Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season one, and some hints about The Handmaid’s Tale season two.
If you are still recovering from the horror that was watching season one of The Handmaid’s Tale, you had best invest in some sort of emotionally supportive comfort blanket because season two is upon us and things are about to get so much worse.
At the end of season one of The Handmaid’s Tale, the award winning television series based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel of the same name, you may have felt a flicker of hope begin to stir in your heart.
After all, June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss) had led her fellow handmaids in an uprising against Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and they had marched through the streets together triumphantly after refusing to stone Janine (Madeline Brewer) to death.
Then, June was spirited away into the back of a van, and there were signs pointing towards the tiny glorious, glorious sliver of hope that she was being taken to safety.
But the opening scene of season two blows any chance of a slightly better future for the women enslaved by Gilead out of the water.
The handmaids are punished for their show of defiance in spectacular fashion during long, torturous scenes that make you believe they will never dare to step out of line ever again.
Take a look at what to expect from The Handmaid’s Tale, season two.
Aunt Lydia’s discovery of June’s pregnancy saves her from some of the later punishments, but her refusal to fall into line and eat dinner leads us to discover the fate that befalls a pregnant handmaid who attempts to rebel.
A pregnant woman who is paraded before Junes’ eyes serves as a warning that her future could include being treated no better than an abused animal. It’s a scene that serves to shatter any belief that there are ways to work within the Gilead system and carve out a safe space for yourself by bearing children.
Even pregnancy cannot save them, meaning that June’s one trump card is looking a lot less valuable than we had previously believed.
However, one of the biggest storytelling shifts in the show from season one to season two is that the world-building has expanded immensely.
Every huge clue and plot twist that you missed in The Handmaid’s Tale, season one. Post continues.
The main storyline has broken free from the stifling constraints of the Waterford’s mansion and the bedroom June lived in when she was only known as Offred. Her bedroom, filled with symbolism thanks to its mirror-less set-up, has been replaced with the wider city and with The Colonies, a pollution and radiation filled hell-hole where Gilead sends people to be worked to death as a form of punishment.
It is during our first look at the hell of The Colonies that we learn the fate of Emily/Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) whose face clearly shows the painful deterioration that her body is facing, and yet we also quickly learn that is still quietly rebelling against the government in small, sometimes quite murderous, ways.
There are now more villains in this evolving dystopian world to contend with, and so the overbearing power of Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) seems to fizzle out and fade into the background.
While their presence as the central villains in season one worked well, with Serena Joy in particular becoming almost the symbol of our hatred for everything that Gilead stands for, in season two it becomes very clear the couple were only serving as the face of a greater and more powerful system that must be faced.
While their cruelty and manipulation was always hard to watch, you can very much feel your hatred as a viewer turning a different way in season two, especially in the premiere episode.
The Handmaid's Tale has always been a very physical TV show, which makes sense since it chronicles the ways in which women's bodies are seen as property. The camera never pans away from showing the characters living through immense pain (the many torture scenes) to wild abandon (the sex scenes) with so many of their experiences heightened, all thanks to the fact that they are abiding such rigid rules and regulations.
June's appearance has always been reflective of what her character is facing and feeling. In season one, her features are obscured by her bonnet and her body is constricted within her handmaid's blood-red robes.
In season two she takes part in the age old women-on-screen trope of viciously hacking off her own hair to symbolise her new journey of defiance and change.
And in a scene that is sure to make your stomach curdle and your hands fly up to cover your eyes, June takes things a whole lot further and ruthlessly cuts and digs into your own flesh, brutally mutilating herself in order to remove the very last trace of Gilead's branding.
A less bloodthirsty clue to the fact that our heroine June is a completely changed person can also be found in her voiceovers.
Once, they were reflective, almost dream-like in their musings about the past and the future. Now, they are cutting and strong, they are tinged with sarcasm and more than a hint of anger and vengeance. With all signs pointing towards the fact that June has been completely broken, and only her anger can put her back together again.
Season two of The Handmaid's Tale is taking us well beyond the story that can be found it Atwood's book, and it's set to be a much bumpier ride.
Season two of The Handmaid's Tale will premiere on SBS and SBS On Demad on Thursday 26 April at 8.30pm with episodes one and two. New episodes will then air weekly. Season two has 13 episodes in total.
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