Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 And The Seismic Shifts in Gilead

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The Handmaid’s Tale left us with some serious shocks at the end of season 2 – Emily (Alexis Bledel) attacked Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), June (Elisabeth Moss) was offered the chance to leave Gilead but instead sent Baby Nichole north with Emily, opting instead to stay and find her other daughter, Hannah, and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) helped make all this escaping happen. 

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3, which drops its first three episodes on June 7th on Hulu, picks up just a few seconds after last season’s finale, leaving our characters dealing with the fallout of these choices, including a devastated Waterford household, perhaps irrevocably. It also dives deeper into life as a refugee in Canada and expands our understanding of Gilead geographically with a trip to Washington D.C., where we meet a few new characters. Commander Lawrence looms large this season, though he remains as perplexing as ever, and Beth, a Martha we met back in season 1 when she was flirting with Nick in the kitchen at Jezebel’s, makes a return in a pivotal role. 

read our full (and completely spoiler free) review of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 here

We spoke with the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale to find out more about how their characters will respond to these seismic shifts in Gilead and what’s in store for them for the future.

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This season has been billed as one of resistance, but Janine is one of the characters who has shown that strength and resilience have many faces. As June spends this season figuring out how to take on Gilead, we’ll see how other characters make their own stand in their own way. Madeline Brewer reflected on Janine’s journey thus far as someone who has been pitied and underestimated, but who has nonetheless survived everything Gilead has thrown at her. 

“Janine is a fighter,” she told Den of Geek. “She is fire, she is perseverance. It doesn’t always look the same for everyone. You know, it’s not [always] putting on a strong face and going for it. It sometimes looks like crying and being frightened and needing your friends to pick you up and save you.”

Aunt Lydia is too stubborn to die (although Ann Dowd said she almost did, calling the attack “a trauma”), which is lucky for us because she’s so much fun to watch. But a handmaid and a baby don’t just get to leave Gilead without consequences, and the once-domineering Aunt shows cracks in her armor as the news season begins. As the Emmy winner shared with us, “emotionally, it’s a bit of a train wreck on a number of levels that she missed it, that she didn’t clock Emily correctly.” 

“[She] didn’t see it coming. That’s a very powerful reality she has to adjust to. And the other thing is, she’s scared. That’s a very rare thing for her.” There aren’t many things in Gilead that seem scarier than the idea of Aunt Lydia scared and emotionally exposed. 

Further reading: If You Love Handmaid’s Tale, You Need to Read The Power

If you’re one of the many fans who has been eagerly awaiting Aunt Lydia’s backstory, your wait is nearly over! She’s getting a dedicated episode this season, the creation of which Dowd described as, “eight of the best days of my life.” From the sounds of it, there might well be some trauma in Aunt Lydia’s past that sent her on this path, which would certainly explain her zeal for the “freedom from,” certain societal ills like violence against women, hollow though the execution may be.

Meanwhile, Nick (Max Minghella) finds himself off on his own, away from the Waterford household for the first time, in the aftermath of last season’s events. “It was genuinely strange when I moved out of my apartment [on the show]…I had to say goodbye to my car, which I had become very attached to. I even don’t wear the same clothes anymore.”

Hear more insights about Aunt Lydia’s backstory, Nick’s ambiguous motives this season, and June and Janine’s relationship in the video below. 

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