“The Handmaid’s Tale” returns and we learn more about Emily’s story

*This article contains some spoilers for episodes S2E1 and S2E2.

There’s no easy way around it: The Handmaid’s Tale is difficult to watch. Not because it isn’t brilliantly shot and acted, but because the story cuts deep. Fertile women are chattle, used only for their wombs. Lesbians, bi and queer people are unwomen, forced into a short life of hard labor and agony. Gay men, trans people, truth tellers, journalists…they are eliminated by the men of Gilead. It’s truly frightening, especially in a time where we see our rights being undermined and the free press under unprecedented scrutiny. It chills you to the bone, and that’s exactly what it’s trying to do.

Season Two of The Handmaid’s Tale returned to Hulu this week, and picks up after the events of the original source material by Margaret Atwood end. June (Elizabeth Moss) is pregnant by Nick, who turns out to be a member of the resistance. She’s led her fellow handmaids in an act of resistance that will prove to have violent repercussions. (Aunt Lydia isn’t a forgiving sort.) However, June’s time in Gilead will be shortlived as this season focuses on her escape. But I’m not here to talk about June’s story in depth. I want to talk about Emily.

Emily aka Ofglen (Emmy winner Alexis Bledel) fate was up in the air in Season One, after she was brutally punished for her affair with a Martha. The Martha was hung, and Emily underwent genital mutilation. When Emily was returned to her Commander, she made a daring escape attempt and was sent to the dreaded Colonies. The Colonies are essentially toxic wastelands where conditions are horrific, and the women working there only live a short while due to extreme physical labor, poisonous conditions and lack of fresh water and food. In Episode 2, we see the world (and slivers of the past) through Emily’s eyes. Emily was a science professor and researcher, with a loving wife and child as the takeover begins. First she’s removed from her classes by her well-meaning boss, who is also gay and can see the writing on the wall. Not long after, her boss meets a terrible fate and Emily and her wife Syl (guest star Clea Duvall) decide to flee to Canada. Well, we all know how that turned out, but seeing it through Emily’s eye is excruciatingly heartbreaking.

Now stuck in a toxic waste dump, Emily uses her skills to try and soothe the other women through their pain and drudgery, with expired medicines and meager supplies. She’s in misery, but has forged a bond with her fellow Unwomen. When a disgraced Wife (played by Marissa Tomei) shows up, Emily takes things into her own hands. Janine (Madeline Brewer) who was saved from death by stoning, has also been shipped off to the Colonies. With Emily’s smarts and Janine’s sheer determination, perhaps these two can bring some chaos to the Colonies.

What will become of Emily, June, Janine, and Moira (who we haven’t seen yet)? Only time will tell, but the energy of revolution crackling in the air.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 is now available on Hulu. New episodes every Wednesday.

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