Praise be! After a midseason departure that left her future up in the air, Emily a.k.a. Ofglen is returning to The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu announced today that Alexis Bledel has signed on as a series regular for season 2, a promotion from her guest star status in season 1.
Bledel appeared in only 4 episodes last season, but earned extensive praise for her portrayal of the lesbian handmaid. Though there is much injustice and violence in the world of Gilead, Emily endured some of the worst treatment we saw in season 1. Arrested for having an affair with another woman, she was forced to watch her lover hung from a crane and then woke up to find she had undergone a forced clitoridectomy.
Her storyline made waves, prompting outrage from viewers – not at the show itself, but at a society that allows this to happen. It was a particularly chilling event in a story where women have already lost so much control over their own bodies. It was especially resonant with gay and bisexual women, for whom persecution for our sexualities is already a reality.
Emily’s return is a huge relief for our community, which has seen so many characters we identify with meet untimely and often violent ends. It looked like Emily may have met the same fate when she was dragged away by the secret police after stealing a car and running over a soldier. Her absence in the back half of season 1 did nothing to alleviate those fears.
With so much up in the air as of the finale’s end, it is hard to say in what context we will see Emily next season. One theory is that we will observe her in the Colonies, work camps in radioactive wastelands that have only been referenced thus far. However, it is also possible that she escaped and is working underground somewhere in Gilead. The final scene shows the protagonist June a.k.a. Offred being taken away by men who are supposedly secret police. But they may actually be resistance members, seeing as Nick tells her to trust him and just go with them. In the book, he explicitly says they are from Mayday, the same resistance movement Emily was associated with.
No matter where Emily ends up, hopefully we will finally get some flashbacks about her old life and have a chance to meet her wife and her son, Oliver. As I personally love the dynamic between June and Emily, I’m hoping June was taken away by rebels and will end up working closely with her old friend in season 2. People who go to the Colonies don’t live long, anyway, so if Emily goes there you can bet we will have another dead lesbian on our hands soon. Is it too much to hope for better things? From this show, I hope not.