Where We Left Off With TV's Most Stressful Series, The Handmaid’s Tale

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Have you been feeling too relaxed? Too carefree? While that's likely impossible considering our general national atmosphere, The Handmaid's Tale is back to remind you just how terrible the world can get. As fans will remember, the Emmy-winning dystopian drama shows what would happen if America fell into the hands of radical misogynists who decide the only way to save the world is by violently subjugating every woman in its borders.
While Handmaid's deals with many people's worst nightmares, it's also one of television's most important shows. That's why it couldn't be better news the Hulu drama will return for season 2 on Wednesday, April 25.
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Since the Elisabeth Moss-starring series jumps right back into the action with its sophomore year premiere “June,” you're probably going to need a refresher course in all things Gilead. So, keep reading to remember where we left off with our heroine June Osborne (Moss), whose Gilead name “Offred” will never be used, & Co.
Then, prepare for the very good, very tense, Handmaid's Tale season 2.
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June Osborne

Praised be, June is finally pregnant. Of course, the baby isn’t that of her “Commander,” Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), nor was he or she conceived in the ultra creepy sexual assault ritual known in Gilead as “The Ceremony.” Instead, June begins an affair with Fred’s handsome driver Nick Blaine (Max Minghella), which results in a pregnancy.

By season 1 finale “Night,”June is fully ensconced in Mayday, the underground Gilead resistance group. The handmaid’s first mission is to smuggle a package out of Jezebels, a brothel, which Fred takes her to twice.

Although June fails in her mission due to Fred’s awfulness, she does get to reconnect with her “old world” best friend Moira (Samira Wiley), whom the handmaid assumed was dead. While Moira has begun to allow the repeated degradations of Jezebels to break her spirit, June urges her formerly fiery best friend to fight back. Thankfully, June’s words work, and Moira gets the package to June through a butcher. June eventually goes through the parcel and finds countless letters begging for help during Gilead’s revolution. While the notes are dire, they also prove to the outside world certain, likely presumed dead, people are still alive.

Even with this small bright spot of hope, Handmaid’s ends on a dark note for June, as she and the other handmaids are ordered to stone poor Janine (more on her later) to death. Offred is the first one to resist murdering Janine (Madeline Brewer), dropping her stone in the most “eff-you” fashion possible. Offred's fellow handmaids follow suit, and soon everyone is dismissed. The squadron of red-clad women head “home” — please remember these “homes” are actually the venues of their human trafficking and brutal abduction — backed by Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” suggesting this moment is the first shot in a possible revolution.

Offred ends the season awaiting her punishment for enacting such transgressions against Gilead. It seems such retribution arises as armed members of the secret police, known as “Eyes,” arrive to take her away. Nick tells June “trust” him to “just go with them,” so she does.

Now the question is, is this Nick’s way of getting June out of Gilead? Or is Gilead about to make an example of June for refusing to murder Janine?
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Rita

Rita (Amanda Brugel) is the Waterford family chef. While it’s wildly unclear where Rita’s sympathies lie through Handmaid’s season 1, she does serve one very important purpose. When June is taken away by the Eyes, she trusts Rita, telling her where to find Mayday’s package of letters, which are behind the tub.

Rita immediately locates the notes, although it’s a mystery what she does with them.
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Fred & Serena Waterford

While everyone in Gilead keeps calling Fred “The Commander” like a bunch of fools, it’s time for my signature Handmaid’s reminder: that handsome creep’s name is actually Fred — as evidenced by June’s handmaid name being “Offred — and Fred is a rapist. Down with Fred.

Fred spends a lot of season 1 fixating on June, inviting her into his super private study for secret Scrabble and forced make out sessions. Soon enough, those taboo in-house rendezvous turn into outside excursions, with Fred taking June to Jezebels, where he rapes her again. Yet, as usual, Fred convinces himself there is no violent coercion afoot.

In the finale, Serena Joy realizes her husband’s infidelity and assaults June over it. Then, she confronts her husband, informing him that she knows he’s pursuing their handmaid once again and reminding him the last time he trespassed in such a way, the young woman committed suicide. Then, to add insult to injury, Serena Joy tells Fred that June is pregnant, but the baby isn’t his because he’s “weak” and “not worthy.”

Then, once Serena Joy has spited her husband, she decides to fully punish the handmaid she has kidnapped by driving to the school of June’s daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake), letting June see her child while locked in a car, then threatening the little girl once she returns to said car. Remember, Serena Joy, who was a major archichet of Gilead’s oppressive, criminal regime, isn’t the hero of this story either.

Despite all of this back-and-forth in the Waterford House Of Horrors, Serena Joy and Fred end the season attempting to reconcile in advance of the imminent arrival of “their” child. In the most delusional moment from these very delusional people, the Waterfords convince themselves June isn’t the one bringing a new life into this world, they are.

Yes, even though neither of them was involved, at all, in the creation of June’s baby.
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Nick Blaine

By the close of season 1, Nick’s entire function is to be June’s hunky savior when she can’t extricate herself from the misogynistic hellscape that is Gilead. After all, she’s carrying his baby. As we said earlier, it seems he might succeed on that front, urging June to leave with the Eyes. Hopefully that means the pregnant handmaid is on her way to safety, as secured by Nick.

Other than this detail, it’s important to remember Nick is an Eye himself. We get a full look at Nick’s pre-Gilead backstory in “Jezebels,” when we find out the Eye was a jobless, down-on-his-luck young man before “the war.” Of course, his troubles began when “the steelworks closed.” Soon enough Andrew Pryce (Robert Curtis Brown), a future “Commander,” was recruiting Nick to the “Sons Of Jacob,” the group who would become the leaders of Gilead.

As soon as Andrew suggested a job could be in the cards if Nick joined the burgeoning cult, with chapters in 30 states at that point, Nick was in.
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Moira

After June lights a fire under Moira’s butt at Jezebels, the woman, forced into prostitution, fights back hard. In “The Bridge,” it’s heavily implied she stabbed a “customer” (read: new Gilead-sponsored would-be rapist) to death, stole his keys, and found a way to get to the Canadian border to cross as a refugee. She is immediately met in Toronto, Canada’s “Little America” neighborhood with a kind welcome of a hot meal, a cell-phone package, and lots of health care options.

In a touching finale moment, Moira is reunited with Offred's husband Luke Bankole (O-T Fagbenle), who explains “of course” she was on his alert list.

Oh, and speaking of Luke…
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Luke Bankole

Like Michael from Jane The Virgin, Luke isn’t dead, y’all! In integral season 1 episode “The Other Side,” we find out Luke survived the shooting June assumed killed her husband (and resulted in her own kidnapping, along with their daughter’s). Instead, after a series of stressful, bloody events, Luke made it to Canada, where he’s living with a very quiet blonde woman named Erin (Erin Way).
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Emily

The last time we see Emily (Emmy-winner Alexis Bledel), whose handmaid’s name is “Ofglen,” the action picks up right after the college professor was tried by Gilead for being a lesbian, or "gender traitor." During that entire ordeal, Gilead inflicts the disturbing punishment of female genital mutilation on the handmaid — so she can no longer feel pleasure but can still reproduce — and is forced to watch the hanging of her lover.

When Emily returns “home,” she can no longer attempt to be a complacent handmaid. So, in the middle of the day, she steals a car, murders at least two “Guardians” with it, and is promptly taken away by Gilead. While many assumed Emily was dead, all promo for season 2 hints she was instead shipped off to the deadly “colonies.”
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Janine

Poor Janine. The young woman was always clearly the most emotionally distraught by her abduction in Gilead, often experiencing breakdowns in the Red Center, where fertile women were prepared for life as a handmaid. This respectable obstinate streak is what led to Janine losing her eye: Gilead took it after she told the awful Aunt Lydia (Emmy-winner Ann Dowd) to “fuck off.”

Janine’s story really takes off towards the end of the season, when Janine gives birth to her baby with her kidnapper, “Commander” Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken). Broken by all of Gilead’s many tortures, Janine attempts to jump off of a bridge with her newborn daughter, hoping to kill them both. June talks Janine down, saving them both. Despite Janine’s obviously unwell mental state, Gilead still decides to punish Janine for putting a child’s life in danger by condemning her to death by stoning. When the handmaids refuse to murder their friend, Janine gets a short reprieve. But, we end the season unsure of what’s next for her.

P.S. Since we’re talking about the Red Center, it’s important point out that is where Gilead implanted all the handmaids with tracking devices in their ears. Although, it’s unknown if the tech was real, or simply another mind game to keep the women in line and afraid.
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