Warning: Spoilers ahead.
It would seem that a book like The Handmaid’s Tale ― an interior story that relies heavily on flashbacks ― would be a tricky to adapt into a movie or miniseries, let alone a multi-season TV show. Yet, Hulu, the network airing the latest adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s reproductive dystopia, has renewed it for another go-around.
In Season 1, we got to know protagonist Offred: who she was before she was captured by Gilead’s authoritarian officials, the methods she uses to remain optimistic while enslaved as a sexual surrogate. These scenes made use of Atwood’s great writing, and were in keeping with the spirit of the book.
We also explored the inner lives of ancillary characters like Serena Joy and Nick, and were given their backstories; it’s likely that there will be more of these enjoyable tangents in future episodes.
So, how else will showrunner Bruce Miller extend Atwood’s source material? It’s possible that he and his team might make use of untapped details in The Handmaid’s Tale proper, like Offred’s fraught relationship with her mother, a Second Wave feminist. Or, we may go where no Atwood fan has gone before: to the Colonies, polluted and rumored to be unlivable. Below are just a few of our predictions:
Offred’s mother will make an appearance.
In Atwood’s novel, the heroine’s mother is a prominent character, and Offred finds herself wishing she could set the record straight with the woman who raised her. The two had their differences: Offred’s mother was a second-wave feminist, and believed her daughter took for granted all that her generation had earned for her. This relationship could be tricky to navigate on-screen, especially after Elisabeth Moss was criticized for her comments about the show’s relationship to feminism. Offred’s mother could be interpreted as expressive of the dangers of unabashed activism; in some readings of the book, second-wave feminism contributed to the backlash against it. On the other hand, Offred’s relationship with her mother could be an opportunity to explore her psyche more deeply.
We’ll meet the Econowives.
In the Hulu adaptation, there are Handmaids (like Offred), there are Marthas (like Rita), there are Jezebels (like Moira) and there’s the possibility of being sent to the Colonies. In the book, there are a few other roles that women occupy, including a group called the Econowives. These women wear striped outfits of different colors, and, as the wives of lower-ranking men, must take on the responsibilities of Handmaids and Marthas, cooking, cleaning, doing other chores, and serving as reproductive vessels, too.
We’ll take a trip to the Colonies.
When Offred meets Moira among the Jezebels at a spot where high-ranking men hobnob with sex workers, Moira tells her she was granted a choice after her short-lived escape from the Red Center ― it was this or the Colonies. In both the book and the show, the Colonies ― where a toxic environment makes fertility impossible and life barely livable ― are alluded to but never visited. But, Miller said that his adaptation will go further beyond the confines of the book than it already has. It only makes sense that the Colonies could be one of the story’s next stops.
Someone will buy a prayer from a Soul Scroll machine.
In Atwood’s original vision of Gilead, capitalism and class as they relate to the fictional theocracy are explored more fully. The above-mentioned Econowives are a part of that; their status is separate from the Handmaids and the Jezebels. But there are also small details that highlight the correlation between money, faith and power in Gilead. Prayers, for example, can be purchased from an ATM-like machine called a Soul Scroll; to see these details in the TV adaptation might make the specifics of Atwood’s dystopia even clearer.
Offred will immerse herself more in her relationship with Nick, as she struggles to hold onto her memories of Luke.
As we saw in Season 1, the Hulu adaptation plans to take advantage of the love triangle fodder provided by the book. In the novel, we don’t know whether Luke is alive, because the story doesn’t leave Offred’s perspective. In the show, we know Luke is likely going to try to reconnect with her ― and that their daughter, taken from them after the rise of Gilead, has survived. We also know that Offred has mixed feelings about her romantic relationship with Nick, a member of the secret police known as Eyes, who’s likely the father of the child she’s now pregnant with.
The ways in which pollution impacts male fertility will be discussed more directly.
We know that the burden of infertility has fallen completely on women in Gilead, even as men like the Commander, the Fred to our Offred, are likely sterile due to age, environmental factors, or both. In Season 1, Offred offers an aside, commenting on sterility and how the word is never uttered in her new life. It’s possible that the impact of male sterility on the sharp decline in pregnancies and births will be a plot point in the show’s coming seasons.
We’ll get an even broader view of other countries’ attempts to intervene.
In the book, Japanese tourists take pictures of the Handmaids, while themselves wearing open-toed shoes and other clothes that the Aunts would deem immodest. In the show, Offred allows herself to feel hopeful when a Mexico’s ambassador visits, but those hopes are ultimately dashed. And in the finale, we learn that Moira has successfully escaped to Canada, and has reunited with Luke. The pair will surely try to rescue Offred, and we’ll likely learn about the world beyond Gilead in the process.
Serena Joy’s mounting dissatisfaction will come to a head.
In the season finale, Serena Joy confronts Fred about his outings with Offred, coyly offering to play Scrabble with him and suggesting that she’s aware of his dalliances with their Handmaid. But Fred declines, telling her she knows the rules (re: women reading, even something as simple as letters on wooden blocks). Tersely, Serena Joy responds that she helped write them. Now that the results of her ideals in action aren’t as family-centric as she’d hoped, Serena Joy’s bound to take action.
We’ll finally learn about Mayday.
The season finale ends with the same lines as the book; Offred enters the darkness, or else the light. We’re not told for sure whether the black van that’s collected her is affiliated with the resistance, known as Mayday, or with the Eyes, but Nick’s involvement, and his good-guy status on the show, suggest that she’s headed somewhere safe. Where she’ll go from there, we’ll have to wait to find out.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to a character as a head of state in Mexico, rather than Ambassador of Mexico to the United States.