With season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale concluding last week in the US , we’ve been left with plenty of things to ponder ahead of the show’s expectant third outing.
With showrunner Bruce Miller recently teasing that there could be as many as ten (10!) seasons in total, there will no doubt be plenty of twists and turns along the way – but here are the key questions we’re faced with at the close of season 2.
Spoiler alert: With episodes airing in the UK a few weeks behind the US, British-based viewers will definitely want to click away now – you still have a lot of episodes to catch up on…
What next for June?
The June we witness at the end of season 2 is a very different person to the one at the end of season 1. The entire first season – and opening few episodes of season 2 – centred around her quest to flee Gilead at all costs. Failing agonisingly in her efforts at the very last moment earlier in the season, you’d be forgiven to expect June to jump at the chance to escape again once such a credible opportunity arises, such is the case in the closing scenes of the season 2 finale.
But much has changed over the course of the past 13 episodes. Giving birth to a daughter within the country – as well as a brief, heartbreaking encounter with her first-born, Hannah – has reminded June of her role as a mother, something that was perhaps pushed to the back of her head while forced to fend for herself in season 1.
Handing Nicole (the no longer dual-named baby, following Serena’s help in the escape attempt) over to Emily, June is clearly realising that she’s a mother of two, and that this is the only option to ensure that both her children don’t grown up in a land where women aren’t allowed to read.
Morally, of course, June has made the right decision. But practically? That’s where things are a little less encouraging. We’re left with the image of her alone in the pouring rain, dressed in her red Handmaid’s cloak, with very few possessions to hand. It’s hardly the best preparation for what would be June’s biggest challenge yet – to locate, rescue and escape with Hannah.
Thankfully though, this time June has plenty more allies to call upon. At the end of season 1, we weren’t even quite sure if we could trust Nick. Now, not only has Nick shown himself to be a well-connected part of the resistance, but Rita has shown she can pull some strings too. And what about this mysterious character of Commander Lawrence? Will he be key in season 3? And, if so, can he actually be trusted?
Is Aunt Lydia dead?
The final episode of season 2 saw Emily enact revenge on Aunt Lydia by – literally – stabbing her in the back, throwing her over a bannister and proceeding to kick her down the stairs. But it looks like Aunt Lydia will survive after all, with the show’s executive producer Warren Littlefield confirming that confirming that Aunt Lydia star Ann Dowd will reprise the role in season 3.
Despite all her cruelty, season 2 has shown glimpses of humanity from Aunt Lydia, especially in her frequently siding with June against the Waterfords in various baby matters. But how will this attack affect her? Will it make her see the evil of her ways, or cement her further in her stringent ways?
Miller himself has said that Aunt Lydia is likely to “double down” on the idea that “she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline” and that season 3 will be “time to get tough”. Well, if we haven’t seen a “tough” Aunt Lydia so far, then who knows what we’re in store for next.
Will Serena finally turn fully against Gilead?
Serena had the biggest character arc of season 2 – there’s no question about that. She’s finally been afforded a backstory (we learn that she was a prominent right-wing political and public figure prior to the formation of Gilead) and we’ve seen her become increasingly disillusioned by the state of affairs in a country she helped create.
This isn’t to say she’s not been frustrating to watch, though. So engrained are Serena’s core conservative values that she often flips between modes. She is given the chance to defect to Hawaii while on a diplomatic trip to Canada, but declines. And when first learning that Eden had been reading the Bible in secret, Serena’s first instinct is to label her a sinner.
But it’s the latter scenes from season 2 that give us most hope that Serena will finally rebel against Gilead in season 3 because, well, she’s done it already. Having been punished for issuing orders in her husband’s absence earlier in the season, the final episode sees Serena showing defiance by reading the Bible in public, which results in one of her fingers being cut off. This wasn’t her biggest sacrifice though – that came with her allowing June to escape with Nicole. It was this latter moment that truly showed Serena has woken up to what an abhorrent country she’s a part of.
Is Rita more powerful than we thought?
There are many overlooked characters in The Handmaid’s Tale (and most of them female), but none more so than Rita, the Waterford’s resident Martha. Up until halfway through the second season, Rita barely had any lines of dialogue in the show – to the extent that star Amanda Brugel has said that she was nervous at first when she was finally provided with a fuller role in the second season. “I had to find a voice of this character that was voiceless,” Brugel said.
Over the course of the latter half of season 2, Rita becomes more and more human – and a sassy and sarcastic one at that. Increasingly, she doesn’t appear afraid to let her irritation known – at first to June and Nick, then to Eden, and even towards the Waterfords on occasion. But what’s behind this lease of confidence? Well, perhaps Rita – and the Marthas as a whole – are more powerful than we initially considered them.
Rita’s organising of Nicole’s escape – with help from the other neighbourhood Marthas – “shows how powerful they are as a unit,” Brugel recently told Vulture, adding: “No one would ever expect them to be. The Martha network is essentially the Underground Railroad — and this is not their first rodeo.” Are the Marthas the main line of the resistance that we overlooked? They may well be.
Are Nick and Fred about to go head-to-head?
The passive aggressive, macho rivalry between Fred and Nick has been brewing for some time. There’s no question that Nick hates Fred, and there have been more than a few indicators that Fred has it in for Nick too. Marrying him off to Eden was clearly a way of diffusing his interest in June, while it’s safe to assume that Commander Waterford had something to do with Nick’s abduction during June’s visitation with Hannah.
The parting shot of the pair in season 2 is of Nick restraining Fred, flashing his gun and keeping the Commander from going in search of Nicole. It’s the most forceful Nick has been towards Fred, and you know it wouldn’t have gone down well. So where do we go from here? And who has the most power – an Eye or a Commander? Well, Nick definitely knows quite a few of Fred’s hidden secrets, so the ongoing saga will make for interesting viewing, that’s for sure.