The first five minutes of the harrowing new season of The Handmaid’s Tale will have you asking exactly the same question as June Osbourne: “Our Father who art in Heaven: Seriously? What the actual f--k?"
We aren’t as cruel as Aunt Lydia, so we won’t torture you with any major spoilers that aren't teased in the trailers. But what we can tell you is that the first two episodes of season two are just as dark and challenging as expected—and definitely worth the wait.
The finale of the dystopian drama saw pregnant June, previously known as Offred, refusing to stone her fellow handmaid Janine to death. She was whisked away by two armed officers in a van, but told by Nick to trust them. Was she heading into the darkness? Or into the light?
In the second season, we find out.
In the first few minutes, June and her fellow dissenting handmaids are herded into an abandoned baseball stadium by armed guards and their vicious dogs. The women are muzzled and led to the gallows, with their life left in Aunt Lydia’s hands. Elisabeth Moss, who scored an Emmy and Golden Globe for her brilliant performance, is devastating in this moment, her terrified face filmed in constant close-up.
You could argue scenes like this are on the verge of becoming torture porn; the series has a seemingly endless list of ways that men—and Aunt Lydia— subject women to violence and misery. (We promise you’ll never look at a kitchen stove the same way.)
But while The Handmaid’s Tale drags its female characters through hell in season two, these brutal moments ring true within the oppressive, totalitarian Gilead. And June, of course, remains a furious mouthpiece for resistance. In short, she’s our feminist hero.
The devastatingly good Alexis Bledel also returns this season as Emily, a college professor separated from her wife and young son. Through Emily’s eyes we learn about life in the colonies, the radioactive wasteland where handmaids and other prisoners are sent as punishment. Who knew there was an even worse fate than becoming a handmaid?
In the colonies, prisoners are forced to shovel toxic waste, day in, day out, only stopping to pray to the god that has long abandoned them. There, we also meet the excellent Marisa Tomei—one of many new guest stars this season.
Through flashbacks, we see how the rights of women were slowly stripped away in America before Gilead. One day, contraception was made more difficult to access (sound familiar?). The next, a woman's ability to function as a mother while also working was questioned. Needless to say, these flashbacks hit very close to home in 2018.
In summary, you will need both a hug and a huge glass of wine after The Handmaid's Tale premieres on SBS. And you'll be left with even more questions than when you started watching.
Elisabeth Moss herself best sums up what to expect. “There is literally no way that anyone can guess what happens. You can try, but you won’t do it. It’s incredible,” she told EW.
“We’re really looking to blow people away, and we have every intention to break [the story] open and go even further in all directions. We have no intention of doing anything else than being even more balls to the wall than we were in season 1.”
Episodes 1 & 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale will air in a double episode premiere on SBS and SBS On Demand at 8.30pm on April 26.