Everything You Need to Know Before Watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2 Premiere
Slap on your emotional masochist team jersey because it’s time to get back into the demented Gilead ball game with Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her red-cloaked friends.
Yep, at long last The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Hulu for season two with two brand-new episodes on Wednesday, April 25. So before immersing yourself in the dystopian horrors of Gilead, refresh your memory on all the trials and tribulations of season one. Trust us, there are plenty.
Life Before Gilead
Chronologically speaking, the story begins when June (Moss) meets a married man named Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) at a hot dog stand where she and her bestie Moira (Samira Wiley) are grabbing lunch. Luke and June begin an affair that eventually leads him to leave his wife. They marry and, although infertility is rampant in their society, they welcome a daughter named Hannah (Jordana Blake).
In June and Luke’s America, unpredictable weather makes it nearly impossible for agriculture to thrive, few healthy babies are born and people are generally pissed. With the country in disarray, the “domestic feminism” movement and Sons of Jacob religious group, as well as their respective leaders, Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) and Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), are perfectly poised to rise to power.
The Waterfords, who are unable to have children, preach a Christian-based paradigm that argues women’s sole responsibility should be to bear children and rise to domestic greatness. Oh, did we mention they also believe in enslaving fertile women, kidnapping children and eliminating homosexuals and rebels? Welp, that’s exactly what happens when the Sons of Jacob overtake the U.S. government and rename it Gilead.
Welcome to Hell
In this brave terrible new world, fertile women become handmaids and are sent into the homes of powerful men (Commanders), where they’re ceremonially raped until they conceive. Although June, Luke and Hannah try to escape to safety in Canada, they’re captured by the Guardians (Gilead police). June is sent to a handmaid training school called the Red Center, Luke is presumably killed and Hannah vanishes.
Under the tutelage of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), June and other handmaids learn about their special role in furthering the Gilead agenda...and it involves a lot of unwanted sex in the laps of Commanders’ wives.
Life at the Red Center is deplorable, although June does unexpectedly reunite with Moira and strikes up something close to a friendship with an unhinged handmaid named Janine (Madeline Brewer) who loses an eye for telling off Aunt Lydia. June and Moira make a pact to escape. And when that day finally comes, Moira is successful, but June is caught and sent to serve in Commander Waterford’s home.
Janine becomes Commander Warren’s (Stephen Kunken) handmaid and is given a new name: Ofwarren (literally “of Warren,” meaning his property). She conceives quickly, which is a big deal for handmaids, but her baby, Angela, is immediately handed over to the Commander’s wife, Naomi (Ever Carradine). After Angela’s arrival, Janine confides in June and says that she and Warren are in love and plan to run away together. When this doesn’t happen, Janine suffers a mental breakdown, abducts the baby and tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. Later, she’s accused of child endangerment and sentenced to be stoned to death by her fellow handmaids.
Hello Offred, Goodbye June
Upon entering the Waterford home, June loses her identity and becomes Offred. A Martha (housekeeper equivalent) named Rita (Amanda Brugel) and Commander Waterford’s driver/Eye (a person who reports traitors), Nick (Max Minghella), also reside on the Waterfords’ compound.
Here, Offred is ritually raped by the Commander, chastised by Serena and forced to go on outings to the grocery store with a neighboring handmaid named Ofglen (Alexis Bledel). Ofglen, whose real name is Emily, is a lesbian (called a gender traitor in Gilead) who secretly works with a resistance group called Mayday. After she’s charged with having an affair with a Martha, Ofglen is punished severely with what Aunt Lydia calls “female genital mutilation surgery.” She’s sent to live with a new Commander and becomes Ofsteven. One day she steals a car and runs over a Guardian during an outing to the market. She’s thrown into the back of a van and that’s the last we see of her…although we know she returns for season two.
June is inspired to join Mayday following Emily’s rebellion, despite growing closer with the Commander. Though it’s forbidden, he invites her to his office to play Scrabble and drink whiskey one evening, and then another...and another. Offred learns his previous handmaid committed suicide and uses this to manipulate him. One night, he takes her to a glamorous club called Jezebels so they can have sex without Offred’s head in his wife’s lap. It’s there that she sees Moira again and embarks on a risky assignment for Mayday.
While Offred and the Commander carry on their secret relationship, Serena Joy grows annoyed that Offred isn’t pregnant yet. She arranges for Offred to have sex with Nick on the off chance the Commander is sterile. Offred and Nick begin a love affair, and what do you know, she gets pregnant.
And Baby Makes…Things Complicated
Soon after Offred becomes pregnant, a diplomat from Mexico visits Gilead and her assistant privately tells Offred that Luke is alive and living in Canada. (Moira is too by the end of the season.) Offred feels hope for the first time in a long time...until Serena learns about her trips to Jezebels with the Commander.
The jilted wife takes Offred to see Hannah (she’s alive!) and threatens that if anything happens to her precious zygote, she’ll harm Hannah.
As season one comes to a close, Offred tells Rita about a stack of Mayday letters hiding in her room and preps her on what to do with them should anything happen to her. This comes at the perfect time because Offred is one of the handmaids who refused to stone Janine to death and now she’s on Gilead’s naughty list. In the final scene of the season, Offred is shut in the back of a Guardian van and Nick tells her to “Just go with it.”
The first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale will hit Hulu on Wednesday, April 25. We’ve never been so excited for something so depressing.