‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Is June’s Mom Alive? Small Season 2 Detail Hints She Could Be

Could June’s mom still be alive in The Handmaid’s Tale? Cherry Jones’ Holly Maddox hasn’t been seen since a flashback from season 3 episode 4 and is presumed dead. But a small detail from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 hints Holly might not have died in the colonies like June believes. And now, fans are hoping she will appear in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5.

Holly (Cherry Jones) and June (Elisabeth Moss) in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 3. Moss wears a pink coat and holds a baby, who's wrapped in a white blanket. Jones wears a beige suit and smiles down at the baby. They're in a church for a baptism. The background is blurred.
Holly (Cherry Jones) and June (Elisabeth Moss) in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 3 | Elly Dassas/Hulu

Why was Holly sent to the colonies in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

Jones made her Handmaid’s Tale debut in season 2 episode 3, “Baggage.” In the episode, June is close to making an escape from Gilead. She’s pregnant with Nichole and conflicted about leaving Hannah behind. June’s thoughts on the complexities of motherhood make her reflect on her own relationship with her mother.

Through flashbacks, we learn Holly was a women’s rights activist (specifically reproductive rights) in the time before Gilead. She was a doctor who performed abortions on people seeking them, which typically would result in a death sentence from Gilead leadership. But in “Baggage,” a flashback to the Red Center reveals Holly was captured by Gilead and sent to the colonies. A photo in a slideshow presented by Aunt Lydia showed her in an “unwoman” uniform performing manual labor. The labor, Lydia said, was to atone with God for the damage done to the planet.

Many of the colonies in Gilead are areas overflowing with toxic waste. Women sent there work on discarding it until the toxic living conditions kill them or Gilead delivers a different fate. June assumes Holly died at one of these colonies. But did she?

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Did June’s mom die in the colonies?

Fans on Reddit pointed out the background of the photo of Holly. The colony Emily and Janine were sent to hardly had any thriving plant life and the land was a wasteland. But there’s a healthy tree behind Holly in the photo. And her uniform is slightly different from Emily and Janine’s. There are farming colonies in Gilead that tend to the nation’s produce supply. So it’s possible Holly was sent to one of those colonies, and therefore would not have been killed by the effects of toxic waste. Fans on Reddit believe the show implied Holly was, indeed, at a farming colony. And that she’s still alive.

Think of the Chekhov’s gun principle. Until a story makes clear a character’s fate, their fate cannot be assumed. Given that Holly’s death is assumed and not confirmed, fans think Holly could return in future seasons. And they have theories about her possible whereabouts.

“I imagine her out there somewhere having taken over a colony and turned it into a free women’s community,” one user said. “Maybe she was once, like June, all about revenge, but is now about healing.”

Another user suggested Holly escaped the colony and is the leader of the Nighthawks — the militant group June and Janine met in Chicago in season 4 episode 5. One user thinks she might have had the chance to escape, and like June “decided to stay and fight from within.”

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5 plot

In a separate Reddit thread, one user wants to see Holly return and stir up trouble for Gilead.

“Wouldn’t be surprised if she somehow survived and escaped the colonies and they are gonna wish they had executed Holly Maddox lmao,” they said. “wishful thinking.”

A June and Holly reunion would spell trouble for Gilead. Holly’s first episode highlighted her staunch activism in contrast to June’s relative passivity. June was a feminist, as her mother raised her to be. But she was much less interested in activism and creating the change she wanted to see than her mother was. Holly saw this as a waste of June’s intelligence. And she expressed her disappointment that June was getting married and not doing some form of activism. June resented Holly’s expectations. But now, June’s fully radicalized. And Holly would approve.

Elisabeth Moss says June’s top priority in season 5 will be taking Gilead down. Knowing what she knows about Mayday’s resistance efforts and the Nighthawks, June has a bevy of helpful information to use against the regime. And she has allies in Gilead in Nick and Commander Lawrence (who, by the way, created the colonies). Bringing Holly back as a member of the resistance would be thrilling addition.

Jones is so far not included in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 cast list on IMDb. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be part of season 5. She won an Emmy for her performance in 2019, so who’s to say she wouldn’t return?