WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
As good season finales should, Thursday night’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale left us with so, so many questions about what’s to come next year, about the fate of our favourite and most despised characters.
Thankfully, some of the show’s insiders have already answered – or at least hinted – at what we can expect.
1. Is Serena’s going to join (maybe even lead) a resistance?
Perhaps the most triumphant scene in The Handmaid’s Tale finale (well, aside from when June punched Commander Waterford in the kisser), was Serena Joy leading a troupe of wives into the Council chamber to demand that women be given the right to read the bible.
Hey, it’s a start.
With the all-male Council watching on in horror, she unwrapped the good book and began to read aloud. The forbidden act cost her a finger, but there’s a sense a huge shift is coming for her. It seems this will spur her on, this was the push she needed to ensure her (read: June and Nick’s) daughter, Nicole, is able to live a safer life, “a life of purpose”.
The show’s writers had been sowing the seeds of Serena’s discontent for several episodes this season: she secretly performed her husband’s work duties as he recovered from the bombing; she recruited June to edit her forbidden work; she bent the law banning female doctors in the hope of saving Angela’s baby – an act for which she was beaten by Fred; she watched in horror as Nick’s 15-year-old wife, Eden, was drowned for adultery; then finally, she allows June to escape with her (again, not her) baby, after June convinces her the child “cannot grow up in this place”.
As the Australian actor behind Serena, Emmy nominated Yvonne Strahovski, told The Hollywood Reporter, “It really is such a raw place to be left in when you’re standing in your life and you no longer have anything to hold onto. What do you do? It kind of forces you to look inside yourself and perhaps face other realities and truths that you haven’t faced,” she said.
“It would be nice to see her continue on this sort of breakdown path or maybe come to more realisation about the society that she’s helped create and what that means and where she goes from there.”
2. Why did June stay in Gilead?
Though June’s decision to stay in Gilead rather than flee to Canada with Emily and her baby infuriated viewers, it was really her only choice.
As the series’ showrunner, Bruce Miller, put it to Deadline: “She’s a mother. She has one child who’s going off to safety and one child that’s still here, so she stays for her [eldest] daughter Hannah.”
According to Miller, June’s decision to stay was driven by two things: Hannah’s query when they were briefly reunited in episode 10 (“Why didn’t you try harder to find me?”), and her mother’s words when she was in labour with Hannah (“You’re stronger than you think.”).
“I think that after having a season where all these things that were seemingly impossible have come to pass I think she’s willing to take a chance. She’s not so willing to leave her eldest daughter behind.”
It’s expected June will also play a significant role in the brewing resistance while she’s at it (perhaps alongside Serena?).
It’s also been confirmed that Emily’s new Commander, Joseph Lawrence – the one who helped them escape – will return next season, and that his path will cross with June “a lot more”.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, June.
3. Is Aunt Lydia dead?
Short answer: no.
As the series’ showrunner, Bruce Miller, told Forbes, “I don’t think there are forces in the world strong enough to kill Aunt Lydia.
“Aunt Lydia doesn’t die, [but] she’s transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls… has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day-to-day basis.”
In the formidable Aunt’s case, it means doubling down, according to Miller: “She has decided it’s time to get tough.”
Did anyone else just shudder?
4. Will Nick get away with defying Commander Waterford?
Once Commander Waterford realises June has fled with baby Nicole in the finale, he instructs Nick to gather a search party.
One hand on his gun, he defiantly blocks his boss’ path; “It’s too dangerous out there. We’ll stay here.”
“Nick did take a stand and impulsively. He’s not an impulsive guy in general,” Bruce Miller told Forbes. “He’s putting his life on the line…[And] yes, there will be repercussions for Nick.”
But as Miller notes, as a Gilead spy Nick has plenty of information about Commander Waterford and his peers that he could leverage.
“I don’t think it’s a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick,” he said.
5. Will Emily and Nicole make it to Canada?
The final scene sees a bewildered Emily clutching baby Nicole in the back of the escape truck as it drives away from June and Gilead.
So many questions: How far is it to Canada? How long will it take them? How will they feed Nicole along the way?
It’s expected season three will feature the drama of this journey. Miller made reference in another part of his Deadline interview to the child being “on its way out to the border” next season – ie. she hasn’t made it yet.
While he wouldn’t elaborate, he confirmed the pair are “certainly going to play a big role” next year.
Season three of The Handmaid’s Tale is currently in pre-production and due for release in 2019.