Every Toronto location that shows up in the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale
In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian opus The Handmaid’s Tale, the oppressed people of the Unites States of America long to escape across the north border. So it’s kind of ironic that Hulu’s new adaptation was filmed in Canada. The houses, streets and bridges of Hamilton and Cambridge stand in for the more bucolic locales of Gilead, but Toronto’s cafes, hotels and transit system feature prominently, too. Here, a catalogue of every time the city showed up on screen.
In a brief early flashback to life before Gilead, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) visits the aquarium’s underwater tunnel with her husband, Luke, and daughter, Hannah.
Queen and Degrassi underpass
In another flashback, Offred and Moira (Samara Wiley) jog through the Queen East underpass at Degrassi Street. At this point, things are already getting weird for women: a pedestrian gives Offred a disgusted look for her running outfit.
The situation gets worse when Offred and Moira enter a nearby French cafe, Bonjour Brioche. When Offred tries to pay for her order, the male server tells her her card has been declined, refuses to run it again and calls the women “sluts.” (For the record, the staff at Bonjour Brioche are a whole lot nicer in real life.)
Later in the episode, Offred and the other women in her office are fired thanks to a decree from Gilead’s new theocratic government. In this scene, she’s carrying her belongings out of the office, puzzled at the paramilitary forces waiting in the streets. That’s the CBC building in the background, meaning Offred is stepping out of Metro Hall.
Though the Toronto Star building at 1 Yonge Street never shows up in the series, the newspaper itself gets a mention. In this scene, Offred’s Commander, Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), fretfully explains to his wife, Serena Joy, that one of Gilead’s Aunts escaped to Canada and gave an interview to the Star, then calls her story, as we might say in 2017, Fake News.
Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pool
In the same episode, Moira steals an Aunt’s outfit and attempts to escape the Red Centre, an indoctrination facility supposedly housed inside the aboveground Olympic pool in the Beaches. Moira pretends to escort Offred, who is still dressed as a Handmaid.
During the escape, Moira and Offred pass city hall, where the corpses of Gilead’s enemies—priests, Jews, “gender traitors” and women who dare to fight back—ominously hang from the wall.
Finally, they reach the train station and, lucky for them, the Presto machines actually work.
Moira and Offred descend to the platform of Bay Lower, an out-of-service station that has shown up in Suicide Squad and plenty of music videos. While Moira asks which train goes to Boston, a Guardian notices something is afoot—Handmaids are supposed to travel in pairs, and Offred is alone. Moira exchanged a panicked glance with Offred, who gives her the nod to board the train without her and escape.
It’s tough to tell where this flashback to Offred and Luke’s first encounter was filmed, but there are at least a couple of telltale Toronto details: the streetlights in the background and one of chef Adrian Niman’s Food Dudes trucks.
On one of her regular shopping trips, Offred visits a market in Canada Square, where she talks to her former Handmaid walking buddy, Ofglen (who has a new name now, but who can keep track?). Ofglen, whose partner was hanged in a previous episode, is back with a vengeance. She steals that Mercedes and takes it for a joy ride that ends with a gratuitously brutal depiction of her squashing a downed Guardian’s head like a watermelon.
Royal York Hotel
Gilead throws a banquet for a visiting Mexican trade delegation in episode six. When a group of kids parades through the hall, it becomes clear what Gilead intends to trade: Handmaids, the only women still able to bear children. The scene was filmed in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, which shows up again a couple of episodes later, when Commander Waterford sneaks Offred into a seedy sex club called Jezebel’s.
In Atwood’s novel, Offred frequently pines for Luke, but readers never learn his fate. The seventh episode of Hulu’s series, meanwhile, is dedicated to his story. After parting ways with Offred, he gets shot and captured, escapes from a crashed ambulance, and joins a group of fugitives en route to Canada. This scene, set three years later, takes place in “Little America,” a.k.a. the Esplanade, just east of the St. Lawrence Market.
The Waterfords’ Guardian, Nick, also gets more play in the TV adaptation. Through a series of flashbacks, viewers learn how he became an Eye, one of Gilead’s secret police. In this scene, he chats with a superior outside the Eye headquarters, a.k.a. the Automotive Building at Exhibition Place.