Warning: Spoilers for the first season of The Handmaid's Tale ahead.
In a year of political drama and dissent, The Handmaid's Tale had an outsized presence. Season 1 of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, won eight Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes. The stars Elisabeth Moss as a woman forced into sexual slavery in a future where a religious group has violently overthrown the US government and set up its own bizarre society, known as Gilead.
The show's message seems to have resonated. The distinctive red dresses and white winged bonnets worn by the Handmaids have been seen everywhere from Halloween parties to Saturday Night Live skits, marches and social protests.
Season 1 recap
The plot basically follows the lines of Atwood's novel, but dives even more deeply into the daily life of Gilead, a bloody place full of executions and harsh punishments. Moss' character Offred, (real name June) has been yanked away from her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), and daughter Hannah, and given to the man known as The Commander (played by Joseph Fiennes). His wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) can't bear children, so that job falls to Offred, one of the few remaining fertile women left.
Other Handmaids include the unpredictable Janine/Ofwarren (Madeline Brewer), who's lost an eye and had a baby under Gilead's rule; Emily/Ofglen/Ofsteven (Alexis Bledel), a lesbian punished with female genital mutilation; and former Handmaid-turned-forced-brothel-worker Moira (Samira Wiley), June's best friend from before the government takeover. Ann Dowd won an Emmy for playing Aunt Lydia, who oversees the often-brutal direction of the Handmaids. Nick (Max Minghella) is The Commander's driver, and becomes June's lover.
The first season ended much as Atwood's book does, with a now-pregnant Offred being taken away in a van, not really knowing if she'll be punished or saved by the Resistance. But this being TV, the show has been renewed for a second season, so that famed question-mark ending will actually get resolution.
Release date, episodes and timing
The second season will consist of 13 episodes. Two will be available on streaming service Hulu on April 25, with one episode a week after that up until the finale on July 11.
But the show could be around for a while, if showrunner Bruce Miller has anything to say about it. In 2017, he told The New York Times he could see the show running for 10 seasons. "If you hit a home run, you want energy to go around the bases, you want enough story to keep going," he said.
How to watch Handmaid's Tale
To watch the new episodes as they drop, you'll need a subscription to Hulu, which is about $8 a month. If you're unsure that's right or you, there's a 30-day free trial during which you can catch up on the first season. If you're a cord-cutter who's recently felt left out from live TV events, you might consider paying more to sign up for Hulu with Live TV.
Have an existing Spotify Premium account? You're eligible for the new Spotify-Hulu combined subscription detail. , but in short, this allows you to lump together the video- and music-streaming services for $13 a month, saving $5 a month over what the services cost separately. The deal is limited to Spotify Premium members for now, but will expand to others this summer.
If you just want to get caught up on the first season to see what all the fuss is about, you can buy individual Handmaid's Tale episodes on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu and Google Play. Or you can buy or rent the first season on DVD or Blu-ray.
What we know about season 2
Non-Handmaid characters will be in the spotlight. In that same New York Times article mentioned above, showrunner Miller said he'd like to focus on some non-Handmaid characters in the second season, especially Ann Dowd's Aunt Lydia. "We would like to explore her backstory, and what the lives of the aunts are like," he said. Miller would also like to delve into the lives of the Marthas, who are women forced into household servitude, as well as the daily responsibilities of The Commander. And since Tony Award-winning actress Cherry Jones has been cast as June's mother Holly, we'll get to know her as well.
Mayday, Mayday: There's an underground movement afoot trying to bring down Gilead, but this might not be as good for Offred as she hopes. "The Mayday resistance is going to be a big part of season 2," Miller told the Times. "Mayday is not the handmaid rescue organization -- it's the anti-Gilead organization. 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."
Viewers will finally travel to the Colonies: In the first season, the Colonies -- an area that's now permanently polluted by radiation and unsafe for humans -- were just a vague threat. So of course, the Republic of Gilead sends prisoners there to work, dubbing them Unpeople. This season we'll get to see this cracked and dry land (snippets of it showed up in the trailers and it looks just horrible) and the characters who've been unlucky enough to be forced to work there, including Alexis Bledel's Emily. (We'll also reportedly see Emily's "heartbreaking" backstory leading up to her attempt to leave before Gilead's rise. Clea duVall has been cast as her wife Sylvia, and they reportedly had a son as well.)
O Canada: There will be scenes in Canada, the country June and her family were trying to escape to when they were captured. Entertainment Weekly reveals that The Commander and Serena Joy will travel there "on a diplomatic mission," and that they'll have a "surprising confrontation" with Moira and Luke. Maybe they'll meet at a Tim Horton's.
Reviews are in
Early reviews of the second season are in. Some highlights:
Handmaid's Tale season 2 on Hulu a chilling must-watch
"The details in The Handmaid's Tale are heartbreakingly brilliant -- the gas masks worn by the horses (but not the Unwomen) in the poisoned Colonies, the bloodied shoe found at an office-turned-place of execution, a prayer rug hidden under a bed. Fleeting moments, maybe, but they color in the horrors of this land in an only-too-real way."
Gilead expands in The Handmaid's Tale season 2
"By anchoring each location with a series of beautifully calibrated performances, The Handmaid's Tale has become more expansive without sacrificing its hypnotic atmosphere. The characters, like Gilead itself, are repressed but contain restless multitudes, and The Handmaid's Tale remains drenched in an unearthly combination of creeping dread, gorgeous aesthetic restraint and furious aspiration." --Maureen Ryan, Variety
Miserable as ever, but beautifully done
"The results are dark and often miserable, even when The Handmaid's Tale offers fleeting glimmers of hope, and any time you think the descent has stopped, the show finds a new murky place to go, with the fourth and fifth episodes offering fresh levels of thrilling discomfort. That's a lot of plot happening thus far in the second season, and one of the best ways to cut through the despair is for it to move at a fast pace, which so far it does." --Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter
Meet the cast
Returning cast members include:
- Elisabeth Moss
- Ann Dowd
- Samira Wiley
- Alexis Bledel
- Joseph Fiennes
- Yvonne Strahovski
- Madeline Brewer
- O. T. Fagbenle
- Max Minghella
New this season:
- Marisa Tomei as a yet-unrevealed character
- Cherry Jones as June's mother, Holly
- Clea DuVall as Emily's wife Sylvia
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