Living as a woman “Under His Eye” in The Handmaid’s Tale is suffocating, but Offred (Elisabeth Moss) has survived — so far. Showrunner Bruce Miller says that despite the distance Offred has come — she found Moira (Samira Wiley), won over the Commander (Joseph Fiennes), and learned that her husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle), is still alive — the totalitarian, fundamentalist Republic of Gilead won’t be easy to escape. “There are so many things that she’s done that are against the rules, things that everybody else has done that are against the rules,” he teases of the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel. “Who knows which of those chickens are going to come home to roost?”
Below, Miller looks ahead to the season finale of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and shares some insight into how the writers are breaking the story for season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We have to start with Offred. She’s much closer to the resistance now than before. Where do we pick up with her in the finale?
BRUCE MILLER: One of the most interesting things about her is she’s really tenacious, she doesn’t give up easily. She’s definitely picked up the fight in a new way, and we’ll get a little sense of how far she’s come in the season. We have flashbacks to parts earlier with her experience in Gilead, and you see how much she’s changed. What we try to do in the finale is make sure we don’t lose that perspective of how terrifying that world is; it looks so pretty and seems so nice and everybody’s so relatively quiet, you can almost ignore the machine guns, so for June, she has definitely found a new stride since being captured three years ago. We come into the finale with her feeling like she’s made progress in terms of controlling her environment — she’s made some connections to the Resistance — but that all gets upended. The finale might as well be a season of the show in and of itself.
What do you mean by that?
Well, there’s a lot of surprising things [to it], but it also glimpses into new parts of Gilead. We are realizing that especially as we move into season 2, that there’s lots more to explore, and at the end of season 1, short of finding new and interesting areas to go, there’s so many things that have happened during the season that have been unresolved.
One, I imagine, would be the twisted Serena Joy/Commander Waterford/Offred relationship.
Absolutely. We get into some of the awkward and unusual territory of honesty between Serena Joy and the Commander, and it has a surprising result. Their marriage, is it going to go towards its worst nature or will it touch [back] on its best moments? It’s definitely reaching a crisis point. In the finale, you definitely see that marriage get strained and react in ways that I found super interesting… Things get crunchy and messy very quickly. I think you can see in the penultimate episode that Serena Joy is suspicious, and I don’t know if a suspicious Serena Joy is something to be taken lightly. It’s certainly something to be afraid of.
There’s also Moira to worry about. She just escaped Jezebel’s and sped away in a stolen vehicle. Is she headed north?
That’s certainly been her goal from the beginning. She’s incredibly smart and tough and now that she’s been buoyed a little by her old friend and gotten a bit of her spirit back, my sense is she turns that car north as soon as she can and tries to get the hell out of Dodge. We’ll see some of that in the finale, of what she does and how that turns out.
What about some characters we haven’t seen in a while, like Ofglen?
There are some really unusual surprises… [The actors] all have been so lovely to work with that you want to bring everybody back together for the finale just on a personal level. This show doesn’t have that many central characters so we’re able to touch on a lot of them and get a sense of, not necessarily where they end up, but steps in their journey.
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Hulu renewed the show for a second season shortly after its premiere. At this point, how far along are you in breaking the story?
Where we are is quite far down the road in terms of devising the next season’s arcs, but I also think we’re still waiting to put out a show and to see people’s reactions to this season. Just like in season 1, I think we have way too much stuff that we want to do. Our actors have so much capacity, and they’re getting better and better with every episode, and as writers, you want to push and see what actors can do, what the show can do, so we’re definitely pushing and exploring. Season 2 will be exploring lots more to the world of Gilead, and luckily there’s lots to mine in the book, so even though we’re in some ways moving beyond the book, we can stay true to Atwood’s world and Atwood’s tone, which we all love so much.
How will this season finale bridge into season 2?
There are going to be a lot of surprises. I think you’ll see sides of all the characters, sides that you haven’t seen before. You always want something that is satisfying [for a season finale] but gives you something new. No one wants to watch a television show that’s just tying up loose ends, and that’s not what we do. There are definitely cards turned over for every character in this final episode.
And I have to say, one of the things that struck me is that one of the themes of this final episode is, What happens when the terrible thing you’ve been dreading finally happens? Is that horrible or equal parts horrible and a relief? I would keep that in mind while you’re watching.
The Handmaid’s Tale airs its season finale on Wednesday, June 14, on Hulu.