You’re in good company if you watched the credits roll on the ambiguous "Handmaid’s Tale" season 3 finale and found yourself thinking, "what now?" Series creator Bruce Miller is wondering the same thing.
"Well, that’s a pretty good question to have at the end of the season," Miller, who serves as the series’ executive producer, says with a laugh.
The finale left fans at the edge of Gilead as they watched June’s season-long plan to help more than 50 children escape the nation come to fruition. Showing the true force of the resistance — and a darker side of Elisabeth Moss’ June — the actions of a large group of Marthas and handmaids secured freedom for dozens who arrived safely in Canada within the episode’s final moments.
As expected, "Handmaid’s" maimed, but did not critically injure, June, who stayed behind once again to help free her daughter, Hannah. The episode proved a master move for June, while simultaneously destroying the somewhat "cushy" living arrangements she secured with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford).
Essentially, it may have backed "The Handmaid’s Tale" writers into a corner: How does Gilead recover from this loss? How does season 4 not open with June and her co-conspirators on The Wall?
The greatest resource
"You’re talking about a world where children are the single greatest and rarest resource. So, I’m sure Gilead will be, let’s just say, put off," Miller says, adding that he hasn’t yet written down a full map for the series’ return. "I try not to plan the next season because you can smell that a mile away."
The popular Hulu series, adapted from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, was renewed for its fourth season before the finale aired. Its biggest cliffhangers stem back to June and Lawrence, who orchestrated the "kidnapping" and midnight escape by flight.
It’s unclear how June and Lawrence can talk their way out of being blamed the plan that ended with June being shot in the forest. But, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen her escape fatal punishment.
"She has a lot more resources than [Lawrence] thought," he says. "She’s gonna have to shed blood and send people in to have their blood shed if she wants to continue this fight."
Miller teases that Lawrence may remain a key ally for June as she pushes through Gilead once more to protect her daughter, whose location is currently unknown to viewers.
"Lawrence is very, very impressed [with June]. He’s a very powerful guy who knows how to survive. No one pays attention to him, no one socializes with him, and they’re scared of him. That’s my feeling moving forward. That’s what you should be thinking about."
An act of war
Miller hopes to keep the season 4 reaction to June’s ploy as realistic as possible — for a dystopian series.
"It’s certainly a mess. From Gilead’s point of view, this is as much an act of war as you can have in the days of low fertility where babies are absolutely the most valuable commodity."
His first step toward answering our "what now" questions will involve conversations with the United Nations, to understand how a country would react to the "kidnapping" of its children.
"Not how they would react in a movie or a TV show. My access to those things is all fictional. We talk to people who just do it on the ground. We start from there and fictionalize since we’re not making a documentary."
While June’s goal may have become murky for some viewers (season 3 did little to help connect her with Hannah), Miller assures her focus has not changed. Her endgame is still reuniting with Hannah, not destroying the entire regime.
"She’s trying to get back at, or hurt Gilead, in a way it hurt her. She’s taking Gilead by the balls, and she doesn’t care if it can walk afterward."
How exactly that will all play out has not yet been drafted by the writers.
"I don’t have a map, or a schedule, but I do have, very precisely, where I want June to end up," Miller teases. "I don’t know how many seasons that is, but the goal is when I’m done, it’s something thoughtful. Something you can put on the shelf next to the book as a comparison piece."
And while fans have been eager to watch June leave Gilead behind, there’s a big chance her ending may not look the way we predict.
"In the end, it may mean, yes, you might get your daughter back, but you’re going to be gone. Who you are is going to be gone."