'Handmaid's Tale' Season 2 Ends on a Fiery, Hopeful Note

In "The Word," Offred (Elisabeth Moss) makes a game-changing choice, while the fates of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and others are left in doubt.
George Kraychyk/Hulu

[This story contains spoilers for the season two finale of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, "The Word."]

Elisabeth Moss' Offred walks away from the second-season finale of The Handmaid's Tale with a few words of warning for the greater world of Gilead: "Watch out. You might get what you're after."

The Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" scores the final moments of the Hulu drama's second season, in which Offred scores her most bittersweet triumph yet. The episode, called "The Word," climaxes with the titular handmaid once again in the thick of escaping Gilead, her third such attempt this season. She manages to secure safety for her newborn daughter, Holly, also known as Nicole as named by Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). However, when given the chance to leave, Offred instead decides to stay in Gilead in order to find her other daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). She entrusts Holly with fellow escapee Emily (Alexis Bledel), and tells her old friend to refer to the baby as "Nicole," a tribute to Serena's role in getting the child out of Gilead.

In the final shot of the season, Offred walks toward the camera, the hood of her handmaid uniform hugging her face, red and ready for rebellion. It reflects a new direction for The Handmaid's Tale as it prepares to embark on its third season, hinging on four words that riff on one of the show's most classic sayings, "blessed be the fruit." For season three, expect a new version of that saying, according to showrunner and creator Bruce Miller: "Blessed be the fight."

After a screening of the finale in Hollywood earlier this week, Moss offered up her interpretation of Offred's unexpected decision to stay behind in Gilead: "I hope she’s going to go back and fuck some shit up. Yeah, I think it’s time. I think she’s had enough. I’ve had enough. We’ve all had enough." Her sentiments were echoed by a roaring crowd, and were echoed even further in a separate Hollywood Reporter interview with executive producer Warren Littlefield.

"I think we'll get to go to another place for year three, which is the resistance, the fight," Littlefield tells THR. "June has had to battle for survival, and I think it leaves us in a place where she's able to look beyond herself, beyond the battle for her unborn child in year two, and for Hannah. It feels like it takes us to a bigger place."

The finale included a few other key developments beyond Offred's decision to stay behind in Gilead. For one, there's the fact that Serena willingly (if reluctantly) helped Offred's escape attempt, as a means of protecting her daughter from the horrors of Gilead. Serena's turnaround was a direct response to Eden's death in the season's penultimate episode, which proved that even the nation's most pious women face grave danger. Eden's execution led Serena to deliver a public plea to Gilead's leadership, imploring them to let women study the bible. The leadership's response? Severing one of Serena's fingers as punishment, cementing her new feelings toward the dangers of Gilead.

"If Serena can be treated that way," Strahovski tells THR, "and be punished and be beaten and lose a finger, then what is in store for her daughter? Those [realizations] are so impactful, I think, in her journey of what we lead up to in the finale."

While Serena's physical and emotional wounds are profound, she's left in better physical condition than another main character: Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), the inspiration behind one of the most-talked-about jokes of 2018. In the finale, Lydia's life is left hanging in the balance after she's brutally attacked by Emily. She's last seen nursing a knife wound to the back, not to mention injuries sustained during a steep fall down a flight of stairs. For those wondering if we have seen the last of Aunt Lydia, showrunner Bruce Miller tells THR that the Handmaid's Tale antagonist is not dead (not yet, at least) and will return for season three.

Keep checking THR.com/HandmaidsTale for more about the finale from Miller and other members of the Hulu drama's creative team.

Jean Bentley contributed reporting to this story.