When a show is as big as of a commercial and critical hit out of the gate as The Handmaid’s Tale was last year—the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning drama was also one of Hulu’s most-viewed shows in 2017—it sometimes goes off course in Season 2 as its creators try to lean into the hype. But the people behind The Handmaid’s Tale swear that they are approaching its sophomore season the exact same way as Season 1.
“In success, rethink nothing,” creator and executive producer Bruce Miller told the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. He said that he isn’t slowing down the storytelling in Season 2 now that the series is a critical and commercial hit.
Miller said when the show began, he sketched out 10 seasons worth of stories for the show. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this, that you plan for that success,” he said. “We haven’t changed our storytelling pace, we haven’t changed our storytelling focus.”
After winning the Emmy for outstanding drama series last fall—making Hulu the first streaming service to receive a trophy in that category—last week, The Handmaid’s Tale was awarded the Golden Globe for best drama series, while star Elisabeth Moss was named best actress in a drama series. Last week, Hulu said that The Handmaid’s Tale was its third-most-watched drama series (based on total number of hours viewed) in 2017.
Miller said he looked at how other breakout freshman series handled their second seasons and found that “the biggest barrier to Season 2 is always Season 1.”
Hulu announced earlier today that The Handmaid’s Tale will return for a 13-episode second season on Wednesday, April 25. Two new episodes will be released that day, with one new episode available every subsequent Wednesday.
In Season 2, “June is on the run, and you haven’t seen that before,” said executive producer Warren Littlefield. “And then, lots of surprises.”
Added star Moss, who was bumped up from producer to executive producer for Season 2, “it’s arguably darker than Season 1, if that’s possible.”
While Season 2 branches out more from the story in Margaret Atwood’s novel, “she’s very much the mother of the series,” said Miller, noting that Season 1 of the show also diverted from the book in many ways, but viewers didn’t seem to notice or complain about the changes.
“I don’t think anything we do is post-Atwood. I think we’re currently living in an Atwood world,” Miller said. “It’s just an expansion of that world.”
For starters, Season 2 will visit the Colonies—areas of the country that have been contaminated by radioactive waste and pollution, where criminals are sent to clean up as punishment—which Atwood describes in her novel but never actually visits. The second episode of Season 2 is a Colony-centric story, and Marisa Tomei guest-stars in the episode as a Commander’s wife.
Much of Season 2 is also about “motherhood,” said Moss, given that her character Offred (whose real name is June) is now pregnant. The child inside her “is a ticking time bomb,” given the world that he or she would be born into, “and the complications of that are wonderful to explore.”
This season will also delve deeper into the idea of resistance against the dystopian oppression of Gilead. “There’s more than one way to resist as well, which is something that June finds,” said Moss. “There’s resistance within her.”
Miller said he hasn’t yet had to rewrite anything for Season 2 that ended up being too close of a parallel to actual current events, but pointed out that there’s still a long way to go before the show premieres in three months. He recalled that in Season 1 “we said ‘Make America Great Again’ in a scene long before the primaries had even started, so we had to change that line.”
While Miller’s story approach to Season 2 hasn’t changed as a result of the accolades, his show’s budget has. “We did get a bigger budget, and part of it is the expansion of our world,” including the introduction of the colonies, said Littlefield.
This season will also look at how Gilead came about. “It’s a bigger show, and both [producing studio] MGM and Hulu embraced that we were ambitious,” said Littlefield.