Everything We Know About 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 5

What could possibly be next for June after that shocking Season 4 finale?

the handmaid's tale season 4
Hulu

Hulu's series adaptation of Margaret Atwood's beloved novel The Handmaid's Tale has been one of the most intense dramas on TV ever since it premiered in 2017—but Season 4 ended with what's arguably its most dramatic finale yet. After Moira (Samira Wiley) took June (Elisabeth Moss) across the border into Canada, where she had the opportunity to transition into a safer, somewhat more normal life, June put everything at risk by violently killing her abuser, Commander Fred Waterford (Joe Fiennes). It certainly came as a shock to Fred, since he thought he was going to be escorted back into Gilead, unscathed, after striking a deal to provide information in exchange of being freed of all charges—but he was instead met by a vengeful June, a handful of other handmaids, and their stones. Although, for viewers who have been closely watching June and saw the rage that filled her when Fred offered her an apology—only out of selfishness—his violent death seemed inevitable.

Like all of the decisions June's made thus far, this certainly puts her in a precarious position. It's fair to wonder what's next for the rebel based on the character from Atwood's novel. If you're still reeling from that finale and curious as to where the series is headed next and want to hear what showrunner Bruce Miller has to say about it, we're breaking down everything we know about The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 so far below.

elisabeth moss the handmaid's tale
Elisabeth Moss | Hulu

Will there be a Season 5 of The Handmaid's Tale?

Months before Season 4 came out, Hulu announced the series was renewed for a fifth season in December 2020. It shouldn't come as a surprise, considering its flagship series is not only one of the streaming service's most popular shows, but a major awards contender. Plus, there's definitely a bit more of June's story to tell. Praise be!

When will Season 5 of The Handmaid's Tale be released?

It's hard to say when we'll be headed back to Gilead, but hopefully the wait won't be as long as the two-year gap between Seasons 3 and 4. Considering the show typically premieres in the spring with one year in between seasons (Season 1 premiering in April 2017, Season 2 in April 2018, and Season 3 in June 2019) and the fact that Season 4 only aired when it did in spring 2021 because of how much the pandemic affected its production schedule, it seems possible the show could be back in spring 2022. In June 2021, Deadline reported that Season 5 is already in pre-production and, as of August 2021, the writers are said to be at work, so that timeline definitely seems feasible.

joe fiennes the handmaid's tale
Joe Fiennes | Hulu

Who in the cast will be back?

Season 4 ended with what has maybe been the most shocking (and certainly the most violent) death thus far, with June and a group of handmaids killing Commander Waterford (Joe Fiennes) in the Liz Garbus-directed finale, "The Wilderness." (Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, baby!) If you thought his story was through—or wished you wouldn't be seeing anymore of June's abuser—don't get too excited. He's actually confirmed to be back. Showrunner Bruce Miller told The Hollywood Reporter, "The character dying doesn’t mean Joe [Fiennes] stops coming and being part of the cast. We do have quite a heavy flashback show."

Aside from him, it seems like the rest of the core cast should return. Obviously, The Handmaid's Tale would be nothing without Elisabeth Moss' June Osborne—and Miller has even said that the show will run as long as she's alive—so she'll be back for more. The same goes for her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenie), her adversaries, the now-pregnant Serena Joy (Yvonne Strzechowsk), Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), her allies Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), Nick (Max Minghella), Moira (Samira Whiley), Emily (Alexis Bleidel), Rita (Amanda Brugel), and U.S. Government-in-Exile representative Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger).

The situation in Gilead is of course still culminating, so it seems likely that the series will revisit the characters in the resistance left there. That means probably expect to see more of Season 4 newcomer Esther Keyes, played by McKenna Grace, and Madeline Brewer's Janine, who we now know are working together.

elisabeth moss the handmaid's tale
Elisabeth Moss | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

What will it be about?

Just after June killed Commander Waterford, she visited her daughter Nichole—telling her husband Luke, "Just give me five minutes with her and then I'll go." In that moment, Luke realizes that his wife made the decision to execute revenge over her family, and June is realizing in real-time what she must do and where she must go next. Right now, what and where that is is unclear, but it's certainly where Season 5 is going.

Although nothing is confirmed, Elisabeth Moss speculated to Entertainment Tonight that June is "going to have to be on the run again." That sounds about right, considering she's now a murderer. Of course, there were no witnesses and she's a refugee, but murder is still a heinous crime. Gilead will also probably put two-and-two together, and that would be a major concern for June, should she go back across the border. It definitely seems like that's the route she's going to take next season, considering her daughter Hannah is still over there, as are Janine and Esther. Now she knows exactly where Hannah is, thanks to an ally in Nick, and there's essentially no turning back. Showrunner Bruce Miller told The Hollywood Reporter that "moving forward, that image of Fred is what June sees every time she closes her eyes." So June is definitely forever changed by the incident, but she's also likely going to continue to be absolutely relentless in carving out a better world for her daughters.

Fred's death also greatly affects Serena Joy. Miller said, "It could push Serena to be a very sympathetic figure. It could push her into a rage that is inexplicable; it could push her into a level of freedom." Although she grew to fear and dislike Fred, now that she's pregnant, we can't imagine she would be too pleased with what June did (and that finger she got in the mail). Plus, that's not to mention June may still want enact even more revenge on Serena herself.

On a larger scale, that shocking death has major repercussions. The showrunner also mentioned that Fred's killing has the possibility to be an incredibly symbolic moment for the uprising in Gilead, which could finally push things over the edge on both sides. Elisabeth Moss similarly said June is committed to bringing "the whole system down" in order to create a better future for her daughters, so expect to increasingly see the nation and its politics' demise going forward.

Will Season 5 be the last season of The Handmaid's Tale?

As much as Hulu might like their biggest awards contender to continue raking in the acclaim—Season 4 having a whopping 21 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series—shows can't last forever (especially particularly bleak ones that can be tough to watch). In August 2021, Deadline reported that the writers behind the series and Hulu are in talks of whether they want to make Season 5 the final season or not. Jordan Helmen, the Head of Scripted Originals at Hulu, said the streaming service is currently "in constant communication" with the showrunners because of how important it is to everyone involved that they "close out [The Handmaid's Tale] in creative fashion that feels organic."

Later in the month, Bruce Miller also told Deadline where his head's at in terms of ending the series. He explained that he's "never looking to end it" or "rush off if [he] has to," but the pandemic put things into perspective and he does know how the show will inevitably end. That being said, a decision regarding when the show is officially wrapping up should come in the next couple months.

That doesn't mean fans won't ever return to The Handmaid's Tale's universe, though. The sequel The Testaments, which is set 15 years after the events of Handmaid's, is still in the works to become another Hulu series. It's actually in part because of that show that Hulu is considering ending the original soon. Helmen told Deadline, "The birth of The Testaments on Hulu and the eventual end of The Handmaid's Tale are related." So, regardless, there's plenty more Margaret Atwood adaptations to look forward to.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment editorial assistant at Thrillist. She's on Twitter at @mssadiebell.