The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is a big mystery, since Season 1 covered the entirety of Margaret Atwood’s novel — but a surprising character return holds clues about where the story is going. On Tuesday, Hulu announced that Alexis Bledel will return for Season 2.
Her character Emily, formerly Ofglen, had a rough time in Season 1. First she underwent a horrifying genital mutilation for the simple crime of being a lesbian, or “gender traitor.” Following her return to Gilead, she snapped and stole a car, running over Guardians. It was immensely satisfying to watch, but the Guardians caught her and took her into custody again. She wasn’t seen after that, and the assumption is that they killed her.
Obviously Alexis Bledel’s return means Ofglen is still alive — so what exactly happened to her if she was not executed? And what does this mean for where the second season is going?
In the Atwood novel, people who don’t fit neatly into Gilead’s rules and are too unruly to work at Jezebels are classified as “Unwomen.” As punishment, they’re sent away to the Colonies, a brutal labor camp where days are spent handling toxic waste, and life is harsh and short. That’s why Moira opted to work at Jezebels — because even working as an unwilling whore was preferable to working at Gilead’s gulag.
Although this desolate place is mentioned in Atwood’s novel, the story is told from Offred’s perspective. Because she never goes there or knows what it looks like, neither does the reader. It exists entirely “offscreen” in the story. The show therefore has free reign to construct this new environment.
It remains to be seen whether Emily will get her own episode the way Luke did in Season 1 or whether June or Moira or Luke will visit her there, perhaps on a rescue mission. But either way, Alexis Bledel’s return means that Emily is most likely in the Colonies, and this intriguing new location will be part of Season 2.