Spoilers for Season One of The Handmaid’s Tale
As Alan Sepinwall noted in his review of the first season finale of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the episode ends the same way that Margaret Atwood’s novel ended: With Offred (Elisabeth Moss) being taken away in a black van. “Whether this is my end, or a new beginning, I have no way of knowing,” Offred says. “I have given my fate over to the hands of strangers … and so I step up into the darkness within, or else the light.”
Many viewers who are now finishing the episode are having the same struggle with the ambiguous ending that readers have had with Atwood’s novel since it was published in 1984. Is Offred being driven away to safety by members of the Mayday? Or are the menacing men with guns The Eyes transporting her someplace to punish her for playing a leading role in the handmaids’ refusal to stone Janine to death?
The difference between Atwood’s novel and the Hulu series, however, is that this isn’t the end for Offred on the television series because Hulu has picked it up for a second season. Knowing that changes the more optimistic possibility offered in the novel.
In Atwood’s book, like the series, there are two possibilities, and both hinge upon what the viewer thinks of Nick, who whispers into Offred’s ear before she gets into the black van, “Just go with them. Trust me.”