When The Handmaid’s Tale became an instant overnight sensation for Hulu, there was no question the series would get a Season 2. Unlike some of Margaret Atwood’s adaptations (say, Alias Grace on Netflix) the ending to her Handmaid‘s story was open-ended, a cut to black with the heroine, Offred, in a van, not knowing where she was going. But doing further seasons was also risky because it meant expanding the world build. Season 3 now looks to be developing this world even further. Will The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 go to Washington D.C.? The new trailer almost seems to guarantee it.
One of the trickier parts of adapting The Handmaid’s Tale for TV is Atwood’s world-building of Gilead was extremely limited. Everything readers know about Gilead, and the world around it is seen through Offred’s eyes. But she’s a character who has no access to mass media. When she goes outside, her view is literally confined to what she can see around the edges of her bonnet.
This was very effective on the page. How big is Gilead? What happens to citizens who disappeared? Offred’s heard whispers, but the truth is she has no idea, and neither does the reader, leading to the imagination running wild.
A TV show cannot do this. The narrative is automatically moved to the third person perspective, and the world expands from there. And it looks like, for Season 3, Offred will travel to the heart of the Nation’s Capital.
In the original novels, Offred’s non-knowledge only hints at a Gilead located in New England. In the epilogue, it is hinted the country was quite small, surrounded by a wasteland of fallout from nuclear war. But for all the reader knows, Gilead actually reaches from sea to shining sea.
When the show had to decide in Season 2 how far Gilead went, the production chose to make it the entire lower 48. (Having cut any signs of nuclear war, to do otherwise would leave the question of rules the rest of the U.S territory.) But doing so meant the Capital of Gilead wasn’t in Boston, as was suggested in the novel. Instead, it’s in D.C., where one would expect it to be. It also gives them a new fertile ground for creating iconic dystopian images of fallen America, like the Washington Monument turned into a Christian cross for worshipping.
The trailer’s use of Reagan’s famous "Morning in America" advert is an cute choice, by the way. Atwood’s inspiration for the series came from the rise of the Religious Right as a political force under Reagan’s administration. It’s morning in America for a chosen few who have put themselves on top. For the rest, it’s time to wake up.
Speaking of waking up, Offred definitely seems a changed woman in the new trailer. Fans assumed at the end of Season 2, she was turning around and heading back to the Waterfords. But the images in the trailer suggest if she does go home, it won’t be for long. Instead, she’s dressed as a Martha, and on the run. But to where?
Fans will find out when The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Hulu this spring.
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