Return to Gilead: 10 shows to check out if you miss The Handmaid’s Tale

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What it’s about: Sex workers trying to gain and maintain power at two warring brothels in 18th century London.

The Gilead connection: The women of Harlots are in many ways the inverse of Handmaids. Making themselves into objects for men is, ironically, how they’re able to achieve a sense of autonomy. In this era, if women don’t marry (i.e. essentially sign over all their rights to a husband), they have to work forever — and prostitution comes with better pay and more flexible hours than the service industry.

While Harlots is a lot more fun than The Handmaid’s Tale, its overall tone and aesthetic is similar to Jezebel’s, the illegal bar Gilead’s Commanders frequent so they can have extramarital sex on non-Ceremony nights. Both the harlots and the Jezebels are choosing sex work because it’s the least terrible option available to them.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the common themes in Harlots and Handmaid’s. As The A.V. Club’s Danette Chavez aptly noted, the two series also delve into the complexities of women exploiting other women. Like Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, Harlots’ rival madams Lydia Quigley and Margaret Wells succeed because they’re willing to hang vulnerable young women (and their own daughters, in Margaret’s case) out to dry.

The only defense Lydia Quigley and Margaret have is that they, too, were brought up in a world where sex work was the most bearable course of action. At least Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia were able to enjoy freedom for a part of their lives.

Where to watch: All of season 1 is streaming on Hulu. New episodes of season 2 drop Wednesdays.