The Handmaid’s Tale S3: where we’re headed and where we’ve been
At the end of Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, June (Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss) relinquished another opportunity to escape the oppression of Gilead – having escaped for a few months at the beginning of the season, and then once more shortly before she gave birth to her second child–and our immediate collective reaction was “Why, June, why?”
June answered that for us: because, though her newborn babe will have a better life outside of Gilead, she can’t abandon her firstborn Hannah, who is currently living with a new family somewhere in the hell hole.
“They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.
The truth, however, is that keeping June in Gilead and building the story around her fight from within was the only way to go if the show were to have another season. With no more source material from Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel and who is busy with a highly anticipated sequel, there would simply be no story left to tell if June had escaped with her baby.
“Year one was about June’s survival, and year two was very much about motherhood,” executive producer Warren Littlefield told BAZAAR.com. “In year three, we felt it was important to radicalise June, to have her becoming a part of the Martha network, and to face the burden of responsibility and the burden of leadership.”
As June says in this season’s trailer, “At least there’s still hope if I’m here.”
June’s determination and shift in focus have been superbly portrayed thus far, because quality acting is a trademark of the series, as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has repeatedly recognised. As are the exquisite cinematography, the abundant use of aerial filming, and the dramatic colours that separate the classes of women, a counterpoint to the appalling nature and horror of the central plot.
Watching The Handmaid’s Tale can make your skin crawl – especially when held up against current affairs, which make Atwood’s dystopia far more real than anyone could have imagined when it was written in 1985; at the same time, you cannot help but be lulled into gentle awe by the optics. It’s an uncomfortable juxtaposition.
What could be the most interesting development in Season 3 is the character of Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing), whom we met at the end of Season 2 when he helped Emily (Alexis Bledel) flee with June’s infant.
He seemed like he was one of the Good Guys, but now, not so much. June has replaced Emily in his household, to become Ofjoseph (although he eschews The Ceremony), and she has already found he is not as easily manipulated as her former Commander Waterford (Joseph Feinnes). As one of the architects of Gilead and apparently devoted to the cause, Lawrence’s dabbling in the underground resistance is still a mystery.
He will no doubt continue to challenge June on many levels as the season progresses, following his order to her to select five women to be Marthas – giving her a taste of the power he wields, and a lesson in how to lead. But, crucially, the women she selects all bring with them skills that will benefit the resistance…
Gilead better watch out.
In the remainder of the season, keep an eye out for Christopher Meloni(Law & Order: SVU, OZ, Happy!) and Elizabeth Reaser (Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife, True Detective) are joining the cast as guest stars. They’re playing a married couple, Commander Winslow and Mrs. Winslow. He’s “a powerful and magnetic Commander who hosts the Waterfords on an important trip,” while she “becomes a friend and inspiration to Serena Joy,” according to Hulu.