Everything You Need to Know Before Watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3

The Handmaid’s Tale season three is finally here. But, since we’ve spent so long out of Gilead’s oppressive regime, a refresher on all things season two seems only appropriate before diving into season three. 

Here, a quick recap on what happened last season and what to expect from season three. 

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What Happened Last Season?

Season two began with June (Elisabeth Moss) and the rest of the handmaids being taken to Fenway Park where they’re made to believe they’re going to be hanged. It turns out it’s just another way for Gilead to get into their heads and freak them out. They’re taken to the handmaid school to be punished, but because June/Offred is pregnant she gets to avoid some unpleasantness. She’s still chained in a prison-cell-like room so she can’t escape or kill herself.

Eventually, June is taken to an ultrasound appointment and successfully escapes. With Nick’s (Max Minghella) help,  she’s taken to a safe house and resides there for several months. Then, she’s informed that a flight has been arranged for her to get to Canada, where her husband, Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), lives. Just as the plane begins to take off, they’re shot out of the sky by Gilead soldiers. June is returned to Aunt Lydia (Anne Dowd), then the Waterfords. 

Scared for her life, June becomes submissive. But Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) is still angry with her for all the trouble she’s caused—at least until June nearly loses the baby and Serena is forced to thaw her icy attitude. Amidst all this, Nick is rewarded for his service to Gilead with a child bride named Eden (Sydney Sweeney), who unfortunately doesn’t last long. Meanwhile, Emily (Alexis Bledel) and Janine (Madeline Brewer) toil away at the Colonies.

Things get even worse when Ofglen (Tattiawna Jones) detonates a bomb at the Rachel and Leah Center, killing 26 commanders and 31 handmaids. Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is injured and Serena asks Offred to help her carry out his work while he’s in the hospital. Because so many handmaids were killed, fertile women like Emily and Janine are brought back from the Colonies.

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When Commander Waterford returns home, he’s stricter and more punishing than ever. He whips Serena for disobeying him. When they set out on a diplomatic trip to Canada, Serena is reminded of what it’s like to be free. She’s offered asylum in Hawaii but refuses it.

Back in Gilead, June asks Commander Waterford to let her see her child. When he refuses, she insinuates that the child she’s carrying isn’t his. Later, he sexually assaults June under the guise of trying to make her go into labor. He feels badly about it afterward and allows Nick to take June to an abandoned house so she can see her daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake).

After Hannah leaves, Nick is taken away by the Guardians and June is left alone in the house. She plots her escape, but she begins to go into labor and it’s too dangerous to carry on alone. She fires a gun into the sky and is found. She and her baby, who Serena names Nicole, are taken back the Waterford household.

Soon, Nick’s wife, Eden, is executed alongside her lover for infidelity. This strikes fear into Serena and June’s hearts. Later, when a group of Marthas set a fire to help June escape, Serena knows she must let her go. June is reunited with Emily and her commander, Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). Although he was one of the architects of Gilead, he offers to take Emily, June and the baby to safety. Knowing she can’t leave her other daughter, Hannah, behind, June gives the baby to Emily and opts to remain in Gilead.

So what happens to our characters now? Following the season two finale, The Handmaid’s Tale series creator and showrunner Bruce Miller spilled some season three spoilers to PureWow.

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George Kraychyk/Hulu


Miller explained that the focus of the hit Hulu show will remain on Offred/June as she grapples with the difficult decision she made to remain in Gilead. But the verdict is still out on whether she’ll return to the Waterford home. 

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George Kraychyk/Hulu

Emily & Nicole

Although Emily and Nicole escaped Gilead, it won’t be the last time we see them. Miller says Nicole will be “a huge part of our show, whether it’s in influence or whether it’s in corporeal reality.” And since Emily has been tasked with caring for her, she’ll come to represent something greater as well.  

offred and aunt lydia handmaids tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

Aunt Lydia

While Emily was under the watch of Commander Lawrence she tried to kill Aunt Lydia. But guess what? Despite Emily’s best efforts, she doesn’t die. In fact, Miller says she’ll “be with us for a long, long time,” but that’s not necessarily a good thing for the handmaids. “She’s transformed by this event…It makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it’s time to get tough,” he explained.

handmaid s tale nick in canada
George Kraychyk/Hulu


The HMT creator says the repercussions season three has in store for Nick are complicated because of the dirt he has on Commander Waterford. He also hinted that Nick and Offred’s relationship will continue. In fact, he’d very much like Offred to exist with Nick and her husband, Luke, in harmony because “she should have as much happiness and good sex and intimacy and love that she can find in her life.” Amen.

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George Kraychyk/Hulu


Now that Serena has sent her daughter to live in freedom, we’re all wondering how she’ll deal with that decision moving forward. So is Miller: “Is she going to stay bereft, and empty, and live in Gilead? Is she gonna change her mind about her daughter and try to get her hands on that child again, all those things are possible…I’m not sure whether she’d be so quick to let go of the idea of a child just because she made a decision in a moment.” Our guess? Probably not.

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George Kraychyk/Hulu


Since Rita (Amanda Brugel) played a pivotal role in helping Offred (almost) escape, Miller says it’s going to take some “very deft dancing” to avoid any blame. However, now that she’s proved herself a true enemy of Gilead, she’ll begin “coming out of her shell and becoming a little more visible.”

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George Kraychyk/Hulu

Setting & Plot

The season three plot will remain in Gilead proper, but Miller plans to further explore Jezebels and introduce other Colonies. The upcoming season will consider “how Gilead uses the discarded [women],” some of whom work in factories that make the handmaid costumes. “I figure it’s terrifying to see a whole wall of handmaid costumes and realize each one represents a woman in June’s position,” he shared. As for Jezebels, it represent the “mess” of Gilead’s puritanical society, and Miller “likes a mess.”

handmaids tale season 2 offred janine grocery store
George Kraychyk/Hulu

So, When Does Season Three Premiere?

Season three is finally here. The first three episodes of the 13-episode season are already available on the streaming platform. Future episodes will drop each Wednesday on Hulu. Blessed be the fruit. 

RELATED: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2 Recaps: Every Agonizing Episode


Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.