throughout the season, we see him wield this power with little regard to the effect it has on others, including discovering that for a time, Jessica was forced to do his bidding against her will. Mentally stuck inside her body that she no longer has the ability to control fully, does that remind you of anything? Only this time, we get to root for a woman with superpowers which grant her the ability to fight back in a mostly free society.
Much like the movie that this series was inspired by, Fargo is a black comedy with a slew of characters of both genders that fail to think out their actions. Thankfully, however, in all three seasons of the series to date, there has been a slew of female characters introduced that arguably are the most competent people in the series.
The first season had Molly Solverson, a deputy played by Allison Tolman, a woman who was the only one crafty enough to get to the bottom of things. The second season then introduced Floyd Gerhardt, the leader of crime family, played by Jean Smart, and a woman that exerted her will over all of her underlings. Finally, the third season introduced us to Nikki Swango, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has more street smarts and is quicker-thinking than everyone around her. These three women alone are enough reason to watch the show after you are done with The Handmaid’s Tale. But beyond that, you will also be transported to a world of intrigue, unlike your everyday life.
1. House Of Cards
Quite possibly the best political show in the history of television, House of Cards’ main character may be Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, but if you ask us, it is his wife that we find most interesting. Played by Robin Wright, Claire Underwood, in a lot of ways, is the opposite of the women in The Handmaid’s Tale, in that she has a great deal of authority which she exerts with great zeal. However, any true fan of the show will know that she isn’t always as free to act as she may wish she was and that her role is more of a background powerbroker than anything else. That, in no way, makes her any less of a fearsome enemy to make which is why this series in our opinion is the best show to devour after watching The Handmaid’s Tale. As of late, we haven’t seen Offred be able to exert her will which is maddening at times, so this serves as the perfect antidote while including the core that makes both series great.