The Hulu series "The Handmaid's Tale" has long left behind its source material, a 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood.
Now in its fifth season, "The Handmaid's Tale" explores ever-horrific corners of the Old Testament-inspired society that Atwood laid out in her classic novel.
June (Elisabeth Moss) begins the series as Offred, a "handmaid" for a high-ranking couple, Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), the architects for Gilead. In a world where fertility is dwindling, June is expected to bear their child.
Come Season Five, June is a revolutionary, public figure who gave voice to the injustices of Gilead by testifying in Canada.
Here's what you need to know about the future of the series, especially after that shocking finale in which June got a tiny bit of the revenge she's after.
Season 5 of 'The Handmaid's Tale' has a release date at last
Hulu revealed that the show would premiere on September 14, 2022. Based on past seasons' rollouts, Hulu is likely to release a batch of two or three episodes before moving over to a weekly basis.
The series was renewed for a fifth season in December 2020, accompanied by a video featuring all the (remaining) cast members.
First-look photos set the mood for the season
Along with the release date announcement, Hulu unveiled first-look photos from Season Five.
Serena appears to be wearing mourning attire. Her husband, Fred, was killed in an unsanctioned execution in the Season Four finale, orchestrated by June and carried out by other former Gilead women. Serena is pregnant with a son.
June is seen giving another one of her signature steely glares, signaling that her work to dismantle Gilead is far from over.
Remind me: What happened in Season 4?
Season Four begins with a heroic mission: June and other maids attempting to smuggle children out of Gilead. A few of the gruesome highlights from her storyline.
- June and a group of handmaids successfully smuggle 86 children out of Gilead. Now fugitives, they take refuge in a Commanders' home, and meet his teenage wife, Esther Keyes (Mckenna Grace). After her arrest, Esther becomes a handmaid.
- June is captured, taken to prison and tortured. As part of the torture, Hannah (Jordana Blake), June's daughter, is imprisoned and held in a glass cage. June realizes Hannah has no idea who she is.
- Released from prison, June and other handmaids get into a van heading to a "breeding colony." They escape by holding Lydia down, but only June and Janine make it out alive. They board a freight train to Chicago, the frontlines of a war.
- After a bombing in Chicago, June is rescued by an international worker — who happens to be Moira. She is then brought to Canada, where she's reunited with her husband and other daughter, Nichole.
- Serena discovers she’s pregnant and, as a result, wants to form a united front with Fred, both of whom are in Canada. Creator Bruce Miller confirmed that Fred is the father in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
- In Canada, June testifies against Fred and Serena Waterford.
- Fred realizes he can't return to Gilead safely and agrees to share the international community secrets about Gilead in exchange for immunity.
- But Fred doesn't get to stay in Canada. Commander Lawrence and U.S agent Mark Tuello make a deal: They'll exchange Fred Waterford for 22 women captured for the resistance.
- After pulling some strings, June arranges for Fred to be brought to No Man's Land instead of Gilead. There, he is greeted by June and members from her Canadian post-Gilead support group. June tells Fred, "Run." He gets to experience the horrors of what the women experienced during a particicutions and is killed.
- Serena is sent Fred's severed finger with a wedding ring in the mail.
As for Season 5 spoilers? The show's creator gave a clue
Miller told Entertainment Weekly that Season 5 is like 'Sophie's Choice: The Series'" for June, "in that you’re moving on with someone who’s made these terrible choices."
"Can we snap back to normal, or do we have to move on into something new? And that’s where June is right now. She’s done this terrible thing, or what she feels like is irredeemable. Can she snap back?" Miller told EW.
Miller also teased further tension between Serena and June (no surprise there), due to Fred's death.
"I think that Gilead doesn’t give a crap (about Fred's death), but I think that Serena is the one you really have to worry about, or the one I am worried about. Because Serena, although she has mixed feelings about Fred, and certainly the death of your abuser is a complicated emotional thing I imagine, she also does not like to lose," Miller said.
According to Miller, Serena feels as though June is "coming into her house" and has "poked" Serena. He says, "It's gonna be very interesting to see how she decides to come back."
Most of the cast will return, but not Alexis Bledel
Expect some cast change-ups. In May, Alexis Bledel, who has played Emily since Season One, announced she would not return to the series.
“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ at this time. I am forever grateful to Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support," Bledel said in a statement, per Variety.
But the rest of the show's main characters will return. Elisabeth Moss comes back as June, Samira Wiley as June's best friend, Moira, O-T Fagbenle as June's husband, Luke, and Yvonne Strahovski as Serena, who is pregnant.
Other cast members include:
- Max Minghella as Commander Nick Blaine. Nick is the Waterfords' former driver and the father of June's daughter, who is still in Gilead.
- Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, in charge of the handmaids.
- Madeline Brewer as Janine Lindo, a handmaid.
- Bradley Whitford as Commander Joseph Lawrence.
- Amanda Brugel as Rita Blue, who had worked as a Martha for the Waterfords and now lives in Canada.
- Sam Jaeger as Mark Tuello, U.S. government official in Canada working with June and the Waterfords.
Though Fred died on screen, Miller said he would return in flashback form. "I think we’ll see Fred again," Miller mentioned during his interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Christine Ko was tapped to join the cast as a former Martha named Lily, who is now part of the Canada-based resistance movement, per the Hollywood Reporter.