Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale tells the bleak story of a future where birthrates have plummeted leading the United States to turn into the theocratic Republic of Gilead. The first season of the hit show followed the same story as Margaret Atwood’s classic novel. Now, Season 2 is going past the book to continue the story of Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her fellow Handmaids. This includes expanding the world of Gilead to explore things only hinted at in the novel, including the Colonies.
What Are the Colonies?
The Colonies are the areas of the United States that have become uninhabitable due to pollution and radioactivity. While Atwood only briefly mentions the Colonies in her novel, Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale will see both Emily (Alexis Bledel) and Janine (Madeline Brewer) fighting for survival in this toxic wasteland. There they are deemed “unwomen”, women who are no longer of use to Gilead whether through their crimes or infertility.
During roundtable interviews for The Handmaid’s Tale Bledel explained the horrific conditions these women face as they spend their days shoveling toxic waste.
“It’s the end for the unwomen who are sent there. The aunts who are in charge have gas masks and the horses also have masks, but the unwomen do not have any kind of protection against radioactivity. They’re not treated with any kind of basic human rights. They’re not treated like humans.”
A New Hope?
Despite these circumstances, Janine remains ever the optimist. While Season 1 saw her attempting suicide and almost being stoned to death by her fellow Handmaids, Season 2 will see the character changed for the better. Brewer says, “She’s kind of skirted death twice now and Janine feels as though that is some divine miracle. It’s a gift from God to still be alive.” After everything she has been through, Janine somehow finds the ability to appreciate life in the colonies.
However, Brewer explains that other women do not share Janine’s views. “She sees the colonies as a gift where Emily sees the colonies as literal hell on Earth.” Emily has a slightly more realistic perspective. She knows the gravity of her situation. “Everything from the dirt they are shoveling to the water that they drink is radioactive. They are doomed essentially and they know that. That’s not the setting where there’s the most hope,” Bledel explains. This has lead Emily to close herself off.
“She thinks she’s going to die in the colonies. Everything she reacts to from that point onward is seen through that lens so that’s where she’s coming from when she’s interacting with other people. She’s not always able to connect even though she might want to and she tries. A lot has changed. “
Janine and Emily’s differing perspectives lead to some interesting moments between the two women, something the actresses enjoyed playing. “Exploring their relationship and how the two of them have such different views of the world was a really great kind of experience,” said Brewer.
However, the women in the colonies are not just sitting idly by and accepting the fate they have been dealt. Just like in the rest of The Handmaid’s Tale, they have found small ways to fight back. Emily, in particular, is able to enact her own form of punishment. Bledel says, “She has a very strong sense of justice. She is still trying to right the wrongs she sees around her… She also finds other ways to kind of dole out justice. She has a very strong thread of that within her.” It sounds like everyone better watch their backs.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25th on Hulu. Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.