This article contains spoilers for the season two finale of Emmy-nominated The Handmaid’s Tale and hints at what to expect of season three.
Gilead is on fire, in more ways than one, at the dramatic close of season two of The Handmaid’s Tale.
With fire engine sirens plunging the neighbourhood into confused chaos, Offred – aka badass June – escaped the Waterford mansion, babe in arms, with a little help from the women of the house - both Rita (Amanda Brugel) and an increasingly rebellious, now finger-less Serena (Yvonne Strahovski).
At the same time, Emily (Alexis Biedel) – channeling the rage of viewers everywhere – stuck the knife into Aunt Lydia (Anne Dowd), quite literally, and fled with the aid of the still-mysterious Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford).
Meeting at the rendezvous point, shockingly June handed her daughter to an ashen-faced Emily and, red hood up and rage eyes on, headed back into the fray.
So what now?
Luckily we have a few clues from show runner Bruce Miller to go on.
Under her eye
Miller told The Hollywood Reporter the theme for season three is “blessed be the fight”.
June has been pushed and prodded to within an inch of her sanity, but she has endured, and now she’s ready to push back harder than ever before.
“There's kind of a level of rebellious spirit in June that will make her more hard-charging, and the victories will be a little bit more visceral,” he said.
We know the resistance is out there. We’ve already witnessed a suicide bombing and a Martha army rising. Now June’s free to feminist sh*t up and we can’t wait to see her first move against Gilead.
Blessed be the fruit
June may have notched up a mighty win freeing her second daughter from the misogynist clutches of a fascist regime that drowns pious girls in swimming pools, but the season’s most jaw-dropping episode also saw her briefly reunited with her firstborn, Hannah, and she’s been haunted ever since.
As Milled told THR, “There's the knife-twisting of your 7 or 8-year-old daughter telling you, ‘Why didn't you try harder to find me and rescue me and be with me?’ I think that’s her choice in that final moment: ‘I'm going to try harder’.”
Hold on Hannah, mummy’s coming.
Burning down the house
As kick-ass as June is, she can’t bring down Gilead from the inside single-handedly. So who can she turn to on home turf?
Is Commander Lawrence friend or foe? Miller confirmed he’d be back in season three, and that we’ll learn a lot more about him, telling Vanity Fair, “He’s our Oppenheimer, the man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. He’s a designer of Gilead, and now he’s seen what it could do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers.”
Do dangerous times call for dangerous allies? What about Serena? Unbeknownst to June, she’s already been worked by the Canadian secret service, looking to get a Commander’s wife to defect, and now she’s let June run free. But is she about to turn?
“Is she gonna find something else to focus on?” Miller said. “Is she going to stay bereft and empty and live in Gilead? Or is she gonna find a way to get her daughter back? I’m not sure whether she’d be so quick to let go of the idea of a child just because she made a decision in a moment.”
Can 'Eyes' boy Nick survive pulling a gun on Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes)? “I don’t think it’s a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick, or would want to,” Miller says.
And what of Rita and the mobilised Marthas? “I think in season three, we’re gonna see some of the results of her coming out of her shell and becoming more visible.” Miller said. “I think the key for me is she is a very smart survivor, and that’s what she’s going to continue to be.”
While June has possible allies to turn to, a furious Commander Waterford will be determined to reassert his authority, and he may be the least of her worries.
Executive producer Warren Littlefield let slip to EW Radio host Jessica Shaw that Aunt Lydia’s stab-happy tumble down the stairs isn’t the end for her, and Miller has confirmed. Aunt Lydia is not dead.
We suspect she’s going to be very, very pissed. While one of the series’ most menacing characters (and it’s certainly a crowded field), she always displayed a certain degree of twisted warmth towards her well-behaving girls, and she firmly believes in protecting the children of Gilead.
But her duty of care doubtless no longer extends to errant handmaids.
If June being bundled back to the Waterfords twice this season got you a little frustrated, we can expect to see much more than that unhappy home next season.
For one thing, Emily and Nicole are headed to Canada, where they will no doubt cross paths with Moira (Samira Wiley) and Luke (O-T Fagbenle), both of whom were barely seen this season.
Luke’s brief face-to-face with his wife’s captor has fired him up, Miller warns. “All of a sudden Gilead, and the Gilead system, has been reduced to Fred Waterford – and he’s gonna find a way to get to Fred.”
Will we see more of June’s mum (Cherry Jones)? And what of the women rotting away, literally, in the colonies?
Interestingly we learned that both Hawaii and Anchorage remain independent. Will they, or Canada, or Mexico push back against Gilead?
Miller suggested to THR we haven’t seen the half of this world. “There's a huge swath of anything outside of the Boston area that we haven't seen, including Washington, D.C., which is the seat of power in Gilead.”
Whatever, and wherever the future holds for June, we know one thing’s for certain. No bastard is going to grind her down.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum
Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale continues to stream at SBS On Demand: