Debuting three episodes on June 5, the new season of the Emmy-winning drama about the plight of many women under the rule of the totalitarian society of Gilead continues to follow June (Elisabeth Moss) as she struggles to stay alive, save her daughters, Hannah and Nichole, and ultimately escape a life of persecution.
Once an editor and married mother of a daughter living in a free American society, June was forced into servitude after she was unable to escape to Canada when Gilead took over and became a handmaid for Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). Over the first two seasons, audiences saw her lash out against her household and handmaid den mother Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and form a bond with a driver, Nick Blaine (Max Minghella), who ultimately fathered her second child that went to Serena after she gave birth. By the end of season two, June made plans to escape with her baby and fellow handmaid, Emily (Alexis Bledel), thanks to the help of the Marthas -- notably Rita, played by Amanda Brugel -- and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), only to stay behind so she can rescue her eldest daughter, Hannah, who is living with another Commander.
While the main theme of season one was about survival and motherhood was the focus of season two, season three is about resistance. More specifically, executive producer Warren Littlefield tells ET, it is about the radicalization of June, who is determined to see Hannah freed from Gilead but also now has a chance to fight back. “In this fascist world, how [does June] make a difference?” Littlefield asks, while creator and fellow executive producer Bruce Miller says season three was all about figuring out what they “wanted June to be challenged with and then [we] follow her.”
Picking up just minutes after the season two finale, the premiere wastes no time jumping into action and moving things forward, with Emily crossing the border with June and Serena’s daughter, Nichole, while June faces off with the Waterfords and is ultimately reassigned to Commander Lawrence.
“We didn’t want to repeat ourselves,” Littlefield explains. “We’ve seen two years of June as a prisoner in the Waterford household for the most part. So what do we do? We burnt it down. And we have a new dimension of power in Gilead in the form of Commander Lawrence.”
Meanwhile, the next two episodes show the beginnings of a rebellion as audiences see how the Marthas work together -- something first seen when they tried to free June at the end of season two -- and June taking a more active approach to wreaking havoc from within.
“I was very much on board with a lot of it,” Moss says of the overall journey for season three. “There’s a process of taking the character where they need to go.”
With that said, the new episodes see June becoming the unofficial face of the rebellion, whether it’s through the eyes of her fellow handmaids or what is seen from the outside, witnessed by June’s friend, Moira (Samira Wiley) or her husband, Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) as she navigates an unexpected move from the Waterfords, who are still reeling from the loss of Nichole, and deals with revelations about Nick’s past that may have dire consequences for their future.
However, despite the fact that June wears a cape or may seem heroic at times, Littlefield stresses that The Handmaid’s Tale is not a Marvel movie. June’s fight is more conflicted, rooted in a dirty reality. While he says there’s a sense of achievement over the course of the season, “it’s not a happy ending.” However, he teases “it’ll be a satisfying one because of what June accomplishes.”