Linda Holmes

This review of the second-season finale of The Handmaid's Tale discusses in detail what happens in the second-season finale of The Handmaid's Tale.

The sound of the second season of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale coming to an end was the sound of a balloon, expertly inflated to the point where it seemed about to break, being let go so that it releases its tension in a long, anticlimactic raspberry.

There's a good chance that I try to absorb too much stuff, culturally speaking. I try to keep up with TV, and movies, and at least some books, and I read other people's criticism, and then there's news, and also I now spend a lot of time looking at pictures of other people's dogs. (I have a reciprocity agreement with All Internet Dog People. They look at my dog walking a stick down the streets of D.C.; I look at their dogs sleeping or wearing clothes or looking balefully at the camera.)

Everything echoes in Sharp Objects, the new HBO eight-episode adaptation of Gillian Flynn's 2006 debut novel. That's not only true of the figurative echoes in the complex tale of family trauma in a small town. It's true of the literal echoes in the sound design. Every room sounds hollow; every house amplifies the rattles and footsteps inside.

It's easy to be skeptical of a documentary about Fred Rogers, who hosted Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on public television for decades. Rogers has achieved, as the film acknowledges, an almost saint-like status, and the mission of Won't You Be My Neighbor? is not to uncover some secret dark side of the man — as far as you'll know walking out, there wasn't one.

Many Americans had little exposure to Australian actress/comic/writer Hannah Gadsby before a few weeks ago. Maybe they had seen her in Please Like Me, an Australian comedy series in which she had a supporting role. But statistically, they probably hadn't.

Science fiction writer and provocateur Harlan Ellison, who wrote stories including "Jeffty Is Five," "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," and "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," died in his sleep at home in Los Angeles at age 84. Like many who write short stories and novellas in genres like speculative fiction, the sweep of his career is evident in his collection of awards: Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, Edgar Awards and many others.

Comfort never goes out of season, so neither do cooking shows. On this episode, we look back on a conversation Glen Weldon and I had with Barrie Hardymon and Kat Chow about the cooking television we know and enjoy. We talk about Top Chef, about Barefoot Contessa, about Chopped and about whether you can actually become a better and more confident cook through TV. Barrie even stops to wonder: does a tomato deserve underwear? (It makes sense coming from her.)

How's your week going so far?

That well, huh? We understand.

Over on our show, Pop Culture Happy Hour, we recently spent an episode talking all about comedy specials, which play a unique role for us in helping hard times feel a little less taxing. Stephen Thompson of NPR Music, Glen Weldon of the NPR arts desk, Mike Katzif of Ask Me Another and I chose two specials each to highlight from the last couple of years.

ABC canceled its lucrative reboot of Roseanne in late May, after star Roseanne Barr published a tweet that compared Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama, to an ape. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey called the tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values." It looked like the network was willing to take a financial hit and part with a successful property in the name of, of all things, principle.

Not so fast.

We paused this week to bring you a bit of a respite from the news that's still often incisive, smart, and essential. In other words, we're talking stand-up comedy. You can listen to the show to hear all of the recommendations from me, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and our friend Mike Katzif — and to hear the performers in their own words — but here's the list if you're trying to track them down:

The Tony Awards felt a little different this year than they have recently. It was a year without a Hamilton or a Dear Evan Hansen; there was no one original, out-of-nowhere show that came into the Tony Awards as a pop phenomenon. In fact, all four of the four nominated musicals were adaptations of existing properties: SpongeBob SquarePants, Disney's Frozen and the non-musical films Mean Girls and The Band's Visit.

Anthony Bourdain's Twitter profile just says, "Enthusiast."

The chef, food writer, Parts Unknown host, Top Chef judge — the enthusiast — has died from an apparent suicide. He was 61.

Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven was released in December 2001. It arrived early in a long winter in which debates bubbled along over what people wanted from entertainment in the post-Sept. 11 environment. Would they seek out simple diversions? Or something uplifting?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Twenty years ago today, a TV show debuted that reverberated far beyond its setting in Manhattan.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SEX AND THE CITY" THEME)

The original Law & Order lasted 20 seasons. Law & Order: SVU just finished its 19th. That's not even the whole shebang. There was Criminal Intent, there was Conviction ... you'll just have to listen to the show.

This post gives away in great detail the events of the series finale of FX's The Americans. If you are reading it and you have not yet watched the finale, you are about to find out everything that happens. Are we clear? OK, then.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We've all been there - a darkened theater, the reminder to silence your phones, of course, and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM")

BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: (As Claire) What is that thing?

CORNISH: ...It's movie trailer time...

It's Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps you're grilling some burgers or taking a dip in the pool. Perhaps you're strolling on a beach or taking a quick trip out of town and staying in a hotel for a couple of days just so you don't have to make your own bed.

This piece discusses general Brooklyn Nine-Nine plot developments through the fifth season finale that aired on Sunday night.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people become publicly infuriated when their favorite shows are canceled. It is another truth universally acknowledged that from time to time, shows are rescued — either by a network that changes its mind, or more often by a transfer from one home to another.

I belong to a generation of Americans for whom the idea of not only a royal wedding but a royal marriage was largely established by Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales. Their staid ceremony and their seemingly joyless marriage (aside from the births of their children) made marrying into the royal family look less like a fantasy than like a march into oblivion — a grudgingly accepted transformation into a wealthy but hollowed-out target for photographers hoping to catch you at your worst.

Prince Harry, the sixth in line to the British throne, is marrying American actress (and former Suits star) Meghan Markle on Saturday, May 19.

[This piece discusses the plot of the novel Little Women, which was published in 1868 and 1869. You have, we hope, had a chance to read it.]

Is it only writers who can never forgive Amy March for burning her sister Jo's handwritten novel manuscript? Or is it only me?

It's been entirely too long since Barrie Hardymon joined the Pop Culture Happy Hour panel, so we're happy to have her with us this week to talk about Tully. Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody worked together on both Juno and Young Adult, and Tully's Charlize Theron starred in Young Adult, as well. Here, she plays a mom named Marlo who finds herself physically demolished by the birth of her third child and the depression that follows.

Melissa McCarthy's capacity for sweetness has come full circle.

Her first big role was on Gilmore Girls, where she played the gentle, funny, burbling Sookie St. James. Sookie's dimples, her delightful chirp, and her unrelenting sunniness could have sunk the character as a little bit of a sap, but McCarthy carried it off, using about 10 percent of what she turned out to be capable of.

The new Starz drama Vida begins with what could be an ending: the death of a woman named Vidalia, who owned a building with a bar on the ground floor and apartments above. Her death means that her daughters, both of whom left the Los Angeles neighborhood long ago, must return to make arrangements — among other things, for the future of the building. Emma (Mishel Prada) lives in Chicago and works in business; Lyn (Melissa Barrera) lives in San Francisco and seems to value herself mostly for being beautiful and desired by men.

A Quiet Place is one of those films we didn't get to when it was first released, but we got a chance to revisit it this week in light of its critical and commercial success. Directed by John Krasinski, it stars him and Emily Blunt as post-apocalyptic parents living with their children in silence as a way of hiding from sound-hunting monsters. No one speaks. No one even wears shoes, lest their footsteps be detected.

One useful rule of documentaries or quasi-documentaries is: be suspicious of the ones with voice-overs by their subjects. At the very least, be aware that these subjects are being allowed to frame their own stories, so whatever you see is an autobiography of a kind, an assisted self-portrait. In the case of HBO's Being Serena, the series is a collaboration between HBO and the content-producing arm IMG, which belongs to the same sprawling talent management empire that represents Serena Williams.

When I first sat down to talk to Leslie Odom, Jr., I told him that our team had seen him in Hamilton, and then I told him that I suspected that's how many of his conversations started these days. He said that now, it's all about how early people say they saw it. They saw it at the beginning of the run! Before it was a hit! Back when it was at the Public!

Lo these many years, by which I mean since 1984, many have wondered about the answer to a simple question of history. It has echoed off the walls of canyons, burbled in the bubbles of mountain streams, and been shouted into the bottoms of volcanoes, only to be absorbed by hot lava and spit back out as igneous rock. The question: What if Johnny Lawrence hadn't said, "You're all right, LaRusso"?

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