Emily's Backstory Is Revealed In 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 2 & It Will Break Your Heart

by Ani Bundel

The Handmaid's Tale, as a novel, is a slim volume that only takes a couple of hours to read. The story focuses exclusively on the story of Offred, as it is told from her point of view. The show, on the other hand, is not so limited by a first-person narrative. Perhaps the most heartbreaking addition is the expanded story of the first Ofglen, played by Alex Bledel, whose real name is Emily and whose backstory is tragic. Where is Emily's family now? Let's dive into the terrible story. Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 premiere follow.

Perhaps the smartest choice the production behind The Handmaid's Tale made when bringing it to Hulu was to reset the story. In the novel, which was written in 1985, shows a past that is rooted in the problems of the 1970s and a near future that's probably supposed to be late 1990s early 2000s. This being 2018, that would practically make it a period piece, and add to the "it can't happen here" sensation.

By resetting the show to be closer to our time period, with a past that is recognizably 2014 or later and Gilead coming to power in a near future that could easily be the way the Trump administration falls, the series has an urgency and a believably to it. Offred could be any of us.


This also gave the show a chance to create Emily. When the novel was written in 1985, there was no marriage equality and no gay rights to be taken away. In fact, in the dark days of the AIDS crisis, those things were a laughable pipe dream. But resetting the show so that Gilead rose to power after the landmark Supreme Court decision, gives the show both a story to tell of how equal rights for all sexual orientations was rolled back, and the horror in the eyes of the order LGBTQ folks who lived through a time when there were no rights, only to see them taken away again.

Emily, having been born somewhere in the 1990s, never knew the world where being in the closet was the only way to survive. She grew up in a time when acceptance was expanding, became an adult right around the time when states were legalizing marriage, came out, got married, had a kid. As one does!

But things didn't stay that way. By the time we flash back to her career teaching at University, as Gilead came to power, she was already being told to hide who she was. Students reported her. Her boss, a gay man old enough to remember AIDS, tells her she doesn't understand. She insists she won't hide, but it's proof he's right, she doesn't understand. That is until she finds him strung up with a gay epithet spray-painted at his feet.


Emily takes the warning seriously. Her wife is Canadian, they can immigrate to Canada and get the heck out of dodge before things really go south. But this again fails to consider that her rights really are being stripped away. The country no longer recognizes such marriages exist.

The paperwork might say all day they were married, but that was in America. This is Gilead. This piece of paper Emily relied on to get her out means nothing to them. Emily is not married to a Canadian citizen as far as they are concerned. Therefore she cannot leave with her wife and child.

Emily's last look at her wife and son comes at the bottom of an escalator, as they travel on, to make their flight to Canada, and from there... we don't know. With Emily now slowly dying out in the Colonies the chances are slim she will ever see her family again.