Hulu dropped the full-length trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2, their Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning original series, based on the book by Margaret Atwood. While we caught a few early glimpses in the teasers, this trailer offered a lot more insight into what we can expect for Season 2, and we combed through it to find all the clues.
The trailer picks up right where the Season 1 finale left off: Offred is in the back of an armored vehicle, wondering if she’s headed to freedom or her doom. It looks like we’re going to have to wait until April to resolve that cliffhanger, and to find out if June’s baby is okay. While there’s plenty of June in this trailer, we never get a good look at her stomach, which leaves mine twisted in knots.
Next we see Serena Joy sitting in Offred’s window, mimicking June’s iconic season 1 pose that has been all over the show’s marketing since day one. We rarely see Serena Joy enter Offred’s room – the time she slapped June’s face so hard she landed on the ground comes to mind. This and other unusual behavior certainly suggests that June is gone, though to the colonies or to escape, we still don’t know.
This turn of events clearly shakes up the entire household, judging by the scenes of Serena and Commander Fred fighting, Fred leading a violent search party. Whatever happens, there’s at least the appearance of involvement from the resistance movement Mayday in June’s escape, since Serena Joy is afraid of being suspicious by association. This drives home the season 1 theme that handmaids are a reflection on their household, but especially the wives.
Commander Fred blames Serena for Offred leaving, which suggests he may be punishing her when he takes off his belt to administer a beating. He’s not wrong to think Serena’s treatment influence June, but once she learned that Hannah was still alive, she was always going to try to get away and save her daughter. Fred should watch his back, and the other Commander highlighted in the trailer, because in the book, he is killed in one of the first purges, shortly after the book takes place. Of course the show has and will continue to change things, and that was only true of one of the possible Commander Freds, but it does happen to be the one named fred Waterford, whom showrunner Bruce Miller selected for the series.
We see a few quick shots of June sneaking through what appears to be a Gileadan supermarket, judging by the image of the woman carrying food. I don’t recognize the man she’s with, so readers, let me know if he’s someone we’ve already met. I can’t tell if June’s in her handmaid’s cloak in that shot, either. She has a hood and is standing in the shadows, but the glint of metal suggests it’s a hoodie and street clothes. I don’t know what to make of that, but I’m intrigued.
There are a bunch more haunting group images of handmaids, so let’s talk about those. They’re all striking, and they suggest both punishment for the handmaids and chaos for Gilead. The first is an overhead shot of a circle of red coffins on a snow-covered ground surrounding a stage with, most likely, Aunt Lydia standing on top. There’s also a group of handmaids breaking into a run across a large outdoor plaza. The handmaids on their knees in a Harvard-esque brick courtyard, all holding stones, is such a Gilead’style punishment for their refusal to kill Janine. The group stadium hanging of handmaids, presided over by Aunt Lydia, conjures one of Margaret Atwood’s favorite touchstones and a bit of history local to June’s corner of Gilead, the Salem Witch Trials.
Back at a Commander’s house, there’s what looks like a very creepy prayer service with wives in a circle in the center, and handmaids in a ring outside them. Another eerie site is the women in all white with face veils, kneeling before men dressed in black and a preacher – could this be a state-sanctioned group wedding? Finally, there’s the Death Trooper handmaids in their terrifying/gorgeous black and red attire, complete with face veil. We all knew their little rebellion wouldn’t go unnoticed, but things are somehow getting even darker in Gilead.
There’s another creepy handmaid visual that’s quite different from the others, and there’s no guarantee that it’s a handmaid at all. We see a white sheet embroidered with doves, and a hold in the middle. Through the whole there’s white flesh and what might be a woman’s belly button? We still don’t know what precise brand of Christinaity the Sons of Jacob ripped off, but the dove is often used as a symbol for Jesus. As for the sheet? Well there’s always the old myth that Orthodox Jews have sex through ones like (they don’t), or perhaps it means another visit to the doctor, who’s permitted to touch, but not look.
Janine is alive because that woman does not go down without a fight. It looks like she and Emily are both in the Colonies, working until the die from radiation poisoning. This is pure speculation on my part, but I want June’s mom to be alive. Having her meet Emily and Janine in the Colonies would be excellent, and might cut some of the bleakness inherent in The Colonies.
Nick is barely in this trailer, likely due to how little of his scenes can be shown without spoiling everything. He looks very suspicious at the Commander’s house, and says he’s trying to keep June alive, and I’m not convinced. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cuts some kind of deal for June that she would never take, because he wants her and their baby alive no matter what.
It looks like Serena and Fred make a trip to Canada and are greeted by protesters, including Moira and Luke, the latter of whom appears to be getting arrested. Might the show finally engage with race, as we’ve been promised? Serena Joy and Fred speak at some sort of press conference, surrounded by protesters. And now I want Moira to go toe to toe with Serena Joy and spit in Fred’s face. It’s worth noting that it looks like Serena is the one speaking here. The tiny part of me that wants good things for her is glad, and hoping she’ll find her place again. The rest of me is cynical that she’s being used, and still hates her for everything she’s done.
On the bright side, Moira is in a bar bathroom making out with a woman. This could be a flashback, but I’m hoping for love (or at least lust) for Moira in the present tense. Surviving Gilead is hard, the poor woman deserves to catch a break.
For the briefest of seconds, there is what looks like a flashback of June as a child with her mother at a protest. The book spends a lot of time on Offred’s mother and her beliefs, including some pretty outdated critiques of Take Back the Night and sex work. Mostly it serves as a time capsule for where feminism was as a movement when the book was written, and a reminder of how much our beliefs are formed by the context of what we’re reacting to. It’s worth noting here that Margaret Atwood has resisted calling The Handmaid’s Tale a feminist book, and that she has run afoul of Canadian feminists while the show has been on hiatus. It’s complicated, and related to #MeToo.
A few shots I don’t know quite what to make of: Offred crying and determined with a hammer – is she trapped? People weighed down in a pool, perhaps a punishment. A new character, clasping her hands in prayer: Emily’s wife? June’s mother? Or perhaps new character Eden, who represents a generation that grew up with Gilead. It’s worth noting that in the book, Gilead goes on for another several decades at least. Then there’s a shot of June in some curious clothing, and living in some sort of weird, planned community. The closest we’ve seen to this clothing before is the Marthas, but it seems more brown than that. Where are you, June? What are they going to do to you?
And then there’s June, in non-handmaid attire, lighting a single match and tossing it down…somewhere. Yes, flames and light are great metaphors for rebellion, chaos, and goodness. But also: June’s prized possession is her one secret match, and in the book she spends hours fantasizing about how to use it. Kill herself? Kill them all? Choices, choices. It could be a random match or even a nod to the book, but it could also suggest she’s not as free as we hoped.
The trailer ends on June calling herself free, referring to herself by her full name, and the image of a handmaid’s robe burning. As awesome as that is, we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch. There’s a lot in this trailer to suggest that even if June is out of Fred and Serena’s clutches, she may have gone out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 will arrive on Wednesday, April 25 on Hulu.