Spoilers below for The Handmaid’s Tale season two finale.
It wouldn’t be a season finale without cliff-hangers, right? Throughout this bumpy second season of The Handmaid’s Tale, we’ve followed characters to the prairie wastelands of the Colonies, the borderlands between the U.S. and Canada, into an Econo-community, to the abandoned offices of the Boston Globe, and through more torture scenes, rapes, and executions than some people felt the show needed. Yet at the end, we’re basically back where we started, but with more questions than ever. Here are the nine biggest Handmaid’s Tale mysteries we can’t get off our minds.
This is the Ur-question of The Handmaid’s Tale. June has been shuttled back and forth to the Waterfords’ house for so many episodes now that the suspense has waned. Surely she’d be out of Gilead by the end of the season so the show could trod on some fresh ground, right? But June’s (logical) decision to stay in Gilead and send her baby to Canada with Emily means that she could conceivably end up back in Fred’s grimy clutches again. Still, there was something in the way she pulled that hood up over her head and hustled off into the night that indicated June won’t meekly head back into anyone’s clutches. It’s possible that the authorities will believe June has been escorted farther north, allowing her to track down Hannah and smuggle her out of the country. Fingers crossed.
We’re wagering yes. Perhaps we’ll watch them struggle to cross the border for a few episodes in season three, but ultimately, it’s beyond even The Handmaid’s Tale to let a baby die in the wilderness. Plus, the fan revolt would be huge if Emily were somehow brought back to Gilead — she’s been dragged through enough muck to last several lifetimes. Hopefully Emily will put some of that rage to good use. Maybe she’ll lead some sort of mass protest to encourage Canadian and foreign intervention? If nothing else, hopefully some Canadian health agency can work to reduce the toxicity levels in her body. (Did you think we’d forgot about, showrunners?) Hurray for socialized medicine!
Mixed feelings here. Aunt Lydia is a certifiable harpy from hell, the sort of woman you’d picture during old nursery rhymes about children being baked in pies. It’s a shame that she can only be killed once, really. So many Handmaids must have dreamt about murdering her that their delight in her (potential) death might only be outdone by their jealousy that they didn’t wield the knife themselves. Good riddance that Emily stabbed her, right?
But here’s the thing: Ann Dowd is a national treasure, the sort of actress whose metamorphosis into a character is so complete that she’s often unrecognizable from one role to another. What would The Handmaid’s Tale be without her exquisite enunciation and schoolmarmish pursed lips? Let’s call this one a toss-up for now, with fingers crossed that Dowd will return in flashbacks even if Aunt Lydia croaks.
It’s hard for Handmaids to get their hands on sharp objects — it took Emily quite a bit of scuttling around in the kitchen to grab that knife — and for good reason. The Commanders don’t want an open rebellion on their hands, or a rash of suicides (remember, June has no mirror in her bathroom so she can’t smash it and use the shards). So, it’s hard to know exactly what June found to scribble her message of defiance in just a few minutes. But this is one of those potential plot holes we’re just fine with letting slip by. Don’t let the nitpickers get you down.
There really isn’t much for Nick to do if June is gone for good. His wife has been executed, he’s shown Commander Waterford his true allegiance to the resistance, and his baby has been sent off to Canada. Unless he can convince the Commander to have mercy on him — and this is a man, need I remind you, who ordered his own wife’s finger cut off — Gilead will have him hanging on the wall within days. If Nick is doomed, let’s hope we at least get to see one last confrontation between him and the Commander, the man who raped the woman he loves.
Is that even a question?
God bless that bespectacled, lion-maned masterpiece of a man. I want more Commander Lawrence witticisms in my life, and I need to know what the “deep shit” he’s gotten himself into looks like. Besides, as the architect of Gilead’s economy, he might possess the ability to unmake his own creation, and what a spectacular sight it would be to see it all unravel. He’s also the only Commander that is openly regretful of his involvement in Gilead’s creation. That’s a story worth playing out.
After her husband’s treachery and the trauma of giving up the child she thought of as her own, it’s hard to believe that Serena will bounce back to the woman she once was. Just as she blamed Fred both times that June went missing, he will certainly bear the brunt of her anger now that she’s truly left with nothing. At a number of moments this season — especially during and after her trip to Canada — Serena seemed prepared to betray Gilead, if only for herself. Will that turn finally come to fruition next season? Perhaps she can do some real damage from the inside.
As for why no foreign powers have intervened, well, we could spend all day debating who receives foreign aid and why. But season three seems poised to zoom out a bit, especially if Emily makes it to Canada and becomes an activist of some sort. With a former Handmaid leading the charge, the protests in Little America could potentially sway the Canadian government to go a step further than sanctions.
Also, did you notice that the camera lingered extra long over the map of the former U.S. that Fred was studying at his desk when the fire broke out? It showed four different zones: New England, the mid-Atlantic region, and the near Midwest are in blue, all of which must be Gilead proper. The yellow zones of the Midwest and Southwest are most likely where the Colonies are located. The bright red surrounding the northern and southern borders, as well as Texas and Florida, seem like contested areas. But the pink areas in the Deep South and northern Midwest could be something else entirely. Ongoing war zones? It’s hard to tell, but it’s obvious that something is brewing in the former good old U.S. of A.