Now that the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is available on Blu-Ray, there’s time to rewatch and consider what exactly the award-winning, prescient show means in today’s cultural and political climate — and what further seasons might have to say about Gilead and the world.
To that end, Mashable spoke to showrunner Bruce Miller about June’s journey, the capacity for hope, and what events he’d like to see in Gilead’s future.
Mashable: Margaret Atwood and Elizabeth Moss have both spoken highly of you as a showrunner in adapting what is a very woman-centric story. How often do you find yourself deferring to the women in your writers’ room when it comes to making decisions about characters and motivations? Did you find yourself in that position more often in Season 1 than in Season 2 because Season 2 was an “off book” season.
Bruce Miller: I don’t really think of it as an off-book season. It’s really Margaret’s world and we’re just playing with it and moving forward in that world with those characters. It’s really still tethered to that genesis, I didn’t think of it or see it as going off book and it didn’t feel like that.
I always defer to the women writers in my room, but that’s a different story because they’re all very good. I think over time we’ve learned not to defer to each other but to ask questions, so if you don’t understand or disagree with something that you actually ask the question, even if it’s embarrassing.
M: In earlier interviews you’ve said that you sketched out The Handmaid’s Tale for a ten-season run. After the events of Season 2 are you sticking to that number as an ideal for the show’s longevity?
BM: No. The ideal for the show’s longevity is that when it’s done there’s something kind of nice and perfect that you can put on the shelf next to the book as a companion piece.
However long that is, I certainly don’t want to overstay my welcome. I certainly don’t want to overstay people’s ability to get something from the show. I don’t want it to be something people have to endure to get to some kind of ending, you want it to be valuable and emotionally satisfying as you go along.
There is no number, and considering that seasons can get longer and shorter has made that even more meaningless. But as far as I’m concerned I want to see the “Nuremberg Trials” with Serena and the Commander so we can go on for a very long time.
M: A lot of the discussions around the end of Season 2 were about whether or not there’s any hope left for the characters. Do you think “hope” is a strong word to apply to the ending of Season 2? Is June as a character hopeful? Or just mad?
BM: [laughs] I would say probably both. I think she’s going to have hope regardless of what happens around her. She’s going to believe in the possibility of the impossible, the possibility of becoming free, the possibility of being free with her daughter, and you have to believe those things regardless. You have to hope even when there’s no hope.
We did a lot of research into narratives of people who were caught in situations like this, in a totalitarian state or a prison system — so how do you keep your hope alive when you’re a prisoner of the Taliban? And I think what you do is hope is going to be hope. It’s not going to grow and ebb.
At the end of Season 2 I think June is making her own decision to go back in. For the first time she’s doing it on purpose, so now she enters Gilead with a lot more agency. She’s picking the terms of the fight.
M: There are two featurettes on the Blu-Ray release. One is called “Season 2: Off Book” and the other is “Dressing Dystopia.” Are there any other elements of or teams on the show that you’d want to see get featurettes, potentially in future Blu-Ray releases?
BM: I’m fascinated by the work of the other departments, I think they’re all miracle workers and really the show is made by those people. The production design team is huge and works their tails off, the stunts team which works completely behind the scenes, everything that goes on in post.
I think the way television shows are made is so fascinating and is so elusive even to people who do what [writers] do. I think giving those people a voice to [talk about] what they thought about the show makes you realize how many artists’ missions go into a show like this. If it’s going to be good you want everybody to be an empowered artist and an empowered storyteller.
M: The Handmaid’s Tale has a massive cultural impact beyond the base message of the show. Do you have any thoughts on the Handmaid’s Tale–inspired protests, such as those at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing or in Argentina?
BM: Mostly I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know how to feel, I mean should I be proud? I’d much rather live in a world where no one had to dress up like a handmaid as protest, that it could be completely meaningless or strange.
It’s terrible to live in a time where a show like this is relevant and prescient but having read Margaret’s book in 1986 and then a bunch of times over the years there wasn’t a time where I thought it wasn’t prescient. It’s a testament to the longstanding genius of Margaret’s imagination to say that it’s at the front of people’s minds no matter what the political situation.
In terms of the protests, I’m moved and flattered for the part I’ve taken for the people that attach themselves to something I’ve been a part of, that I wrote. Especially when people are at the moment fighting for their beliefs and their basic right using your show.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 is available on Blu-Ray now.
This interview has been edited and condensed.