Everything We Know About The Handmaid's Tale Season 2
One of the biggest and buzziest new additions to the TV landscape last year was Hulu’s extraordinary adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which reimagines Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel as a frighteningly plausible modern-day dystopia. Season One established a fallen version of America, explaining that the country collapsed following a rapid decline in fertility rates, which prompted the rise of a totalitarian government founded on puritanism and misogyny. Fertile women are enslaved as “handmaids”—sexual surrogates for powerful men—and the regime keeps its citizens in line by executing defectors, or by sending them to the dreaded “Colonies.”
The show has won a slew of awards since its debut last April, including two Emmy Awards for Best Drama and Best Actress. In its upcoming second season, The Handmaid’s Tale will continue beyond the ending of the novel to explore the Colonies, the deeper origins of Gilead, and a whole new arc for Elisabeth Moss’s newly pregnant June. Here’s everything we know so far about Season Two.
When is The Handmaid's Tale coming back?
Hulu has now confirmed that Season Two will premiere on April 25. As in Season One, episodes will be released week by week on the streaming platform rather than all at once; if you’re the particular kind of masochist who wants to binge The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll have to wait and store them up. The new season will be longer than the first, with 13 episodes, and it’s described thus by Hulu:
"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."
What's the storyline of the second season?
Season One’s non-linear timeline took June from a spirited contemporary woman in America to an outwardly meek (but inwardly steely) prisoner in Gilead. Season Two will have a whole new emotional arc for June, who is now on the run and pregnant with Nick's (Max Minghella) child. “We always talk about the impending birth, this child growing inside her, as a bit of a ticking time bomb,” Moss said at the TCA Press Tour in January. “The complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother.” Moss also called the new season "arguably darker than Season One." So... be warned.
When will we see the Colonies?
We heard a lot of horrifying things about the mysterious Colonies during Season One—most memorably from Moira (Samira Wiley), who warned: “They'll send you to the Colonies. You'll be cleaning up toxic waste. Your skin will peel off in sheets, and then you'll die.” In Episode Two of the new season, we’ll see the Colonies for the first time.
“There are tons of different kinds of colonies: some where they do agricultural work, some where they’re cleaning up toxic waste, some where they’re building farm houses,” executive producer Bruce Miller told Harper’s Bazaar. “The women who are sent to the colonies are called un-women, so they’re not even people—they’re not citizens, they’re just free labor. The people doing this to these women need a way to justify it, so there has to be a reason that not just one person would believe, but a whole bunch of people would believe. The Colonies can't be pointless—they have to have a goal for Gilead.”
As for which characters end up at the Colonies, it’s a safe bet that Janine (Madeline Brewer), who escaped being stoned to death in the Season One finale, may be on her way there. There’s also Emily (Alexis Bledel), who was last seen being carried away by the men in black in the middle of last season after stealing a car and running over a Gilead soldier. Many viewers initially assumed that she had been killed, but following the announcement that she was returning as a series regular, Bledel confirmed that Emily has been sent to the Colonies. "I’m very interested to see what that looks like because it's a completely different world we haven't seen on the show yet," she said at a pre-Emmys panel, "and I'm scared."
Who's joining the cast?
Along with the entire returning cast from Season One—Moss, Wiley, Bledel, Brewer, plus Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, and Anne Dowd—a number of big-name guest stars have been announced. Clea DuVall will play Emily’s wife, who was referenced in Season One (it’s explained that she was able to get safely across the border because she had a Canadian passport, as did their son).
Cherry Jones will play June's “outspoken feminist” mother Holly; per THR, she was Moss's “fantasy choice” for the role. “She's a terrific literary character who’s now going to come to life for the first time, and so it was important to me who that was,” Moss said. Holly will appear in the third episode of the season, and may make additional appearances.
Marisa Tomei will also guest star in an as-yet unknown role, but we do know that her appearance is in the second episode, meaning she’ll presumably show up at the Colonies. And Bradley Whitford will play Commander Joseph Lawrence, who’s billed as “the architect of Gilead’s economy.” His “sly humor and flashes of kindness make him a confusing, mysterious presence for his newest handmaid.”
What else is new?
Hulu released a trio of first-look images from the new season last month, and judging by one of them—which depicts a procession of handmaids, dressed for a funeral in black and red—there may be a significant death coming. Though handmaids are habitually abused, raped, and treated as vessels rather than human beings, they're also given a degree of physical protection because their fertility is so precious to Gilead, so the death of a handmaid is unusual.
The origin story of Gilead will also be explored in much greater depth, thanks in part to the deeper pockets Hulu gave the show this time around. “We did get a bigger budget,” Miller said at TCA, “and much of it is [for] the expansion of our world in creating the Colonies, and by using the narrative timelines, we’re able to see how Gilead came about. To follow the historical events of the creation of this world, as well as our characters.”
As for Mayday, the underground resistance group which June became involved with last season, there will be a lot more focus on them in Season Two—and don't be too quick to trust them. “Mayday is not the Handmaid rescue organization—it’s the anti-Gilead organization,” Miller told the New York Times. “And the anti-Gilead organization is not necessarily a friend to June or a friend to Handmaids. If I was going to try to hurt Gilead, the first thing I might do is kill all the Handmaids. You’re trying to weaken the state.”
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.