When The Handmaid’s Tale returns, June will deal with the ramifications of the hit she made in the season four finale.
The ending had left the fate of Elisabeth Moss’ lead character up in the air, and showrunner Bruce Miller and Moss discussed the intentional ambiguity and the possibilities open for season five. Would June (Moss) stay and risk her freedom, would she run away after what she did, or would she go back to Gilead to fight? After leaving viewers rudderless, The Handmaid’s Tale seems to be indicating where June is headed when Hulu’s hit dystopian drama begins. The show returns with two episodes on September 14, followed by a weekly release.
After June led a group of Handmaidens in the assassination of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) in the epic season four finale, the season five trailer pits the Handmaiden-turned-leader of the rebellion against her former abuser. Alive, Serena. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovsky). Although at times throughout the Gilead-set series they have had their moments of alliance, the trailer reveals that the two women at the center of the series will now be firmly on opposite 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 totalitarian society. Now that June has publicly escaped and is reunited with her husband Luke (OT Fagbenle), her activist friend Moira (Samira Wiley) and their youngest daughter Nichole, she finds herself torn between her family and those pushing her back to Gilead: her lover and Nichole’s father, Major Nick (Max Minghella), and her main motive for seeking justice, eldest daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake), who remains captive.
“I killed him and I loved it,” June confesses to Luke about her former commander, while sharing information about her next move. Of Serena, she adds, “I need him to know it was me.” The trailer shows both women facing each other in a kind of dance; when one woman goes hunting, the other backs away in fear, fully aware of what her enemy 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 maid who kills her commanding officer, I don’t think they can leave it like that.” Ultimately, it appears that June, teaming up with Luke, plans to return to Gilead to finish what she started.
The official synopsis for the fifth season reads: “June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford as she struggles to redefine her identity and purpose. Widow Serena tries to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he attempts to reform Gilead and rise to power. June, Luke, and Moira battle Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.”
To refresh us, the season four finale sparked a long-awaited moment of catharsis when June orchestrated the murder of Commander Waterford and, with the help of her fellow refugee Handmaids, put it on the wall; Fred’s headless body hanging over the show’s familiar catchphrase: “Nolite te bastardes carburondorum.” The final scene saw June, her face bloodied, cradling Nichole and saying to Luke, with whom she had recently met, and finally, “I’m sorry. Just give me five minutes with her and then I’ll go.
The ending, which was released in June 2021, was intentionally open-ended, as Miller, at the time, hadn’t yet planned the next June move.
You’re five minutes away from a reckoning. He doesn’t want to think about it or talk about what happened or what this means for five minutes,” Miller said. THR June potentially risking his newfound freedom to advance his war against Gilead. “What the hell is going to happen in five minutes? He can go many 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’s going to happen after that. I don’t know because June doesn’t know. I know how she feels about her now, and that will lead me to the next thing.”
For his part, Moss said that despite June finally escaping and gaining her freedom after four seasons, risking it all by killing Fred was an obvious choice.
“Dramatically, I don’t think it could have been any other way. What’s the show if she doesn’t choose revenge? said the star, director and executive producer THR at the time. “It was very important to me in the second half of the season, and it was a nightmare in terms of pushing to make sure, that we really held on to the trauma. That we were really holding on to who she was after having all those experiences in Gilead, and that it wasn’t going to be rosy and it wasn’t going to be a happy homecoming.”
Moss continued: “June wasn’t going to suddenly get a little therapy and be fine. It couldn’t be like that; that’s not how life works. It was really important to me and I feel like there’s no way June will end up anywhere other than that. She has been changed too much. Her life is this war against Gilead and that is her purpose in life. There is nothing more 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 your daughter is taken away,” he said, before production began on the fifth season. “This show is about a woman creating a better future for the next generation and specifically her own children. She…she has been about her daughters and will always be about her daughters.”
June’s last words in the trailer imply so much: “I pray for our children. I pray that they live a life without all this hate. Dear God, let them do better than us.”
The fifth season of the MGM Television series also stars Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer and Amanda Brugel. It was previously announced that Alexis Bledel would not be returning. the maid‘s Story 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.