Margaret Atwood will give input on season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s widely acclaimed adaptation of her seminal 1985 novel. The show, which wrapped its first season last week, closely followed the book’s premise, reimagining the dystopian autocracy of Gilead. It’s set in the near future, in which an oppressive regime has overthrown the government and reverted America to a fundamentalist theocracy. Much of humanity has been rendered infertile by an increasingly decaying environment, and the remaining fertile women are kept as surrogate slaves to repopulate society. Elisabeth Moss stars as the central protagonist, Offred, one of these such handmaids who becomes involved with the burgeoning resistance.
The series has been universally lauded as a timely, incisive reflection on the current political climate, speaking to themes of reproductive rights, sexual assault, and the abuse of governmental power. Atwood was credited as a producer during the first run, which covered the entirety of her original novel, and now she’ll return to consult as the writers carry on new storylines.
During a recent interview with THR, showrunner Bruce Miller detailed the approach for season 2 . As he told the outlet:
“We had lots of discussions about what would happen to the characters after season one in small and big ways. We’ve been talking about it ever since the middle of season one. There are things Margaret thought about a lot because over the years, and that’s one of the biggest questions she’s been asked, is what happens next to these characters. So it wasn’t a question that I was bringing up to her for the first time.”
“Margaret and I talked a lot about season two, even at the beginning of season one when I was talking to her and kind of getting a sense of what she thought of what I was doing, you inevitably have conversations about what might happen next. They’re all tied together. So yes, we have had and continue to have extensive, deep and really fun discussions about what would happen in the future, what happens next.”
And finally, he explained that while they stuck quite closely to the source material for season 1 — albeit with a few key changes — this time around it was more of a collaborative process.
“There’s more collaboration for a couple of reasons; one is that we don’t have a text that was written stating specifically what happens next (although we have a sense of some of the things that might happen next because of the “historical notes” section that takes place after the conclusion of the Offred story). So through that you get a little bit of a sense, but absolutely. We had a working relationship so we’ve been working much more closely and having those discussions for longer.”
That Atwood will be staying on bodes well for the series’ future. It’s always a risk to approach such an iconic work, let alone to extend the story with entirely new characters and plot lines, but it’s clear Atwood has already given a lot of thought to how she would have followed up the original, and her guidance should serve as an invaluable tool for keeping the book’s message and intent intact.
Season 2, of course, will be a testament to The Handmaid’s Tale’s potential. Its first run was brilliantly executed, and there will be high expectations for Miller and crew to deliver — even without something to base it on. But with Atwood attached, it’s hard to imagine the show will significantly falter, and hesitant viewers shouldn’t expect anything less powerful and captivating when it returns.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 1 is available in its entirety on Hulu.