‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ creator on going to hell and back again

The homecoming in Gilead doesn’t get any easier.

The second season of the “Handmaid’s Tale” returns to Hulu April 25 and it’s darker, more depressing and more terrifying than last year — and with eight Emmy awards. But showrunner Bruce Miller isn’t letting the trophies lighten his load.

“If you set out to make an Emmy award-winning television show, that’s the quickest way to not make an Emmy award-winning television show,” he joked to the Daily News. “This story was something that transcended time and specific politics. It mattered to people over time.”

But the sophomore season comes with another conundrum: Margaret Atwood ran out of material.

Where the first 10 episodes covered most of the original 1985 book, Miller was tasked with writing a sequel for the timeless dystopian novel.

Part of that involved working with Atwood. Another part involved the writers’ room. And another involved fulfilling the dreams of a man who first discovered Gilead in college.

“There’s a terror going into a second season of a show that people watched and liked and respected. You feel like you’re going to disappoint people no matter what,” Miller, who said everyone on staff had a different idea on how to continue, told The News. “But it pales in comparison to screwing up ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in the first place.”

Offred and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) struggle to decide how best to serve their unborn child.

Offred and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) struggle to decide how best to serve their unborn child.

(George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The Hulu adaptation doesn’t screw up “The Handmaid’s Tale.” It glorifies it.

The second season picks up almost right after last year’s end. What happens from there tests every character: Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) must defend her faith; the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) must protect Gilead; Moira (Samira Wiley) must stay safe; Emily (Alexis Bledel) must stay alive in the Colonies; and Offred (Elisabeth Moss) must find June.

That line dictates most of the early episodes, the distinct line between June and Offred, between handmaid and human being. It’s a line she has to maintain to keep hope. It’s a line she has to maintain if she wants to escape and find her way home. It’s a line between brave and stupid.

In Atwood’s novel, the narrator and main character is never identified; she exists simply as Offred. But Miller knew he had to name her.

“I was fascinated by the power of your name and how the handmaids take a patronymic name,” he told The News. “We’re very careful about Mrs. Watterford versus Serena, Commander versus sir.”

And June versus Offred, too: One is a vessel for reproduction, the other a mother, wife and activist. She has to find a way to function as both.

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Emily (Alexis Bledel) has been sentenced to live out the rest of her days in the Colonies.

(George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The new season exists more in a time and place than its first run; shots of Fenway Park and the Boston Globe offices and mentions of “Friends” and Twitter cement Gilead in reality. But the outside world — the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up and the political unease in the country — made “The Handmaid’s Tale” more relevant than ever.

“We’re doing what we can with telling this fictional story with real integrity and trying to get the truth of women who have similar stories,” Samira Wiley, who plays escaped handmaid Moira and June’s best friend, told The News. “It proved how much responsibility we have to get this story right. The relevance, I hate to use the word ‘happy,’ but the relevance is a happy accident.”

Moira, safely in Canada with June’s husband, seems like she’s moving forward. Emily, trapped in the dusty, radioactive Colonies, is waiting to die. But Offred has something to fight for: Her unborn child.

There’s a sense, in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” that nothing will ever be okay again. And maybe it never will.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” premieres on Hulu Wednesday.

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Source: Ny Daily News

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