(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first three episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 3)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” launched its third season with a trio of new episodes Wednesday, each of which destroyed several things we thought we knew about Hulu’s adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel — one quite literally.
In the closing moments of the series premiere, “Night,” Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) sets fire to the bed she shares with her husband Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), prompting June (Elisabeth Moss) to run in and pull Serena outside to safety before the Waterfords’ home goes up in flames.
Moss told TheWrap this act was a pivotal moment for Season 3, but just par for the course on the Bruce Miller-created drama.
“One of the cool things we can do on the show that is really bold is wipe out everything you know,” Moss said. “Like, it is highly unusual for a show to burn down a house that you’re used to for the first two seasons and switch the location of the main character. So I really love that we were able to do that. I think it’s important for the show.”
Following the destruction of the Waterfords’ house, June is transferred to become Commander Joseph Lawrence’s (Bradley Whitford) new handmaid. You’ll remember Lawrence as the man who helped Emily (Alexis Bledel) and June’s infant daughter Nicole escape Gilead on the Season 2 premiere. He tried to get June out, too, last night, but she wasn’t having it, as she decided to stay in hopes of rescuing her other daughter Hannah.
While this act makes Lawrence — one of the architects of Gilead — seem like he might actually be a good guy, things aren’t that cut and dry. This becomes clear when he forces June to dispose of the dead body of a Martha she tried to help escape against his wishes, showing his harsh side. And yet he does not choose to treat her like a traditional Handmaid, as he and his wife forgo the ceremony to try and impregnate her. This is unusual for a commander in Gilead, and poses an unusual situation for June.
“Commander Lawrence is a really interesting foil for June,” Moss said. “He is an enigma. You don’t know if he’s on the good side or the bad side. He’s very confusing to June and he really challenges her. He challenges her expectations for what a commander can be. He challenges her ideas of Gilead and how it started and overgrew the intentions of the people who started it.”
Moss says Lawrence is “hugely instrumental in getting [June] to be the person she needs to be in order to lead this resistance.”
“He’s the main relationship on the show that she has right now,” she said. “And it is a really interesting plot that goes through many changes and, in a weird way, him aggravating her and challenging her brings out something in her she really needs and vice versa.”
At the end of the third episode of Season 3, titled “Useful,” June begins to sow the seeds of revolution utilizing the other major relationship she has in Gilead, her confusing (sometimes) partnership with Serena.
“June has this idea of how this is going to go down, how this resistance is going to work,” Moss said. “She’s going to involve Serena, she’s gonna get Commander Lawrence and this is all going to go very smoothly, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily gonna turn out that easily for her.”
Per the Handmaid laws of Gilead, June was forced to give Nicole to Serena and Fred when she was born for them to raise as their own. But Serena made it possible for June to send her to Canada with Emily on the Season 2 finale because she realized the little girl would be better off growing up outside of the totalitarian regime. However, Moss says Serena may not be as strong as June in this respect.
“I think with Serena, she really believes that she’s a good person and that she’s going to do the best thing for her daughter. She really believes that she’s going to be a good mother,” Moss said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be that simple — nothing is that simple on our show. And June has a quality that nobody else has, which is being able to put her daughter before herself and her own needs, and I’m not sure if Serena can do that.”
New episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” drop Wednesdays on Hulu.