The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 reveals what happened to Ofglen after last season’s horrific mutilation
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the second episode of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2.
It’s no secret that that The Handmaid’s Tale is harrowing. Based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Atwood, the drama series largely takes place in Gilead, a totalitarian society where almost all women have been stripped of their names, rights and are regarded as property.
With environmental ruin and rapidly decreasing birth rates plaguing the US, fertile women are forced to live a life of sexual servitude and carry babies for those who cannot – it’s incredibly hard to watch.
But, as viewers in the US learned Wednesday night, it still has dark, dark depths to plunge, particularly when it comes to the rolling back of LGBTQ rights in the dystopian state.
In Episode 2 of the new season, those depths revolve around Emily – known as Ofglen in the first season – as the show finally reveals her backstory in a series of flashbacks.
Pre-Gilead, Emily (Alexis Bledel) was working as a biology professor when the college’s dean calls her into his office to inform her that she won’t be allowed to teach next semester because the institute’s new board is concerned about her lifestyle and her inability to create “a healthy learning environment.” All because someone saw the photo of her wife and son on her phone.
Determined, Emily insists to her gay colleague – yes, the dean is gay and hiding that fact – that “they can’t scare [them] back into the closet” but her confidence is knocked when the dean is found hanged from the school building with the word “faggot” written on the pavement below him.
Frightened, Emily and her Canadian wife Sylvia (Clea Duvall) attempt to flee the US with their son but the former is not allowed passage since she doesn’t have Canadian citizenship. Same-sex marriage certificates don’t mean a thing in Gilead now, and all she can do is watch as her family leave her behind.
Talking about the episode, Bledel told E! News: “It’s such an honour to get to play her. I was so excited to get to flashback and then flash-forward, basically, in one episode. It gives me such an incredible creative challenge, that I love.”
“[When] I read it for the first time, the tears just came. Then I read it for the second, the third time—same reaction. It’s all there on the page, so it all came very naturally the day of filming as well.
“It was amazing to work with Clea and imagine together what their family life was like. They’re two loving moms and I was so proud to get to depict that on television.”
Emily had a powerful, yet relatively small role, in the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Having made friends with Elisabeth Moss’s protagonist June/Offred, she confided in her new acquaintance that she was a member of a secret resistance group.
But shortly after revealing her true self, she was discovered to be having a lesbian affair and was forced to undergo female genital mutilation surgery while her lover was hanged in front of her.
Later, she tried to escape Gilead but was apprehended and led into a black van.
As the most recent episode revealed, she ended up being exiled to the Colonies, a place where sterile women, nuns, lesbians and other “useless” women who have broken the law are charged with doing agricultural labour in a highly-toxic wasteland.
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According to Bledel, Emily – whose skin is already blistering – realises she probably won’t make it out of this new location alive.
“Essentially, all the ‘unwomen’ know upon arriving there that they will die in the short-term,” she told The Daily Beast.
“She doesn’t have hope in the same way she did the first season, which is one of the central things we know about her. She is not making plans for the future in her mind anymore, or trying to escape.
“So she’s sort of resigned to what’s going to happen, and she’s carrying around a lot of anger. Her multiple traumas have hardened her. Part of her spirit is broken. She’s sort of decided to dole out justice on her own.”
The Handmaid’s Tale continues in the US on Hulu every Wednesday. A UK return on Channel 4 has yet to be confirmed.