A viewer-reader theory on the hit show, The Handmaid’s Tale.
I think that the TV story line of Handmaid’s is “what really happened.” In case you haven’t read the book, that’s seriously exciting news for the rest of the show’s run, especially since it’s been picked up for a second season.
Driving from Indiana to Colorado, I had enough time to listen to the unabridged novel and the full-cast rendition of the lecture/Q&A epilogue. Before listening to the book, I was fully caught up on the Hulu series (ep. 8), and I was getting discouraged that the re-revolution would never come. My mom even said she was getting burned out on the show and didn’t know if she wanted to watch any more. It’s certainly a slow burn–albeit not half as slow as the book.
In the book, we don’t know what Luke looks like or if he ever made it to Canada. We don’t know if Offred escapes or if she’s ever reunited with her family. We don’t know the Commander’s name. We never find out Offred’s real name for that matter. This is at the crux of my argument.
In the book, Offred tells her story to “you.” We don’t know how she does so or why there’s music playing before each segment until it’s revealed in the epilogue that Offred recorded herself somewhere, somehow on tape–which I’ll come back to later.
As foreshadowed in Offred’s telling, her testimony is largely dismissed by a (male) lecturing professor in the epilogue which takes place generations after the events told by Offred. The lecturing historian narrows Offred’s possible Commander down to two men, between which it’s obvious given her recording which a$$hat it is. The epilogue is where the show’s writer got the Commander’s name, Waterford.
Bruce Miller, the show’s creator, clearly pulled facts from the epilogue and in doing so chose a side: not the inconclusive historian’s, June’s. He gave her a name. He chose to trust her story, her side.
Whether in the final seasons Miller shows a Canadian June-in-blue-jeans recording her story before depicting his own epilogue and lecturer is also his choice. I hope he does.
We, the Hulu show viewers, are immersed in the immediacy of June’s surroundings, so much so that we’re dead center in Miller’s creativity as much as we are Margaret Atwood’s world. June fleshes out what was gleaned in Atwood’s stream-of-consciousness novel. The epilogue creates even more mystery. What order did the recorded events take place in? What exactly happened to Gilead? Was Offred protecting herself or others by omitting names or activities from her recordings?
Listening to the novel, I kept waiting for Ofglen’s rebellious ride. It never came. Offred admitted that she and Ofglen discussed the importance of May Day, but in the book Ofglen disappears without resurfacing. We never know where she was taken or what happened to her while she was gone. The fact that we see these atrocities in the show leads me to believe that the story Miller is telling is not watered down by omission and fear. We’re getting the unvarnished story directly from June. While the show may keep her narration, she isn’t covering any tracks.
I’ve since caught up with The Bridge (S1, E9), where June saw Moira for a second time. In the book, Offred clearly said, “and I never saw her again.” This is the latest confirmation of my theory. Unlike the slowly more complacent Offred, I think we’re going to see all kinds of rebelliousness and proactive action from June.
Predictions (SUPER SPOILER ALERT):
One: I was passing through St Louis when I started wondering, have we seen June’s mom on the show? This made me wonder when we’ll be introduced to her. If I were Miller, I’d save her and her unpleasant whereabouts for the second(-level-of-hell) season.
Two: Season one will end where Offred’s recording ended, a fork in the road of possibility: freedom or hell. Season two will introduce us to hell, the Colonies.