If you’re watching The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s nearly a 100% chance you want to see the Hulu drama’s dystopian regime burn. That’s why the artwork for the series has been especially flame-obsessed since last year. In the season 2 artwork, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) holds her burning handmaid’s bonnet aloft. For season 3, the trailer leaned into the fire and smoke ahead. The underlying meaning of all this burning suggests one good cleansing blaze can bring the Handmaid's world back to “normal” — back to the America fans know.
However, the show has been dropping breadcrumbs that no matter what happens, things will never return to the kind of society we would recognize. Wednesday’s newest episode, “Heroic,” makes this promise crystal clear. You just have to listen to June’s conversation with a random child of Gilead, Rose (Workin’ Moms’ Sadie Munroe) to realize.
Towards the end of the episode, June runs into a girl she has never met before, Rose, in the hospital hallway. The scene proves our heroine really has been seeing gaggles of preteen girls throughout the facility during her weeks-long vigil at poor Natalie’s (Ashleigh LaThrop) side. “I’m here because they said I could have babies,” Rose explains to June, confirming she is there for her first post-menstruation exam (a new rule of Gilead society introduced in “Heroic”).
Through context clues we’re meant to understand all menstruating girls of a high enough social standing must visit the hospital regularly so doctors can track their pelvic growth. Once their bodies are technically physiologically ready to bear children — no matter their emotional and mental state — they will. Rose isn’t exactly at that point yet, telling June she’ll begin “later — not right now. After I get married.”
The most important part of the conversation comes next when June asks Rose is that’s the life she really wants. “Of course. So much,” the tween says before getting called away.
It’s likely many fans will believe Rose is too afraid to admit she wants anything but a devout life as a baby machine and wife. However we have no such proof. Instead, we have to think about the world Rose — and every girl like her — is growing up in. Amid a catastrophe of climate change, her government has leaned on biblical fanaticism and totalitarianism to survive. Her family probably tells Rose the only reason they are thriving is due to God’s grace (remember, Gilead is actually faring better than other nations).
Think about how earnestly Rose tells June “The Lord will heal her. You just have to pray hard enough,” when she hears the handmaid has a sick friend. Or Eden Spencer's (Sydney Sweeney) honest desperation to be a good wife to Nick Blaine (Max Minghella) throughout season 2. Eden didn't run away from the Waterford home — and to her inevitable death — because she hated being married to a man over twice her age. She ran away because that man didn't love her the way she wanted.
Rose, like Eden, is a true believer. And, Rose isn’t alone. She’s one of handful of girls who walked through the hospital for their exam and pregnancy tour. Each one of them believes what their elders are telling them about religion, women's bodies, and politics. Unlike June, Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), and every other adult in Handmaid's, these children don’t know a world outside of this one. To them, this is what makes sense and is right in the face of God and environmental disaster. It’s not like they even have edgy teen shows revealing what other options of defiance are possible.
The American government can win the war in Chicago, eventually take back its land, and execute every Gilead commander for treason. But, how can you fix an entire generation who truly believes Gilead has the right idea? What will the emotional fallout be for the children of Gilead when their supposed beacon of piousness is in ruins? Will they really be ready to let it go for progressive Democratic government?
Take the case of June’s own daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake). When June gets a secret meeting with Hannah in “Holly” the child is traumatized by seeing her mom — not happy. Hannah Gilead mom Mrs. Mackenzie (Amy Landecker) tells June at the beginning of season 3 that her daughter had nightmares for weeks after the encounter. Mrs. Mackenzie knows June was the cause of Hannah's bad dreams because the child told her as much. “Of course she told me. I'm her mother,” Mrs. Mackenzie says to June in 2019 premiere “Night.”
For viewers, the meeting was a special, if painful, mother-daughter reunion and moment of rebellion. For Hannah, it was hell and something to tell her “mother,” Mrs. Mackenzie. If this is how Hannah feels about June, whom she loved for years, imagine how the babies birthed by handmaids, who have only known their kidnap-happy Gilead parents, will feel when this government of human trafficking comes falling down.
Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and the rest of the commanders could die tomorrow. However, their legacy of horrors will live long after them. The Handmaid's Tale truly is a tragedy.