Here’s everything we know so far about the next season of The Handmaid’s Tale…
The Handmaid’s Tale is, let’s face it, one of the darkest shows on TV. Maybe even the darkest. Still, though, we are utterly obsessed with Hulu and Channel 4’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, which primarily takes place in Gilead, a near-future version of North America in which the Constitution has been overthrown and women’s rights and identities have been stripped away.
The fourth season, of course, shook things up in a big way, as our eponymous Handmaid, June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss), was finally able to escape across the border into the relative safety of Canada.
There, she reunited with her husband, Luke (OT Fagbenle), as well as her friends and fellow escapees, Moira (Samira Wiley), Emily (Alexis Bledel), and Rita (Amanda Brugel). She was able to hold her baby daughter, Nichole – born from a loving encounter with her erstwhile boyfriend, Nick (Max Minghella) – in her arms for the first time in months. She was able to speak out against Fred and Serena Waterford (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski), reveal the truth about Gilead’s cruel regime, and lift her voice in support of all those Handmaids still subjected to a life of sexual slavery and enforced surrogacy.
And then… well, then she messed it all up, quite frankly. Because – spoilers – she gave in to her need for revenge and brutally murdered the aforementioned Commander Waterford via a hastily organised particicution.
As such, the fourth season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale left viewers on one hell of a cliffhanger; what on earth is June going to do now? Will she be forced to flee the safety of Canada and return to Gilead? Will she remain on Canadian soil and face whatever punishment they deem suitable? And will Luke ever be able to forgive her for throwing away their second chance at happiness?
Thankfully, it seems we don’t have all that long to wait to find out, as both Moss and showrunner Bruce Miller have confirmed that a fifth season is already in the works – and they’ve promised viewers a “wild ride”.
Here’s what we know so far.
What is the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5?
We don’t have too many plot specifics to hand at this point, although Miller has described the show’s fifth season as being Sophie’s Choice: The Series.
“I think moving forward, there’s really a couple of things. It’s the American story – can we snap back to normal, or do we have to move on into something new? And that’s where June is right now,” he explained to Entertainment Weekly.
“She’s done this terrible thing, or what she feels like is irredeemable. Can she snap back? Or does she have to decide that sometimes you not only have to sacrifice part of your life, but you have to sacrifice your whole life to making the world better for the next generation?”
“And I think it isn’t just changing presidents,” Miller continued. “It isn’t just passing one law, like what we’re realising now, but some fights are just a fight you continue to have, a struggle you’ll continue to make.
“The story moving forward is about the long fight, and how do you keep up energy, enthusiasm, sanity, all of those things, while you’re trying to fight for something that you may never see the end of, or you may never see the good from it? It may all be just for your children or your children’s children. How do you keep those fights worthy? So I think that for June, it’s the integration of June the warrior and Offred the warrior, into June the mother and Offred the mother.”
Who will return for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5?
While Gilead is an incredibly dangerous place, it seems safe to assume that the show’s major players will all return in one form or another.
This means that we can expect to see:
- Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne
- Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
- Alexis Bledel as Emily
- Madeline Brewer as Janine
- Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
- OT Fagbenle as Luke
- Max Minghella as Nick
- Samira Wiley as Moira
- Bradley Whitford as Commander Lawrence
- Amanda Brugel as Rita
- Mckenna Grace as Esther Keyes
- Jordana Blake as Hannah
It’s also worth noting that, while Fred Waterford is 100% dead as a dodo, Miller has already hinted that Fiennes will be back in some capacity for the show’s fifth season.
“The character dying doesn’t mean Joe stops coming and being part of the cast,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “We do have quite a heavy flashback show.”
Miller also laid out his vision for these flashback scenes, noting that “the stories of Serena and Fred that we haven’t seen before, even in early Gilead, are fascinating.”
Will The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 be the final chapter?
Speaking at Deadline’s Contenders TV virtual event, Miller admitted that he is “never looking to end” the show, noting that he is lucky enough to “work with a group of very undifficult people; we have a lovely group of writers, a spectacular group of actors and visiting directors and our crew.”
However, he continued: “I don’t know how you felt about the pandemic, but I certainly learned the things of my life that are pretty rare and working with these people is one of them. So, honestly, yes, I know what the end is and I’m not going to overstay my welcome but I’m also not going to rush off if I don’t have to.
“As long as I am writing for Elisabeth Moss, you know, it really doesn’t get much better.”
Moss, meanwhile, has said that she will continue on in her role as June and take it “season by season” but warned it couldn’t go one forever.
“I think that this show is about this one woman’s journey,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
“This show is about a woman creating a better future for the next generation and, specifically, for her own children. And that’s the only thing that I’m thinking about and focusing on in season five right now, without knowing all the details.
“It has been about her daughters and it will always be about her daughters.”
How will The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 tie into The Testaments?
Now, we know that The Testaments – Atwood’s award-winning sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale – is getting its own TV series, which means the two shows can’t overlap too much. However, this does mean that Miller and co are working towards the ending envisaged by the author herself.
We’re dipping into spoiler territory for those who have yet to read the sequel, of course, but it’s worth remembering that it shows us a very different side to Aunt Lydia. Indeed, it turns out that she is a source for Mayday in Canada, smuggling damaging information out of the country in order to bring about Gilead’s destruction.
Will we see this side of her in The Handmaid’s Tale TV series, we wonder? After all, we’ve seen her stand up to Gilead on a number of occasions in the fourth season – and show her softer side to Janine, too. And she, too, has access to June’s daughter, Hannah, who we know is training to become an Aunt herself in The Testaments’ narrative.
Could it be that one of the show’s biggest villains winds up becoming one of its most complex anti-heroes yet?
When can we expect to see The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 on our TV screens?
We had a longer wait than usual for season four due to Covid-induced filming restrictions, but, all being well, that shouldn’t be a problem this time around.
With that in mind, then, we’re predicting that the series will drop at some point in the summer or autumn of 2022.
Images: Hulu/Channel 4
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
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