With each passing year, a dystopian show about the threat to women's reproductive rights continues to be eerily relevant. That means a fourth season of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, originally adapted from Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, is on its way. The Emmy-nominated series will arrive with after a delay—and with a slightly abbreviated season—in 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming on the new season was halted back in March. But, according to Deadline, production has resumed on a new 10-episode installment (down from its typical 13). Showrunner Bruce Miller assured IndieWire that the decision to shorten the season “was 100 percent creative," adding, "Some storylines just seem to shake out as a 10-episode story, in my eyes. It gives us a little more freedom because you can rely more on one propulsive element."
The last viewers saw of Elizabeth Moss' June, she was in the fight of her life to transport dozens of children from volatile Gilead to safe haven in Canada. Ahead, everything we know about where the next season picks up, and which new cast member is joining the fold.
The first trailer teases rebellion within Gilead.
The first footage of The Handmaid's Tale season 4 emerged in June, compiled with a few weeks of filming and shots from previous seasons. In it, the promise of war between the government and those who seek to overthrow it looms. "I can't rest. My daughter deserves better. We all deserve better. Change never comes easy," June says during the teaser. "This war isn't going to win itself." Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) similarly predicts, "What happens in the next few weeks will determine the future of this country."
Miller spoke to this brewing revolution during a post-season 3 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "She's not going to leave without Hannah," he said of June's iron-clad motivation. He also addressed the severity of her actions at the end of the season: "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."
The season 3 finale ended with an escape to Canada.
June's journey in season 3 was driven by her desire to locate and care for her daughter Hannah. That goal ultimately led her to helping a group of Gilead's children and Marthas escape the regime for refuge in Canada. But in the process of fleeing, June killed Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) and was shot herself. Badly wounded, she was escorted back into Gilead's clutches by a few of her fellow handmaids.
For those dismayed that June wasn't able to escape Gilead at the end of the season, showrunner Miller says that's never been in the cards. "Everything June's been told was impossible is still very possible and she's just proven that again by doing this thing that is hitting Gilead exactly where they hurt," he told THR. "I don't think she has much hope that she's going to get out alive. I think she's more there to fuck up Gilead."
Meanwhile, Alexis Bledel's former handmaid Emily made it to Canada with June's new daughter, Nichole. Although she reunited with her wife and son, she still experienced aftershocks from her time in Gilead. Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) also faced unforeseen obstacles at the end of the season. After convincing her husband, Fred Waterford, (Joseph Fiennes) to head to Canada, where he would be charged for war crimes, she ended up under arrest herself. Serena also found out Nichole's father is not Fred, but June's lover, Nick (Max Minghella). Nick's whereabouts are also in flux after his last appearance in episode 6 of season 3.
Moss will direct a season 4 episode.
While much of the season is still shrouded in mystery, it's been confirmed that series star Moss will make her directorial debut. She'll helm the third episode, at least part of which was shot prior to the shutdown, per Moss' Instagram.
Dream come true ❤️ thank you for this incredible opportunity and for every partner that is by my side @dainajreid @stuartdop @handmaidsonhulu PS thank you @meredithbugden for this slate 😘 #handmaidstale
A post shared by Elisabeth Moss (@elisabethmossofficial) on Mar 7, 2020 at 8:45pm PST
"I am thrilled to be given this opportunity by my partners Bruce [Miller] and Warren [Littlefield] and to have the support of all of our producers and Hulu/MGM," Moss said in a statement, via The Hollywood Reporter. "It means so much to me and I do not take the responsibility lightly. Leading and executive producing this show the past three years has been such a joy and I’ve had the incredible gift of learning so much from the directors we’ve had on this show. I can’t wait to try my hand at working with my collaborators from this new perspective because I am lucky to have the best cast and crew in the world. My only hurdle may be working with the lead actress who I hear can be incredibly demanding. Wish me luck."
Season 4 will welcome at least one new cast member.
Several cast members have been confirmed to return for season 4. They include Moss, Bledel, Fiennes, Strahovski, Minghella, Whitford, Samira Wiley as Moira, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, O-T Fagbenle as Luke, Madeline Brewer as Janine, and Amanda Brugel as Rita. After playing a pivotal role in the season 3 finale as American representative Mark Tuello, Sam Jaeger (The Politician, Parenthood) will be a series regular this season.
Mckenna Grace (The Haunting of Hill House, Gifted) has also joined the cast, Deadline reports. She'll play Mrs. Keyes, the much-younger wife of a Commander, who "rules her farm and household with confidence," per the outlet. Keyes is also described as having a "subversive streak" and ability to put on a calm front while chaos reigns inside.
The next season will premiere in 2021.
The Handmaid's Tale was one of many shows impacted by COVID-19. Production on the fourth season was halted after about two weeks of filming in March. Variety reported in the months afterwards that season 4 would not premiere in fall 2020, as originally planned, but instead in 2021.
"Human life is not worth making a TV show for," Moss told Collider of the schedule shift, adding, "Everyone wants to go back to work because we love what we do, and there’s also people that need to support their families and themselves. The producers contributed to a fund for our crew, that is out of our own pockets and has nothing to do with our larger corporation. We put a lot of money into it, and we’ve been keeping our crew going through that and supporting them being out of work. But we’ve gotta do it safely, and we’re just trying to figure that out. It’s all new territory, and we’re all in the same boat here."
Sources told Deadline in mid-September that filming on the fourth season resumed two weeks ago in Toronto.
Hey guys:) we shut down production of season 4 in order to preserve the health and safety of our cast and crew and join the world in an attempt to flatten the curve. This show is my life and this cast and crew is my family. Nothing is more important than making sure they and everyone around them is safe. We hope to be back in production as soon as it’s safe to do so. In the meantime stay safe and healthy and take care of yourselves. So much love from our family to yours ❤️💃🏼❤️
A post shared by Elisabeth Moss (@elisabethmossofficial) on Mar 15, 2020 at 9:00pm PDT
Season 4 won't be the last.
While the fourth season has seen some delays due to the pandemic, even more Handmaid's Tale is on the way. The show could even have a spinoff at some point, inspired by the publishing of Atwood's 2019 sequel, The Testaments. (Hulu has already secured the rights to the novel.)
“We have not planned Season 4 to be the end, but we also look to Margaret [Atwood]’s book The Testaments and know that that story takes us 15 years into the future,” Executive Producer Warren Littlefield told TV Guide. “We don’t see ending it in [Season 4], and I can honestly say to you, we don’t have a definitive out. But I think we want to keep the bar high, and it would not be a bad thing to leave the audience wanting more and then we could ideally shift into The Testaments.”
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