Long Reads

The Handmaid’s Tale: we just found out how June’s story will end – and it’s pretty shocking

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Kayleigh Dray
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The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 trailer

Still hoping for a happy ending, Handmaid’s Tale fans? 

Warning: this article contains spoilers for the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale – and drops some pretty heavy-handed hints about what’s to come in the show’s confirmed third series, too.

The Handmaid’s Tale may be based on a single novel by Margaret Atwood, but fans of the TV show are in it for the long haul: the story of June – or, to use her Gileadean name, Offred – has gone far beyond the book’s plot for the current second season, and a third has already been commissioned.

Indeed, Hulu chief executive Randy Freer said the show could last well beyond that, telling Variety: “I hope, as success goes, there’s 10 seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale. The creative process will determine, is it a fourth season, is it five seasons? And I think that’s one of the benefits for creators in the streaming world – shows can take a natural progression, they can live for as long as they should live or they can end.”

All of this, though, means that we will have to wait a very long time before we find out June’s fate. In the book, of course, her story ends on the same intriguing cliffhanger as we saw at the end of season one: Elisabeth Moss’ character is ushered into the back of a van, with no way of knowing if she’s on her way to freedom or capture.

Since then, Bruce Miller’s show has explored what happens next: that black van didn’t spirit June across the border to Canada, it dumped her back at the Red Centre for some psychological torture at the hands of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). She briefly went on the run, but was recaptured at the border and sent back to the home of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). She struggled to come to terms with the baby growing inside her belly, and the idea that her unborn daughter would be raised within Gilead’s oppressive theocratic state. She fought to make her voice heard, to get her child out, to rescue her other daughter, Hannah… but, as a Handmaid, June found that she had little to no control over her own destiny.

Combine that with all the hangings, violence, suicide bombings and vicious punishments, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that June will never escape Gilead. However, showrunner Bruce Miller has now promised fans – somewhat shockingly – that the show’s titular Handmaid will get the happy ending we’ve all been dreaming of.

“I think there is a happy ending and don’t think everything is always going to be terrible,” he told E! Online. “I believe in June and I believe that if The Handmaid’s Tale is the story we’ve decided to tell from this imaginary place of Gilead, if June’s story is the story we tell, we’ve told it because it’s a story of hope.”

Miller added: “I do feel like every episode where it ends and Offred is alive, June is alive, is a huge victory and story worth telling. To see how someone in this world doesn’t just survive, but in their own way find ways to live…

“In terms of an ending, I think this is a story of a woman getting out of bondage, so I think in the end that’s the story.”

Of course, as readers will no doubt remember, the final chapter of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is dubbed ‘Historical Notes’ and takes place in 2195, years after the events described by June take place – and long after Gilead, a version of America, has ceased to exist.

A character named Professor Pieixoto delivers a lecture in Nunavit, Canada, about the Gileadian period of American history and the ‘Mayday Rebellion’.

Pieixoto also discusses the story of an unnamed Handmaid (June) detailed in recorded tapes found decades after the fall of Gilead – and explained that they were found behind the false wall of an “ancient house”. After some probing from his audience, he adds that he doubts June was ever reunited with her daughter – and hints that the situation for Gilead’s women grew even worse before it get better.

But, when an attendee asks the professor if June was a secret member of the Mayday Rebellion, he pauses. Admitting he can’t be certain, he reveals he believes June did partake in her own resistance efforts, but that she hid all evidence of it – even from her own confessional tale – in a bid to protect herself from the repressive habits of authoritarian regimes.

Musing on the role this epilogue will play in the show, Miller has said: “This account of what happened exists means that somehow some way, June got that account out. And that to me sets a story of kind of the triumph of the human spirit and hope that everything else kind of pales in comparison.”

He adds: “The fact that this woman survived and told her story in this place is certainly encourages me to get off my ass and do something politically in these strange times we live.”

So, yes, things will get worse before they get better. However, it seems as if there is there is definitely still hope for June – and, if Miller has his way, The Handmaid’s Tale is building up to a beautiful and hope-fuelled finale.

Blessed be the spoilers, eh?

Image: George Kraychyk/channel4