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Viewers will have plenty of questions heading into the April 26 premiere of Hulu and MGM’s 10-part series The Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the award-winning novel by Canadian Margaret Atwood. But they aren’t the only ones.
As the story of Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her time in the totalitarian, male-driven society of Gilead has unfolded and evolved under showrunner Bruce Miller’s watchful eye, Atwood has also revisited her characters in the wake of all the new publicity. (The 1985 novel recently topped Amazon’s best-sellers list.) For her, that meant releasing a new special edition of her book on Audible, featuring Claire Danes.
The edition was released wide Tuesday, and builds on the ending Atwood originally presented in the concluding, “Historical Notes” section of the piece. That futuristic chapter featured a character named Professor Pieixoto giving a guest lecture in Nunavit, Canada, about the reliability of the narrator from tapes found decades after the fall of Gilead — aka what was turned into the story of The Handmaid.
For years, the very last line of the novel was, “Are there any questions?” An appropriate ending, perhaps, given that one of the major points of the novel is to question authority and to be vigilant of those in positions of leadership and power. But as of Tuesday, it no longer stands, as Atwood has written several subsequent questions and answers from that lecture. It extends the audio book 14 minutes or so, and even features a cameo from Atwood herself as one of the lecture’s attendees.
As it turns out, Atwood had quite a few follow-up questions to her own tale and may even be plotting a follow-up novel. Here they are paraphrased in order, without any major spoilers for viewers who want to hear it for themselves.
1. Why were the chapters divided the way they were?
It’s an odd question to kick things off given how many fans still want to know what happened to Offred after her escape. But there’s a practical explanation that any literature junky will absolutely appreciate.
2. How was the footlocker containing the tapes discovered in the first place?
The story may or may not involve a false wall and the building of a museum complex to be known as Gilead Village. Where people can go to learn about past mistakes, of course.
3. Did women in Gilead ever achieve the idyllic domestic harmony Aunt Lydia spoke of?
The answer to this one is complex and references several religious examples. It may also lead viewers to believe that things in Gilead grew even worse than when they left it, but again no spoilers.
4. Was Offred ever reunited with her daughter?
It’s a hopeful question for those wishing for a happy ending. The professor answers it as best he can, while also musing about the type of person who would ask it.
5. Have there been any attempts to re-create the soul scroll machine?
Avid readers will recall these special machines that scrolled out prayers for the residents of Gilead. While the professor isn’t technologically savvy enough to answer this one in full, there is a fun iPad joke hidden in there.
6. Was the narrator hiding her own resistance efforts or political activities on the tapes?
The professor certainly has a theory about this — one that may or may not tie into the upcoming series — but Atwood also takes this opportunity to share some views on “fake news” in the answer.
7. Are there any records or accounts that have been discovered from the Mayday organization?
Here’s where it seems as though Atwood may be plotting some sort of a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. While the professor wouldn’t comment in full, he did divulge that there have been some fresh discoveries, but he’s not at liberty to discuss them just yet. Instead, he claimed he wanted to verify their authenticity, concluding with, “Give us a year or two and I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
8. What other kinds of liberties did those in power enjoy?
As it turns out, there may have been more than one Jezebel in Gilead … and the women working there may or may not have been passed around like “star football players.”
9. Have their been attempts to recover DNA samples from the time period?
This one leads to some interesting musings about the importance of identity and the lengths those in power went to in order to create uniformity.
10. What kind of political climate could bring back a time like Gilead?
It’s almost like Atwood is poking the bear that is the right wing with this question, especially following the criticism that The Handmaid’s Tale is taking aim at Donald Trump’s government. Regardless, her scripted answer is insightful but also alarming, as it points to several real-world factors that may or may not be happening today.
Although Atwood tapped out at just 10 questions (at this point, the professor starts to lose his voice), there was one more hint at a potential sequel with the character’s parting words. “I hope to be able to present the results of our further Gileadian investigations to you at some future date,” he tells the audience before bidding them adieu.
The Handmaid’s Tale debuts April 26 on Hulu. The first three episodes will be released at once and then one new episode per week will unroll after that.
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