The Fourth Season of "The Handmaid's Tale" Will Explore New Parts of Gilead

McKenzie Jean-Philippe
·6 min read
Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

After a two-year wait, The Handmaid's Tale is coming back. The dystopian drama's fourth season returns to Hulu on Wednesday, April 28, with the first three episodes premiering simultaneously.

Speaking to The Wrap, creator Bruce Miller called the show's fourth season—filmed almost entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic—its most ambitious yet. Unlike past seasons, which were based primarily in Boston, this one will travel around Gilead, including the warfront in Chicago. "We are following June’s passion, her drive, her relentless pursuit for change and that takes us everywhere," Miller said. The show will also be based in Canada, where Commander Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) were arrested in the season 3 finale in 2019.

Whereas June's journey began with finding individual freedom and reuniting with her family, her priorities have since shifted. Now, she wants to take down the entire state. According to Hulu's official summary, things will get (unsurprisingly) dangerous for her as she assumes a rebel persona. "The risks she takes bring unexpected and dangerous new challenges, and her desire for justice and revenge threaten to consume her and destroy her most cherished relationships.”

Here's what to expect from the show's fourth season.

When will season 4 of The Handmaid's Tale premiere?

The first three episodes of season 4 will premiere on Hulu on April 28, 2021 at midnight ET, the same time that prior seasons' new episodes released. Moss will make her directorial debut with "The Crossing," the show's third episode.

"It’s a lot of work. Just the amount of things that you have to think about, and the amount of things that are under your care, is mind-boggling, but it’s been incredible. I directed Episode 3, and I got rehired to direct Episodes 8 and 9, as well. I guess it meant that I did a good job, which was exciting," Moss told Deadline.

Photo credit: Jasper Savage
Photo credit: Jasper Savage

The season's 10-episode schedule is straightforward.

After the three-episode premiere, future episodes of The Handmaid's Tale will drop each Wednesday on Hulu. The finale, entitled "The Wilderness," is set to premiere on June 16.

  • Episode 4, "Milk"—May 5

  • Episode 5, "Chicago"—May 12

  • Episode 6, "Vows"—May 19

  • Episode 7, "Home"—May 26

  • Episode 8, "Testimony"—June 2

  • Episode 9, "Progress"—June 9

  • Episode 10, "The Wilderness"—June 16

Watch The Handmaid's Tale

The trailer for season 4 amps up the suspense.

There is a lot going on, with various hints about what could be in store for us this season. From a couple of passionate embraces between Nick and June, to a reunion with June's daughter Hannah. Also, coupled with Agent Mark Tuello's voiceover at the beginning—"If you return to Gilead, would you be a subject to danger of torture, a risk to your life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment?"—and several glimpses of June in normal clothes, is it too much to hope that she's finally escaped Gilead?

The poster foreshadows June's season 4 journey.

Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

In the evocative season 4 poster, June looks at the camera with her quintessential intense gaze. The red handmaid's uniform she wears is burning off, and is now in the silhouette of a dress. If we had to guess, June is finally leaving behind her time as a handmaid. Somehow, she'll escape Gilead's grasp.

We want more! Are there any season 4 spoilers?

Based on interviews with Miller and Moss, the key word of this season is "freedom"—both the fight for it and the struggle to keep it. Similarly, The Handmaid's Tale was freer to explore new settings, like Chicago, the center of an uprising in Gilead.

Miller said that June's storyline this season "couldn't be more different" than past years. “June is going into a very interesting world. She's on the run, she's got women with her who she feels responsible for,” Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "June has a taste of freedom now, and we're going to follow her."

No, season 4 won't be the show's last season.

The Handmaid's Tale has already been renewed through season 5. Speaking to The Wrap, creator Miller said he saw no end in sight. "As long as [Moss] will do this with me, I’ll keep going," he said. Even after The Handmaid's Tale concludes, there will be more Handmaid's Tale. Miller will adapt The Testaments, Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, for Hulu.

Photo credit: Hulu
Photo credit: Hulu

Who will be in the cast?

Hulu has confirmed that regulars Moss, Dowd, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Amanda Brugel, and Bradley Whitford are all returning, so praised be. And Sam Jaeger, who plays U.S representative Mark Tuello, will become a series regular.

The latest addition is 14-year-old Mckenna Grace, according to Deadline. She's set to play a "confident" and "rebellious" teenaged bride of a Commander who's much older than her.

Where did season 3 of The Handmaid's Tale leave off?

Blessed be the spoilers ahead—because they are coming. Season 3 kicked off with June remaining in Gilead for the sake of her daughter Hannah, taking up a new posting at Commander Lawrence’s house, and leading a rebellion of Marthas.

Meanwhile, fellow handmaid Emily, played by Alexis Bledel, found refuge in Canada with June’s newborn baby, Nichole. She also finally reunited with her wife and son, but is clearly suffering from PTSD. Also, Aunt Lydia revealed it’ll take more than being stabbed and thrown down a flight of stairs to get rid of her.

Fast-forward to the finale episode "Mayday," and June successfully smuggled a group of children and Marthas out of Gilead to Canada via an actual plane. But of course, though she was given another opportunity to flee, June chose to stay behind and continue to fight in the rebellion. But not before getting shot. Her fate—and the children's—is what we'll see unfold in season 4.

"She's not going to leave without Hannah," creator Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "As far as Gilead is concerned, those children are legally under their law. They're in someone else's family, they have parents. From their point of view, you've just taken adopted children and flown them out of the country, and some of them aren't from people out of the country... So, I think that Gilead, from their point of view, under their set of codes, is going to be ready to go to war over this."

But in what was perhaps last year's most satisfying storyline, after betraying Waterford to the Americans, resulting in his arrest, Serena Joy assumed she'd been granted immunity by the United States. She thought agent Mark Tuello was an ally and would reunite her with baby Nichole, he arrested her on charges of crimes against humanity, sexual slavery, and rape. It was a just end for two terrible people, so their future is of particular interest to fans.

Lastly, who, what, and where on Earth is Nick? The last time we saw him was season 3, episode 6 when it was revealed that June's sulky baby daddy was a Gilead war general. But that was about it. Seeing as he and June were so deeply in love and he attempted to free her on multiple occasions, we can't help but think that won't be the last we see of him. And can we get his backstory already? Season 4 can't come soon enough.

Photo credit: Jasper Savage
Photo credit: Jasper Savage

You Might Also Like