Blessed be the spoilers.
Figuring out the mystery surrounding series two of The Handmaid’s Tale is a bit like trying to find clues while wearing one of those vision-obscuring winged white bonnets.
Given that the first series of Hulu’s TV adaptation – seen on Channel 4 in the UK – finished on the same intriguing cliffhanger as Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian 1985 novel (Offred ushered into a car by driver Nick, with no way of knowing if she’s on her way to freedom or capture) it’s no surprise that even cast members of the show have been wondering where writer-producer Bruce Miller will be taking them for the next chapter.
However, we’re pleased to inform you that a Hulu panel event in West Hollywood did drop some hefty breadcrumbs for fans. Miller was joined by actors Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd (Offred, Moira, Ofglen and Aunt Lydia respectively), as well as director of the first three episodes of series one, Reed Morano, to discuss tantalizing details of what’s to come.
What’s more, the streaming service has dropped an official description, there’s a new face coming to Gilead and the stars just can’t resist dropping little hints about what viewers can expect come April 2018.
So without further ado, here’s what we learnt when we pitched up to the star-studded event – along with everything else we know about the second season of one of the most important shows of 2017.
Words: George Stark
1. Season two is all about motherhood
Though careful not to give away anything too specific about the story arc, showrunner Miller confirmed that series two does have a running theme. “At the end of season one we find out that June was pregnant […] so the theme for the second season really is motherhood and what it means to be a good mother,” he teased.
“So much of Gilead is about having children and the weird way they deal with parentage. So it’s [looking at] the way we mother our good friends, the way we mother the people in our lives.”
Something tells us Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) won’t be taking home any Mum of the Year prizes.
Additionally, in November Hulu released a synopsis of the upcoming series, reading: “The Emmy-winning drama series returns with a second season shaped by Offred’s pregnancy and her ongoing fight to free her future child from the dystopian horrors of Gilead.
“‘Gilead is within you’ is a favorite saying of Aunt Lydia. In Season Two, Offred and all our characters will fight against – or succumb to – this dark truth.”
2. We’ll be introduced to the disturbing new world of The Colonies
If you thought Gilead was a scary place, wait until you venture out to The Colonies. A polluted wasteland where Gilead sends its criminals (known as “Unpeople”), the cast and crew hinted that it will provide scenes more disturbing than anything fans have seen before. Which is quite a statement.
Miller explained: “We get to see The Colonies, which is something that is mentioned in the first season, which is a terrible place where they send ‘Unwomen’ to work them to death.” Chiming in with a chilling maybe-joke, Dowd added with a laugh: “Speaking of the colony, all the women you see here [Moss, Wiley and Bledel] will be in The Colonies! If I have anything to say about it! It’s on!”
3. There will be LOTS more flashbacks
Some of the most powerful parts of the show involve seeing what the characters have been forced to leave behind. Miller hinted that we’re going to find out even more of the character’s lives pre-Gilead, and joked that they might show us Aunt Lydia’s match.com profile (and now we can’t think of anything more terrifying.)
“There’s a lot more flashbacks,” Miller confirmed. “We would do more flashbacks of everybody in every episode if we could, those are our favourites, telling everybody’s backstories. They’re all absolutely fascinating.”
Miller has also said that Offred’s mother will be seen in the second series, so this could also be in the form of flashbacks. “June’s memories of her mother and her activism are very vibrant in the book, so we’ve been talking about her from day one of season one, and it just didn’t seem like enough time to do her justice,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “In season two, we mention her a little bit, but we just don’t want to short-shrift her story. It’s a story we want to tell — she was one of the most memorable characters.”
4. Aunt Lydia has chilling backstory potential
Judging by her presence on the panel, it’s safe to say Dowd will be returning with gusto as the scaremongering Aunt Lydia.
Talking about the character’s backstory, Dowd revealed: “I asked Bruce Miller, and he said [Lydia] was a teacher which made all the sense in the world. I mean, I bet she was fabulous! I can see her in an all-girls school perhaps [with] the promiscuity, and the language, and the lack of respect for authority, and the no relationship with God, and they probably made terrible fun of her. You can imagine.”
We’re trying not to think about it too much to be honest.
5. Alexis Bledel is “scared” Ofglen will be in The Colonies
Ofglen dies in the book, but we already know Bledel is returning to the TV adaptation as a series regular. We might be happy she’s back, but we’re not sure Bledel can say the same… In series one, we saw her punished as a Gender Traitor and seemingly broken (though there are clues as to her state of mind here).
At the panel discussion, she gave a worried look when The Colonies were mentioned. “I mean you might be able to see it in her future,” she said carefully. “I am very interested to see what that world is like, because it’s a completely new world that we haven’t seen yet on the show… and I am scared! But I am sure it’s another rich and fascinating place, and as terrifying, as Gilead is.”
6. Season two is such a secret, even the cast don’t know the exact storylines
At the panel event, both Moss and Wiley spoke about receiving script outlines shortly before filming, confirming that everything is still being kept under lock and key by Miller.
“The last season ends exactly where the book ends,” Wiley remarked. “So to go into season two, not knowing what is going to happen… it’s exciting to see where we going to go.”
Although Moss did tell TV Guide in August: “Don’t try to guess what happens in that first scene of episode one in season two. You will never get it, and I mean that objectively as a viewer. You just won’t guess, and I love that so much.”
7. And Margaret Atwood is as excited as anyone about that
Far from being concerned about where Miller will take her iconic novel, it seems author Atwood could not be more excited about what’s next. “She wrote me an email this morning,” Miller revealed.
“She’s read the first two outlines, and she was – can I say ‘crapping her pants’? Can I say that about Canada’s national treasure?! She’s been involved in it as much as she can be, she’s busier than any of us. Whenever she has a free 30 seconds, I pounce on it. She’s thrilled and excited.”
It has even been suggested that she might have another slap-happy cameo. Praise be.
8. We’ll see a lot more of Moira, and that is a very good thing
Orange Is The New Black star Wiley’s character is another assumed perished in the book, but in the TV adaptation is thankfully coming back for more. “We get to see a lot more of Moira and her life in ‘Little America’ in Toronto with Luke [O-T Fagbenle],” Miller confirmed.
Talking about how in the book, we never find out what happens to her character at Jezebels, Wiley added: “Well in the TV show, you do! She gets out of there! In season two she’ll be hanging out eating Poutine! It’s Canada!”
9. And a new character is on her way
According to Variety, Sydney Sweeney is set to play a recurring guest role – one that sounds blankly terrifying.
Hulu confirmed to the magazine that Sweeney will play 15-year-old Eden, who is described as “pious and obedient” and “someone who represents the next wave of true believers in Gilead. While she has dreams of one day becoming a Commander’s wife, her blind faith in this new world order makes her both naïve and dangerous to those around her.”
10. Women continue to be important behind the camera
Eight of the 10 episodes of the first season were directed by women, and producer Miller said that’s something that will continue. “One of my weaknesses (on this show) was I’m a boy,” he laughed. “There is something about the way some women directors shoot women that is just different, and it certainly makes the show feel different.
“I don’t know if I can put my finger on it does feel like there is a different gaze on it.” Reed Morano, who directed the first three episodes, will also be returning.
11. The Commander and Serena Joy are back
It would be easy to assume the story had finished with Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena, given Offred is clearly being taken elsewhere, but Miller says the couple’s “fascinating arc” was too intriguing to abandon: “I can’t imagine Serena’s going to be too happy.
“She might have a smidge of an anger management problem. I wouldn’t want to be in that house.”
12. Drake could still join the show as a guest star
Margaret Atwood floated the idea just last month that it would be “fun” if rapper Drake showed up in series two. And with Bruce Miller confirming that Atwood has a big input into what will happen next (she serves as an executive producer) there’s still hope for the author’s wish to come true.
Miller explained: “[Margaret] is wonderfully enthusiastic and influenced with things that are going on in the media right now.”
Please make it happen.
The Handmaid’s Tale season two will hit streaming service Hulu in April 2018 for 13 episodes.
Images: Hulu / Rex Features