The Handmaid’s Tale season finale leaves us all facing the unknown in season 2


We, like June, are staring into the black unknown of her future for The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 — there’s no telling what’s next.

About halfway through The Handmaid’s Tale’s first season on Hulu, I found myself craving an ending that left me with a little hope, a little closure. The indescribable tragedies, tortures, and inhumanities performed during the first season painted the bleakest portrait I’ve seen on television, making me desperate for some sort of lifeline to cling to. My assumption early on was that, despite the known ambiguous ending, I wouldn’t feel the need for a season 2, and that enough closure would be given to make the ambiguity a meaningful enough device in its own right that I could walk away and stop having my feelings ripped out once a week.

Nope, sorry, all wrong. I need The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, and I need it bad. Right now would be super great, even. And yet, for the first time ever in any form of entertainment, I have absolutely no idea what I need from the next installment. The darkness of the van at the end of episode 10 is completely impenetrable, even in terms of speculation for me.

That’s because of a series of changes wrought in the TV series that changed Atwood’s original, open-ended finale from a literary device to a springboard for the future. The addition of Luke and Moira in Ontario, for one, provided an actual, tangible goal that we want June to reach, as opposed to her having nowhere to go and no idea if anyone was alive or not. The refusal to stone Janine — in fact, Janine’s entire plotline — provided a hinge around which the entire collective of handmaids was able to turn. No more platitudes about being an army, these women all agreed on where a line was that they would not cross. They were willing to die rather than destroy one of their own. In that at least, June has also been given known allies.

The Handmaid’s Tale — “The Bridge” Episode 109 — Offred embarks on a dangerous mission for the resistance. Janine moves to a new posting. Serena Joy suspects the Commander’s infidelity. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

This was supplemented by the letters in the package, presumably from all over, all reminding June that she was not alone, that others also had had enough and were missing children. Suddenly, those women at her side who had been unknowns at best and enemies at worst were her friends and confidants, all parts of the same horrific story. We never know where the package was going, but Rita’s discovery of it gives hope of a different kind. If Rita was not the intended recipient, then at least she can be trusted to keep the story alive.

More from TV

Despite containing what may be the worst psychological torture of the series (I can’t tell anymore, it’s all awful), episode 10 was also the most uplifting. After multiple episodes with fake peaks characterized by handmaids marching in a group backed by dramatic music, a real connection has been made. I, like June, don’t know where she’s going and don’t much care (in a larger sense, in the short-term I definitely need to know right now), because what is there is not going to hurt her badly enough to break the will she gained in season 1.

But I also don’t know what I want for her. Ultimately, of course, I want a happy ending. I want a happy ending that I didn’t think was possible midway through this season, purely based on what I recalled of the novel. Now, I have hope for an ultimate reunion with Luke and Moira, but we have ten whole episodes or more before we can get there. I know I’m done with her life as a handmaid with the Waterfords. There is no story left to tell of June and those people. I do not want to see her go back.

The Handmaid’s Tale — “The Bridge” Episode 109 — Offred embarks on a dangerous mission for the resistance. Janine moves to a new posting. Serena Joy suspects the Commander’s infidelity. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

I do know, too, that this is a chance for Atwood to expand this universe further, perhaps even hitting on plot points that touch nerves even closer to current events than this season did. But I’m not sure how to feel about that. There are more horrors in store, I know it. For there not to be would be far too dramatic a pivot from what the series has been, and would cheapen any ultimate triumph June gained. But I’m also terrified of what else she might be subjected to, or how it might change her in dark ways before she’s finally reunited with her husband, daughter, and best friend.

But whatever the future of the series holds, I’m grateful that the message has transformed from one of dark questioning to hope, resistance, and unity against societal horrors and seriously messed up political systems. I’m relieved that no one, in fact, was ground down, and further grateful that in its final moments, The Handmaid’s Tale ceased its attempts to trick its audience into moral questioning and showed its villains as unambiguously cruel, devoid of even false sympathy, though it was hard to watch.

Next: The Handmaid’s Tale season 1 finale recap: ‘Night’

We’ve got a long way to go and a long, difficult road ahead for society in the months and year ahead. There’s no telling how much the world will have transformed and how accidentally or intentionally relevant the next season will be. But until then, nolite te bastardes carborundorum.