The Handmaid’s Tale: What’s the rest of the world up to?


The creators of The Handmaid’s Tale have successfully portrayed the inner workings of Gilead, but things can get a bit fuzzy as the world expands.

Note: the following post includes spoilers up to and including season three, episode five of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale season three, episode five concludes with the Waterfords begging the world (Canada in particular) to return Nichole. Although this is an interesting plot development, it also creates a lot of questions.

Over the course of the series, the showrunners have effectively portrayed the rise of Gilead, along with the ins-and-outs of its society and economy. There are questions that remain unanswered, but they’ve done a satisfactory job in this regard.

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When it comes to the international community, however, there are a LOT of questions. To be fair, some of this lack of clarity is surely intentional, and things may continue to be explained as the show progresses. Additionally, some information has been sprinkled in, albeit quickly. Overall, however, it’s hard to figure out what is going on.

When the Watefords make their plea for Nichole’s return, one question jumps to mind: why would Canada send her back? The “country to the north” has been a safe haven for Gilead refugees, and there is no conceivable reason they would even consider complying with the request. What does Gilead have to offer in return? Can Gilead really threaten them into action?

This begs further questions. If Canada is unlikely to be bullied by the likes of Gilead, then why hasn’t Canada done more to overthrow Gilead. Or are they already actively trying to do something? What about the rest of the world? Are they content to just let Gilead do its thing?

Using all available information, here’s some of what is known about the wider world of The Handmaid’s Tale. Note: some of this information was unveiled extremely quickly and would only be picked up by the most dedicated of viewers. Credit to for digging up these tidbits.

1. The United States only occupies two states: Hawaii and Alaska. There is still fighting going on in parts of Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois. A map in the season two finale indicated there are also some resistance groups in California, Oregon, and Washington, and along the Canadian border in Michigan, Vermont, and New Hampshire, Maine and New York.

2. The United Nations implemented economic sanctions on Gilead. This suggests that a lot of the world is not on board with what is going on and may be willing to take action.

Some Mexican diplomats met with the Waterfords to discuss trade, however, indicating some countries might be more willing to tolerate the “new America.” In a quick reference, some vodka was referred to as “courtesy of our Russian friends,” which suggests Russia might be friendly with Gilead as well.

3. In season two, it was revealed that Canadian and British troops were starting to gather around the Canadian-Gilead border. Along with highlighting the support of the United Kingdom, this suggests a military encounter could be on the horizon.


At this point, it seems that sanctions are as far as any country has been willing to go thus far in actively confronting Gilead. Although the presence of Canadian and UK troops near the border suggests some countries are open to military intervention, it doesn’t appear there have been any attacks from international forces (yet).

If a few countries decided to attack, would victory be easy? If Gilead does have strong forces, this would understandably make countries hesitant to invade, but it’s hard to imagine their forces being particularly formidable. It seems unlikely that any of the U.S. military joined forces with Gilead when the country was overthrown.

If taking down Gilead would be “easy,” then it’s harder to understand why no countries have taken military action yet. At the same time, however, it’s not unrealistic at all for nations to be “war-averse.”

Viewers of the show might argue (and rightfully so) that Gilead’s society is brutal and not comprehend how no countries have stopped this by now. It’s worth remembering, however, that there are plenty of places where awful things are happening today, and yet no countries have intervened militarily. One can argue whether this is right or not, but the actions of the Handmaid’s nations aren’t necessarily inconsistent with reality.

At the same time, however, it is definitely a bit strange that there hasn’t been military intervention yet. The U.S. presumably has countless allies (Canada, United Nations, etc.) that are technically obligated to defend it in times of war. Maybe the fertility crisis has taken such a toll on the world that no one has the time/resources to intervene?

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Overall, it’s not necessarily surprising that military action against Gilead wasn’t taken right away, but the longer things drag on, the more inexplicable it gets: 1). the United States was overthrown by essentially a terrorist group, 2). that group has implemented inhumane policies, 3). the U.S. presumably has many allies that should be defending it, and 4). Gilead’s military forces don’t seem particularly strong.

What do you think is happening in the rest of the world on The Handmaid’s Tale? Be sure to tell us in the comment section below!