When The Handmaid’s Tale returns, June will be confronting the ramifications of the coup she pulled in the season four finale.
The ending had left the fate of Elisabeth Moss’ starring character up in the air, with showrunner Bruce Miller and Moss each speaking about the intentional ambiguity and open possibilities for season five. Would June (Moss) stay and risk her freedom, go on the run after what she did, or return to Gilead for a fight? After leaving viewers rudderless, The Handmaid’s Tale seems to be signaling where June is headed when Hulu’s hit dystopian drama kicks off. The show returns with two episodes on Sept. 14, followed by a weekly rollout.
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Following June leading a group of Handmaids in the murder of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) in the epic ending to season four, the trailer for the fifth season a sets the Handmaid-turned-rebellion-leader up against her living former abuser, Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski). Though at times throughout the Gilead-set series they have had their moments of allyship, the trailer reveals that the two women at the center of the series will now be standing firmly on opposing sides.
The battle is personal, but each woman’s fight has the power to become representative of the larger war between Gilead and Canada, which has become a safe haven for refugees from the totalitarian society. Now that June has publicly escaped and reunited with her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle), activist friend Moira (Samira Wiley) and her youngest daughter, Nichole, she will find herself torn between her family and those pulling her back to Gilead: her lover and Nichole’s father, Commander Nick (Max Minghella), and her main reason for seeking justice, oldest daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake), who remains captive.
“I killed him, and I loved it so much,” June confesses to Luke about her former Commander, while also sharing insight into her next move. Of Serena, she adds, “I need her to know it was me.” The trailer shows both women facing off in a dance of sorts; when one woman goes on the hunt, the other pulls back in fear, fully aware of what her foe is capable of. “Don’t you dare tell me you can protect me from her!” Serena screams at one point.
Still, as Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) tells June, “A Handmaid killing her Commander, I don’t think they’ll be able to let that stand.” Ultimately, it appears that June, joining up with Luke, plans to head back to Gilead to finish what she started.
The official synopsis for season five reads: “June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.”
For a refresher, that fourth season-ender brought about a moment of long-awaited catharsis when June orchestrated the murder of Commander Waterford and, with the help of fellow refugee Handmaids, put him on the wall; Fred’s headless body hanging above the show’s familiar phrase: “Nolite te bastardes carburondorum.” The final scene saw June, with blood on her face, cradling Nichole and telling Luke, whom she had recently and finally reunited with, “I’m sorry. Just give me five minutes with her and then I’ll go.”
The finale, which released in June of 2021, was intentionally open-ended, as Miller had, at the time, not yet plotted June’s next move.
“She’s five minutes from a reckoning. She doesn’t want to think about it or talk about what happened or what this means for five minutes,” Miller told THR of June potentially risking her newfound freedom in order to further her war on Gilead. “What the hell is going to happen in five minutes? It can go a lot of ways and, the answer to your question is that I know what’s going to happen for the next five minutes, but I don’t know what happens after that. I don’t know because June doesn’t know. I know how she feels now, and that will lead me to the next thing.”
For her part, Moss said that, despite June finally escaping and earning her freedom after four seasons, risking it all by killing Fred was an obvious choice.
“Dramatically, I don’t think it could have gone any other way. What is the show if she doesn’t choose revenge?” the star, director and executive producer told THR at the time. “It was really important to me in the back-half of the season — and I was a nightmare in terms of pushing to make sure — that we were really holding on to the trauma. That we were really holding on to who she was after having had all those experiences in Gilead, and that it was not going to be rosy and it was not going to be a happy homecoming.”
Moss continued, “June was not going to all of a sudden get a little therapy and be fine. It couldn’t be that way; that’s not how life works. It was really important to me and so I feel like there’s no way for June to end up in any other place but that. She has been changed too much. Her life is this war on Gilead and that’s her purpose in life. There’s nothing else that can be done.”
Moss also reminded viewers what The Handmaid’s Tale has always been about.
“This show is about the first episode with that first scene where her daughter is taken away,” she said, before starting production on season five. “This show is about a woman creating a better future for the next generation and, specifically, for her own children. … it has been about her daughters and it will always be about her daughters.”
June’s final words in the trailer imply as much: “I pray for our children. I pray they live a life without all of this hate. Dear God, may they do better than we did.”
The fifth season of the MGM Television series also stars Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer a nd Amanda Brugel. It was previously announced that Alexis Bledel would not be returning. The Handmaid’s Tale is executive produced by Miller, Warren Littlefield, Moss, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Eric Tuchman, Yahlin Chang, Rachel Shukert, Sheila Hockin, John Weber, Frank Siracusa, Steve Stark and Kim Todd.
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