Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of season 5 and The Testaments.
We wait. As the audience, that's all we can do. We spend a year desperate for the next season. When it finally does arrive, we get two episodes, then we twiddle our thumbs six days a week wondering what's going to happen next. It's not easy.
Many of us find ourselves sifting through The Testaments, scrolling through forums and groups, obsessing over trailers, wondering, so anxious to find out that we can't stop. We won't. It's just too good.
That's the sacrifice we make for fiction of the highest caliber, and that is definitely the category that The Handmaid's Tale falls into. Anyone who's been tuning in this long knows that.
The writers are at the top of their game. They can toy with us, placate us, and walk a tightrope to please us--all techniques that few can master. True, some of us might fall into the cracks of despondency and detach from the series, but they still know how to keep most of us watching.
Many of you have seen the trailers for the upcoming episode and the newly released look ahead for season 5, and you may have noticed something. It's all so different. The rules of The Handmaid's Tale have changed. We can finally say that anything could happen. We know some of what to expect, but there's no point of reference anymore, no Gilead rulebook to follow. There are a lot of gaps in our knowledge--gaping holes in fact.
That's what this article is for. Let's fill in those gaps, speculate together, and see if we can't come up with some answers. Not all of these predictions will turn out to be true; some of you may scoff, but they're not shots in the dark, either. As you will see, they come from a firm understanding of the source material and the few glimpses we've already been given about what comes next.
Let There Be Pearl Girls
Those of us who read The Testaments are aware of a new class of woman, which sprung up after Gilead was first established. They're known as Pearl Girls. They're international missionaries who travel the world looking for converts to bring back to Gilead.
In the novel, they wear ridiculous silver dresses, similar to the fabric we'd see in children's costumes, and fake, plastic pearls. They're often described as strange, like wide-eyed cult members, and they're just as shady.
The idea is that aunts in training should experience the world, the cuisine, and life outside of Gilead before coming back and taking on the role. They gorge on pizza, maybe take a hit of a joint, and repent all the way back to the fatherland. It's like a twisted form of rumspringa in Amish culture.
In the sneak peek for episode 4, we see Serena holding a card announcing the establishment of the Gilead Information Center. She has just been tasked with spreading the Lord's word in Canada, and she's establishing a base of operations. In many ways, nothing could be more horrific. Canada has become the land of the free. It's a haven for traumatized refugees and members of the resistance. Life is going to get a lot harder for them now that Gilead is starting to take root on the other side of the border. Refugees might even face deportation.
The Pearl Girls eventually become central to their plans.
Aunt Lydia created them before the events that take place in The Testaments. She appealed to her superiors, suggesting that Gilead should have missionaries just like other religions. In truth, she wanted her own personal smuggling network. The Pearl Girls could play fast and loose with their passports, and bring whoever they wanted in and out of the country. They could also deliver messages to the resistance and work with dissidents on the other side.
That's not something the Lydia we know would do, but she's undergoing a tranformation. When Janine was poisoned, she faced a moment of reckoning. She turned bright red, cried her eyes out, and begged God not to punish Janine to teach her a lesson. She says she'll be different. She'll change. She's finally willing to admit that disfiguring innocent slaves is wrong.
Anyone who read The Testaments saw this coming. For her to do what she needs to do, she needs to change. They're already laying the foundation for the upcoming spin-off, and that's part of what goes into that process. Her efforts with Commander Lawrence also seem to be a part of that.
In the season's look ahead we see Lawrence telling Aunt Lydia that the country's doors are opening, just a bit. In another frame, we see someone going through handmaid files, while a group of handmaids kneel with shocked looks on their faces.
Lydia has just faced a moment of repentence. She sees that what she did to the girls was wrong, and unwomen are known to join the ranks of aunts. Perhaps these handmaids will eventually be given a chance to prove themselves as loyal followers of Gilead in Canada.
It sounds strange, but at some point Serena's center will be filled with Pearl Girls. Why not start in season 5?
Nick Will Shoot Someone in Front of Mrs. Putnam
This is pretty straightforward. In the look ahead and the trailer, we hear a gunshot. Nick's face is smeared in blood, and he's got this expression like he just did something ballsy. For some reason, they keep showing Mrs. Putnam in the next shot, recoiling like she can't believe what just happened.
This is repeated in both videos, which makes it seem like they're trying to clue us in to a major event.
We know that Nick is going on a strange and unexpected journey this season. They're showing more of his life. We saw Mr. MacKenzie threatening him, saying he'll be watching. They're leading up to something, and apparently that something involves a gunshot, blood spatter, and maybe a murder.
So who does Nick shoot? God only knows. MacKenzie is a good guess. Nick is still in love with June, even if he is being forced to take a step back. Perhaps Nick finds out MacKenzie's plan to hurt her and kills him to protect her. Maybe that's too obvious. The show likes to keep us guessing.
Why would Mrs. Putnam be involved? Could it be Mr. Putnam? After that traumatizing scene with Esther in his office, it looks like he's going to have a place in the spotlight this season. But why would Nick hurt him? Maybe it's not him at all. It could be anyone.
The biggest questions is whether or not Nick gets caught, and what would happen if he is? Will he run to Canada to meet Mr. Tuello? It doesn't look like Tuello hasn seen the last of Nick. Why else would the show bother to film them meeting together? Maybe Nick goes into hiding. In The Testaments both Nick and Luke are presumably underground, though nobody knows for certain where they are or if that's really the case.
What we do know is that Nick's fate hasn't been determined yet, and he probably won't end up playing house with Rose for long. He's been lucky enough to keep his secrets hidden, but he'd never survive the witch hunts and purges that the commanders subjects themselves to in the coming years.
Mayday Will Help Luke and June Enter Gilead
We know that Luke and June try to go into Gilead. It's all over the trailer and the look ahead. The show is not trying to deceive us. They attempt to go back. They need to rescue Hannah. Even Moira, who still has trouble looking June in the eye after Fred's murder, agrees that Hannah cannot become a wife.
June knows what the risks are. Even in the afterglow of her murderous frenzy, she was still cognizant enough to realize how dangerous it would be to enter Gilead without a plan. So she is going to go speak with the group she's been pining after for 5 years: Mayday.
They have the best resources. They're the only ones who seem to be running a network of smugglers. We see them moving back and forth, calling people in Gilead, and working with the Guardians.
They're probably going to smuggle Luke and June in, but it doesn't seem like it will go according to plan. That's when things get murky. We see June getting her mugshot. We also see June and Luke reaching out to one another in cages. Canada doesn't put people in cages.
Something happens in the process of entering Gilead, while they are inside, or while they are trying to cross back. We have no idea what though, and we'll never be able to guess. What we do know is that June eventually gets out. She doesn't live out her days in the colonies or as a handmaid. She lives happily ever after in Canada. That's Testaments canon, and it's not going to change.
Luke is a different story. Men are generally killed if they're caught committing crimes in Gilead. They're given a bit of leniency, but Luke is a spy. If he is caught, he will be hung up on the wall. This probably will not happen. The Testaments suggests that he is underground, but the details are left vague, and nobody is really sure where he is, even those at the top of the resistance.
My guess is that they both leave, or maybe they never even enter. Either way, I simply do not see them spending their lives anywhere other than Canada.
Serena Will Not Be Getting Her Happily Ever After
Many of us remember Serena declaring her hatred for her former sex slave in front of a desecrated Lincoln Memorial. It was our first real glimpse into her motivations.
June forced her to tears, declaring that Serena was empty. She has this gaping hole inside herself that she keeps trying to fill, but nothing will work. She burnt the world to the ground, and she still isn't satisfied. Some one like that is incapable of finding their happily ever after. She'll always find a reason to go back to her bitter, vicious self, and she will keep lashing out until she is put down.
She will never find happiness, especially not now that June knows where to find her. We see June standing outside Gilead's freaky information center in look ahead, glaring into the window. She fires a gun into the air, and Luke makes a visit. He and Serena actually have a conversation. Neither one of them is going to stop until Hannah is safe.
Even if June and Luke are trapped after reentering Gilead, Serena is acting as a diplomat for the nation that revived the practice of slavery. During the war, the entire Southwest was transformed into a radioactive wasteland. There will always be people whose lives were destroyed by Gilead, and they will haunt her so long as she holds that position.
Hannah Will Face A Wedding Proposal
Season 5 runs parallel to Hannah's journey into womanhood, which was well documented in The Testaments. As soon as she showed signs of reaching puberty, she was pulled out of school, and the aunts were called into the home to inspect her.
It was very similar to the way a farmer would inspect cattle. They checked her teeth, took note of her appearance, and made sure that a suitable donation would be made to ensure her place at the top of the list of potential brides. The aunt in the scene adds that many parents pad their daughter's breasts to pass them off as pubescent.
There's a real sense of urgency in Gilead. Girls are married as quickly as possible to protect them from having premarital sex or falling in love, both of which could be punishable by death. They're sent to wives school, also known as Rubies Premarital Preparatory Academy, but they don't stay long. Suitors start flowing in almost immediately.
The MacKenzies would definitely hurry the process along. In the book, it was because Mrs. MacKenzie wanted to get rid of Hannah. The girl was getting in the way of her happy ending with her new husband. In the show, they have a different reason: June.
When Hannah marries, her name will change. It'll be impossible for June to find her, and they'll be able to keep her hidden for good. It's like when they sent Hannah off to another district, only permanent and much more difficult to trace.
In the trailer we see Hannah wearing white walking in a line with a group of other girls. They seem to be in a room similar to the red center, but there are white lace tents attached to their bedframes. I believe that is a wedding ceremony.
We have only seen white once, and that was at a wedding. It doesn't match the color scheme from The Testaments, but the show isn't following the normal color code for daughters. We've already seen that with Hannah's purple dress at the funeral for Fred.
I believe that Hannah's wedding will be part of the season's final struggle at the end of the season, and I am fully confident that this prediction will come true.