The best and worst part of The Handmaid's Tale returning for a new season each year is that Hulu always drops multiple episodes on premiere day. We love getting so much new story all at once after a drought, but holy crap, this show is an emotional mountain to climb in binge format.
After an unsuccessful attempt to get her daughter back, June (Elisabeth Moss) found herself once again in service as a Handmaid, this time to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). The dynamic between June (now Ofjoseph) and Commander Lawrence is entirely different than the one she had with Commander Waterford, but the fact that no one can seem to read him only makes those interactions juicier.
"On one level you're going 'Good guy? He helped Emily and baby Nicole get to freedom.' That feels like a pretty good guy, right? Then he doesn't participate in the ceremony. So that's good, right?" executive producer Warren Littlefield told TV Guide. "But he's an architect of Gilead. He is one of the men who have created this world, where it's a terror on women's rights. It subjugates women. And so that's really bad. In Episode 3, he tests June and says all these women, you can rescue five. You pick five, the rest of them, hundreds of them in cages, they're going to the colonies. In that, we get to examine the burden of responsibility on June, and so that's yet another side of Lawrence. So good guy? Bad buy? It's something in between. It's both. You can put your finger on him. That's a fascinating part of the journey. If he was all evil, we'd be bored."
It's tempting to believe that Lawrence might be on the side of the Angels, purely because so many people who have the power to help others in Gilead are. Whether that belief in a moral compass of sorts is an invention of the audience or something that's actually there is a journey that may take the entire series to explore, says executive producer Bruce Miller.
"It's so easy to invent a humanity for anyone. She looks at him, and he thinks, 'Wow, she sees something in me that isn't there.'" Miller said. "It's interesting his priority seems to be his wife, so that's not a political priority. I think all the other questions you have about what does he believe in, what does he not believe, those are answered by, he believes in what's good for his wife and he doesn't believe in what's going to be bad for his wife. But, he's put her in a position — he's created a world that's terrible for her, and that's what he's dealing with. In some ways, June inserts herself into that relationship so that she can see what he really values and how he values it and how emotionally connected and devoted he is to his wife, even though his wife despises him and is kind of repelled by him."
We'll no doubt see Lawrence and June go head-to-head again throughout Season 3, especially if she becomes even more entrenched in the idea of fighting for the resistance. We'll be very curious to find out if there's a line June can't cross when it comes to what kind of rebellion Lawrence will and won't tolerate.
The only relationship that is potentially even more delicious to watch in this season is the one between Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and June, which is still tense but peppered with their mutual grief over missing baby Nicole. But the way the two women approach that grief will potentially challenge the tentative truce they've established, Miller warned.
"It's such a fascinating chess match between these two characters," Littlefield said. "When June reaches out and takes Serena Joy's hand and pulls her from the fire that Serena Joy has ignited, we see a bond. But what we're also going to see is Serena Joy's tremendous need and pull to have her daughter back. And that goes absolutely up against everything that June wants for baby Nicole. That's why June handed her off to Emily, and they went to Little America. And so what starts as a uniting of Serena Joy and June, they are, yet again, in conflict. But that has twists and turns throughout the season."
"[Serena is] on the journey of what does it mean to be a mother," Miller added. "And she thought that she knew, and she thought that she had kind of made the decision that this is what I want to be, but now, she did something that a mother would have done, she sent her child to safety. And now she's regretting that decision. She feels like her child has been ripped away from her, which in her mind, it has. And so I think that that struggle, what it means to be a mother, and what that means in terms of selflessness and selfishness, is really her journey through the year."
New episodes of The Handmaid's Tale release Wednesdays on Hulu.
Additional reporting by Keisha Hatchett.