The conclusion of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 was one of the most divisive pieces of television there’s been in a very long time. For every viewer that supported June’s (Elisabeth Moss) decision to hand baby Nichole over to Emily (Alexis Bledel) and remain in Gilead in the final moments of last season, there was another viewer who hated the plot twist.
I fall firmly in the former camp – it made absolute sense to me for June to attempt to kill two birds with one stone. By securing Nichole’s safe passage out of Gilead thanks to the Marthas and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), she freed herself up to “try harder” to rescue older daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) as well. But even among my own circle of friends opinions about the second season cliff-hanger diverge quite widely, with some vowing never to watch the show again, so betrayed do they feel by June’s act. (I know, it’s just a TV show, but it’s a testament to how good The Handmaid's Tale is that people feel so passionately about it.)
That’s now the challenge facing the team behind the series – to try to win back those viewers who felt cheated by the choice to keep June stuck in a world that has turned her into a prisoner and victim of rape when she had the chance to escape. And having seen the first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale Season 3, I think June’s motivations for staying put are both explicitly stated and more than justified. How could she ever live with herself if she abandoned Hannah to reunite with Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley) in Canada?
Also, I don’t think it would’ve worked for June to try to stage some kind of rescue mission from across the border. As we see in the first few episodes of Season 3, she’s now part of a network of resistance within Gilead that is only going to aid her in her quest. And part of the power of The Handmaid's Tale is having so much of it set in the totalitarian nightmare that America has become. The show’s impact would be lost by taking June out of that.
I do, however, have one issue with the series as it moves into its third season (which starts with a double episode on Thu., Jun. 6 at 8.30pm, SBS; with the first three episodes available that night on SBS On Demand) and even further away from the original novel by Margaret Atwood. After everything June has done, how is she still alive? Without giving too much away about what happens in the aftermath of her walking away from the vehicle intended to transport her to safety, it strikes me as a little odd that she hasn’t been executed and strung up as a warning to other anarchic Handmaids: don't do as Offred did.
June’s latest disappearing act from the Waterfords is explained away, but it seems to me that any Handmaid who had been involved in so many acts of rebellion as she has, no matter how fertile she clearly is, would have been written off as too much trouble by now. Gilead has killed people for a lot less than what June has been able to get away with. But I’m willing to put that concern aside to carry on enjoying what has been one of my favourite shows in recent years. Question is: will those viewers who hated the Season 2 finale be prepared to do the same with their criticisms and come back on board? •