'The Handmaid's Tale' Boss Talks Finale and Going Beyond the Book in Season 2

Showrunner Bruce Miller breaks down that "frustrating ending" and what's next. "The world can get a lot bigger," he tells THR.
Courtesy of George Kraychyk/Hulu)

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season one finale of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, "Night."]

It looks like viewers won't be the only ones taking a break from the Waterford household now that the first season of The Handmaid's Tale has wrapped. In the series' twisted and jam-packed finale, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) discovered she was pregnant with Nick's (Max Minghella) baby after Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) forced a test on her, and The Commander (Joseph Fiennes) learned that the baby wasn't his.

Fearing Offred would do something drastic and wanting to protect her unborn child, Serena drove Offred to the house where her daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) was being raised, locked the handmaid in the car and allowed her to see her child from afar, reminding her that Hannah would stay safe so long as Offred had a successful pregnancy.

Later on in the episode, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) gathered all of the handmaids for retribution on Janine (Madeline Brewer) for attempting to harm a child. The punishment was death by stoning, but none of the girls — as led by Offred — would take part in the ritual, and Janine escaped unharmed … for now. Punishment for the handmaids' insolence was promised to follow.

Meanwhile viewers also saw Moira (Samira Wiley) successfully escape to Canada, where she was hooked up at a refugee camp and reunited with Luke (O-T Fagbenle).

Back in Gilead, the very last scene featured the Eye's truck coming for Offred at the Waterfords', but in a twist Nick told her not to worry and to just go with them. Whether she was being saved or taken somewhere worse was left up in the air — a story to be resolved in the already-ordered second season.

To dissect some of the episode's twists and preview what to look forward to next season, THR caught up with showrunner Bruce Miller.   

How does Offred's exit from the Waterfords' affect their storyline next season?

They're still a part of our plans for season two but in interesting ways. We ended the show on the same note as the book ended, and I know that as a reader I always found it tantalizing as to what was going to happen next. Offred being pregnant, her being dragged off were all parts of that tantalizing and frustrating ending. So now we get to go down that road and we get to explore that. But certainly the people that we met and the situations we got into and the things that Margaret Atwood set up in season one are not going away.

How much conversation did you and Margaret Atwood have about a second season and where these characters could go?

We had lots of discussions about what would happen to the characters after season one in small and big ways. We've been talking about it ever since the middle of season one. There are things Margaret thought about a lot because over the years, and that's one of the biggest questions she's been asked, is what happens next to these characters. So it wasn't a question that I was bringing up to her for the first time.

So she'll have input into these storylines?

Of course. Margaret and I talked a lot about season two, even at the beginning of season one when I was talking to her and kind of getting a sense of what she thought of what I was doing, you inevitably have conversations about what might happen next. They're all tied together. So yes, we have had and continue to have extensive, deep and really fun discussions about what would happen in the future, what happens next.

Given that the source material has now ended, is there more collaboration between you two in the second season?

There's more collaboration for a couple of reasons; one is that we don't have a text that was written stating specifically what happens next (although we have a sense of some of the things that might happen next because of the "historical notes" section that takes place after the conclusion of the Offred story). So through that you get a little bit of a sense, but absolutely. We had a working relationship so we've been working much more closely and having those discussions for longer.

Offred entrusted Rita (Amanda Brugel) with the notes from the Mayday package, so how does she factor into the second season?

The marthas in general in Gilead are kind of invisible, and we charged Amanda with being that but to also grow on you slowly. Very slowly you get to know the character, you get to know her moral compass and learn what she might do. It's been great for us that it's been such a slow and careful building of a relationship between Rita and Offred. That slow and careful build-up in season one leads to a payoff so that we can use her more in season two.

If the handmaids refused to stone Janine, what happens to her next?

You'll have to see. We tried carefully to have the rules of Gilead in place so that the thinking and the way their logic works makes as much sense as possible. It's a nonsensical, crazy, cruel world but you want them to be logically consistent. So yes. She was condemned to be stoned to death, but when that didn't happen they had to revisit it. She's kind of part of a bigger uprising now. But we don't know what happened to her in the end. With so much of this world you only know what Offred knows, and Offred doesn't know what happened to Janine so neither do we.

Was Moira's escape a happy counterbalance to all of the sad themes from the episode?

I don't know if the balance is between happy and sad, because for me it's more a balance between success and failure in terms of what you're driving toward. Moira has always, for most of the story, been very determined to get out and willing to risk a lot, and when that strength started to ebb it was Offred that reinvigorated her. Moira getting out was a cooperation between Moira and June rather than just a happy ending. It felt like a very satisfying moment in their friendship, it's almost as if they collaborated to get Moira out.

Now that Moira is reunited with Luke, will the search for June/Offred commence?

Things get rather complicated, definitely Luke and Moira would collaborate to try and find June, but they both have their own journeys that they're going through. He lost his wife and daughter and has been looking for them ever since. Moira has gone through this terrible, really just brutal captivity and so aside and beyond looking for June, they've got a lot of their own healing to do just to get their own selves back.

Are there any lessons you learned from the first season you're looking to apply in season two?

You take those lessons into the beginning of any new season, assessing the previous season as writers and storytellers. I've been thrilled by the way the first season has come out and we just want to make sure that we're getting a response from an audience. It's important that they understood and that things hit them on an emotional level. I was happily surprised at how well the flashbacks worked for everybody, that they weren't jarring or hard to follow. So because of that we'll definitely do more. You don't know things like that until you get it all cut together and put it out in the world, but here they were both interesting and effective emotionally.

One of the other things we really learned in the first season is that this is a big and interesting world and we shouldn't be afraid to follow it to places. Whether it's Jezebels or the Red Center or Little America in Toronto, the world can get a lot bigger. The biggest lesson is just don't be afraid to be as bold as Margaret was in the novel.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below.

All 10 episodes of The Handmaid's Tale are currently available on Hulu. Bookmark THR.com/HandmaidsTale for full coverage. 

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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