What’s On: A Gripping ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Finale, ‘Fargo’ Nears its Climax, an Emoji Game Show

The Handmaid's Tale - Elisabeth Moss; THE HANDMAID'S TALE -- The drama series, based on the award-winning, best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world. In this terrifying society where one wrong word could end her life, Offred navigates between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her. Offred (Elisabeth Moss), shown.
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The Handmaid's Tale - Elisabeth Moss as Offred

The Handmaid’s Tale (streaming on Hulu): The haunting strains of the Shaker classic “Simple Gifts” can be heard at the start of the season finale of this gripping nightmare fantasy, but there’s nothing simple about the emotions roiling through the mind of Offred (the remarkable Elisabeth Moss) as she contemplates ways to resist the oppressive regime of Gilead. “They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army,” she muses. And as circumstances grow even more fraught within the household of the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), Offred finds hope within the contents of last week’s mysterious package. This being a TV series, there is a cliffhanger, but also some real emotional payoffs in an excellent finish to one of the year’s most outstanding series.

Fargo (10/9c, FX): Thankfully no bizarre deus ex machina this week, just straightforward suspenseful storytelling in the next-to-last episode of this one-of-a-kind crime drama. It’s an especially good episode for the two heroines: former chief Gloria (Carrie Coon), who gets an earful from a repentant Emmit (Ewan McGregor) before the case goes sideways again, thanks to the diabolical machinations of Varga (David Thewlis) & surviving crew. But Varga may have met his match in Nikki (a marvelous Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who arranges a defiant face-to-face meeting that left me breathlessly anticipating next week’s finale.

Emogenius (9/8c, GSN): Cue the smiley faces. Like Concentration with emojis, this new game show asks contestants to decipher pop-culture phrases told in strings of emojis, then send each other emojis to get their partner to guess the message. GSN says the host, Hunter March of AwesomenessTV, is at 26 the youngest host of a non-kids’ game show—and he has a pedigree. His grandfather, Hal March, hosted the classic The $64,000 Question in the 1950s.

Inside Wednesday TV: A new season of Discovery’s Alaskan Bush People (9/8c) promises (or threatens) dark times for the Browns. Will they actually have to leave Alaska? … In one of many episodes that confirmed fans’ love for NBC’s This Is Us (10/9c), Toby (Chris Sullivan) prepares a special day for Kate (Chrissy Metz) to remind her how special she is, while Rebecca (Mandy Moore) unexpectedly encounters William (Ron Cephas Jones), biological father of Randall (Sterling K. Brown), at her son’s house. That painful backstory is one of the dramatic spines of the first season. … Syfy’s gruesomely ghastly Blood Drive (10/9c) aims to recapture the gory glories of grindhouse cinema with its depiction of a cross-country death race in cars fueled by human blood. It only made me want to watch Mad Max: Fury Road again.