In The Handmaids Tale Season 3, Brace for the Rise of June the Conqueror

This post contains spoilers for The Handmaids Tale Season 2 finale.

If the closing moments of The Handmaids Tales Season 2 finale felt like a battle cry, thats because they were. As Elisabeth Moss put that red hood up, she declared herself a woman on a mission: to save her daughter, and do as much damage as she can to Gilead in the process. But there are plenty of questions left up in the air as we march toward next season—not the least of which is how, exactly, shell pull that off.

While show-runner Bruce Miller wasnt handing out exact details during his finale postmortem phone calls—a conference call with reporters and, later, a solo chat with V.F.—he did drop plenty of details and a few helpful hints as to what fans can expect next. The short version: June is on a war path; Aunt Lydia is not dead, and she could come back more brutal than ever; and Bradley Whitfords character, Commander Lawrence, will be back next season, where he and June will meet anew. For a more in-depth preview, read on.

Can June rescue Hannah?

Shes damn sure going to try. As fans likely guessed from Junes decision to send her baby to Canada with Emily while staying behind in Gilead herself, our heroine has decided she cant leave her oldest daughter—so shes on a rescue mission. But as shes learned before, this is not going to be an easy task. Come Season 3, Miller said well learn just what Junes plan is—and yes, he promises, she does have one: “Shes sketched out what she thinks shes capable of doing in this particular moment,” Miller told V.F. “But she also knows that if it doesnt work out, she has survived; shes good at surviving. Shes capable of improvising.”

At this point, Miller said, June has gained the confidence of someone who has endured enough of Gilead to know exactly what shes capable of. While Margaret Atwoods original version of June is a largely passive character, the series has evolved her into a more active heroine. In Season 3, June will get Hannah back or die trying, Miller said, adding, “You and I are both worried shes gonna die; shes not.”

The writers room has adopted a mantra for this next phase of the story: “Blessed be the fight.” And while Seasons 1 and 2 were mostly about June trying to survive, Season 3 will address resistance more overtly.

June has learned the hard way that escape from Gilead is not as simple as, say, boarding a plane, which she tried at the beginning of Season 2. So as she tries to rescue Hannah, Miller said part of that effort will mean working to weaken Gilead as a whole. But Junes primary, perhaps only, objective is Hannah. “If she could snap her fingers and get Hannah and leave, she would do it immediately,” Miller said.

What the hell is Commander Lawrence up to?

In a conference call, Miller confirmed that Whitfords still-mysterious character will be back in Season 3—and were about to learn a ton about him.

“Hes our Oppenheimer character,” Miller said during the conference call. “The man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. Hes a designer of Gilead, and now hes seen what it could do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers. You never know what hes willing to do, what hes not willing to do.”

As June embarks on her quest to save Hannah and hobble Gilead, she will run into Commander Lawrence again, Miller said. A lot. Much as he saved Emily, Miller said Lawrence has likely dabbled in helping people before—though likely not to the extent that he helped his former handmaid.

“Hes running a little bit of an island for misfit toys,” Miller told V.F. “I like to call it, hes running a no-kill shelter. Hes the one who brings in all the people who break rules in other houses and keeps them around until they can move on or whatever.”

Courtesy of Hulu.

Is Serena Joy joining the #Resistance now?

Not so fast.

Serena Joys arc was one of the most fascinating of the season—and Miller had no shortage of praise for Yvonne Strahovskis complex, layered performance. Although it sure seems as though Serena Joy has turned against Gilead and, by extension, her husband, Commander Waterford, she might not have completely made up her mind. In fact, Miller cautioned reporters not to be certain that even her decision to let go of her baby—well, Junes baby—will be permanent.

“Serena is a complicated character, but she—in her own mind—doesnt have evil motives,” Miller said during the conference call. “And here shes been kind of left with this one thing that shes allowed to want, which is a child. Everything else has been taken away—the desire to run a country, the desire to serve God in the way that she wants to. . . . She has a choice to make. Is she gonna find something else to focus on? Is she going to stay bereft and empty and live in Gilead? Or is she gonna find a way to get her daughter back? Is she gonna change her mind about her daughter and try to get her hands on that child again? All those things are possible.”

As the woman who both dreamed up and, through her commanding public presence, brought Gilead to life, Serena Joy has been established as both an intelligent and charismatic woman. Although shes been disenfranchised, that inner power remains part of her personality. “What is she gonna bring that force to bear on next?” Miller said. “Im not sure whether shed be so quick to let go of the idea of a child just because she made a decision in a moment.”

Watch out for Rita.

Although her development throughout the season was far quieter, Rita, too, has seen quite a transformation this season. The servant who was once reluctant to minimally assist the resistance now appears to have assembled a network of Marthas overnight to facilitate Junes escape. As Miller told reporters, the network existed all along: the Marthas, ignored as domestic staff by their Commanders, commonly traded items and information back and forth. Now, Rita has transformed those connections into an active matrix.

“Shes just exceptionally good at keeping her powder dry, and I think thats the woman we want to see moving forward,” Miller said of Rita during the conference call. “I think shes gonna have to do some very deft dancing to get around her comeuppance for her complicity in this, and I dont know whether she will, but she is our representative of this group of women who have been pushed into invisible domestic roles. . . . I think in Season 3, were gonna see some of the results of her coming out of her shell and becoming more visible. I think the key for me is she is a very smart survivor, and thats what shes going to continue to be.”

Will Nick face his own consequences for barring Commander Waterford from chasing after June and the baby? Dont consider him dead meat just yet. As Miller pointed out, the Commander and Nick have a fascinating power dynamic; Waterford might have all the political power, but Nick is a skilled spy. As Miller told reporters, “I dont think its a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick—or would want to.”

What are Moira and Luke going to get up to next season?

Moira spent most of her time this season finding her footing in Canada—understandably, given all the trauma she endured in Gilead. But come next season, expect her to be far more aggressive in her activism—as hinted in the latter half of this season. As for Luke? Hes out to get Fred Waterford.

Luke has been a controversial figure among Handmaids Tale fans for a while. Some wonder why he hasnt done more already to try and save his family—and for a while, he did seem somewhat aloof. After the episode in which he and Moira showed up to protest Commander Waterfords arrival in Canada, however, all of that has changed. “Luke has been trying to take care of himself and kind of be a person whos the voice of people like him, who have suffered these great losses and are trying to somehow maintain hope,” Miller said during the conference call, “but I think hes done with maintaining and has moved on to acting. Now that hes met Fred face-to-face, that is the focus of his fury—Fred. All of the sudden the Gilead, and the Gilead system, has been reduced to Fred Waterford—and hes gonna find a way to get Fred.”

Praise be.

Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.

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