The Handmaid’s Tale Director/Actor Bradley Whitford On ‘Moving’ Experience Bringing Hannah Back To The Series

Commander Lawrence and Hannah side by side from The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale “ Allegiance”.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 has been a wild one for those with a Hulu subscription, with most of the action surprisingly taking place outside of Gilead. While this new set of episodes has introduced us to a variety of intriguing new characters, it’s also featured a few choice appearances by June’s daughter Hannah (Jordanna Blake). Episode 9 “Allegiance” was directed by series regular Bradley Whitford, who recently spoke about the “moving” experience of bringing that character back to the series.

The first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale opens on June being captured by Gilead, who rip a young Hannah from her arms. We’ve watched as Elisabeth Moss’ protagonist tried to survive and reunite with her throughout the Emmy-winning series, most recently in a failed military operation by the Americans. During this sequence we got to see Hannah aka Agnes (who factors heavily into the sequel novel The Testaments) at the Wives school, and watched as she secretly wrote her real name down on a paper. Bradley Whitford spoke to THR about bringing this short but powerful scene to life, saying:

That was the most moving thing to me when I read the outline for the first time: That Hannah knows who she is when she writes her name. She hasn’t forgotten who she is. And that she has the sort of strength of will and spirit that June has. It was fascinating to see her. It’s amazing. She’s so grown-up. After that horribly creepy reveal of her at the funeral [in episode two], you wanted to get the eeriness of it. This is on a military base [the Wives School] that’s been converted, and it was really fun working with the art department. I wanted some creepy combination of army bunk and canopy bed.

This was a scene that was no doubt moving for many Handmaid’s Tale fans out there, who were hoping that Episode 9 of Season 5 would finally see June and Luke reunited with their daughter. Unfortunately the mission was a failure, although we got to see a brief glimpse at what Hannah’s life is like in the Wives School. And it’s as creepy as Gilead is known for being, complete with military-style bunks and the watching eye of the Aunts.

“Allegiance” marked Bradley Whitford’s first time directing an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, although he’s been involved in the dystopian series since back in Season 2. He got a seriously big episode to sink his teeth into, including one of the most emotional moments to come from his signature character Commander Joseph Lawrence. 

As previously mentioned, the mission to save Hannah ends up being a disaster, with Gilead shooting the planes out of the sky and leaving no survivors. We don’t actually see any of the mission itself, with fans expecting the scene in the Wives School to erupt into gunfire. In the same interview, Bradley Whitford explained this no-action approach for the failed rescue, offering:

And there was a lot of discussion about this: The point of the mission is not the mission but the fact that Gilead got the information, got tipped off and made the mission never happen. And so it was about the loss of the mission. It’s not about gunfire — it’s not like a Michael Bay movie in the middle of The Handmaid’s Tale — it’s about how far of a fall it is for June in that hallway when she realizes this trail of carnage that she is leaving behind her.

While Elisabeth Moss’ protagonist has been safe in Toronto for most of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, she’s been grappling with a ton of guilt. And Hannah’s botched rescue left her seemingly responsible for more dead bodies, as June was the one who provided the intel and it involved her daughter. So instead of taking us in the cockpit, we instead stayed with June as the disappointment and guilt washed over her.

There’s only one more episode of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 left, so the stakes certainly feel high. The Hulu series is known for ending things on wild, violent cliffhangers, so it seems like just about anything could happen. In the meantime, check out the TV premiere list to plan your next binge watch. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.