The Handmaid’s Tale faces what seems like a daunting task heading into its second season: how to continue the acclaimed series past its source material. After all, season 1 ended pretty much as the classic Margaret Atwood 1985 novel does — with Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss) taking a leap of faith as she steps into a van and an uncertain future. How do you expand from there?
When the series returns to Hulu with two episodes on April 25, we’ll have our answer. While much of the 13-episode sophomore season will focus on the pregnancy of June/Offred and her struggle to find her daughter, we’ll also get an expanded look at the Handmaid’s universe, including our first real look at the Colonies — the area beyond Gilead where women are often sent as punishment to clean up radioactive waste — in the second episode. Because… that’s where former handmaid Emily (Alexis Bledel) has been sent after memorably trying to run down some soldiers in season 1’s “Faithful” episode.
Without revealing too much, EW feels it safe to say the Colonies are… really really not a good place to be (and may make you rethink your handmaid/Jezebels aversion). We emailed Bledel to see if she could reveal any other secrets from this episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we last saw Emily, it looked like maybe she’d sealed her own fate. When did the producers tell you she’d be coming back?
ALEXIS BLEDEL: I think it was around the time I was done filming the first season. I was told Emily would be back in season 2.
This season, we get to learn a lot about Emily’s life from Before. Was her backstory something you’d thought about before this episode?
Yes, I loved filming Emily’s flashbacks. [Executive producer] Bruce Miller and I had talked about what her pre-Gilead life might have been like even before I started working on the first season. I think much of her worldview is informed by her previous life as a professor of cellular biology. Life in the Colonies is a last stop. Emily does not have a great deal of hope for a future there; she knows her days are numbered.
Marisa Tomei costars with you in the second episode. What was that like?
It was amazing to work with her; she’s someone whose work I admire. We had these incredibly dark, dramatic moments to play out that she brought so much depth to.
I keep thinking/wondering what’s worse: life as a Handmaid or living in the Colonies?
Being forced to exist in either Gilead or the Colonies threatens to destroy a person’s soul in different ways. Handmaids are forced to follow an extremely limiting set of rules to comply with the mandates of the Gileadean regime, including the horrific monthly ceremony. Anyone in Gilead would be terrified to be sent to the Colonies. Everything from the soil the unwomen turn over to the water they use to wash is toxic in the Colonies, so a person’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate as soon as they get there. They know they will die there, all the while forced to do hard labor without decent food to eat or clean living conditions.
If you haven’t caught up on Handmaid’s first season, you are in luck. The entire season is available on DVD and Blu-ray starting Tuesday, with lots of extras and featurettes like the one seen above.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 kicks off on April 25 on Hulu.