‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Margaret Atwood Wants June to Go Underground in Season 5

The fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale concluded on June 16, 2021. The Hulu series is already renewed for a fifth season, and like past seasons, season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale ended with a huge cliffhanger. In a segment with Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC, Margaret Atwood, the author of the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, discussed the future of the show with Bruce Miller, the series’ showrunner, and Warren Littlefield, an executive producer on the show.

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 10 of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.]

June and Janine touch foreheads in front of train tracks in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss and Madeline Brewer in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Hulu

How did season 4 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ end?

In season 4 episode 10 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Wilderness,” June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) decides she cannot let Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) walk free after all of the trauma he caused her and others in Gilead. She works with Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) and Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) to have Fred see justice.

Commander Lawrence meets with June and Mark at an abandoned dinner. During their meeting, he offers to set up a prisoner exchange between Gilead and the remaining U.S. government. In exchange for Fred, Gilead will hand over 22 women who are active resistance members.

Mark takes Commander Lawrence up on the deal, and he returns Fred to Commander Lawrence. Before Fred can be tried for his crimes, June’s lover, Commander Nick Blaine (Max Minghella), has the Eyes, Gilead’s secret police force, take Fred into custody.

Nick brings Fred to the middle of the woods in “no man’s land,” and he leaves Fred with June. Together, June and a group of former Handmaids murder Fred. The episode ends with June saying goodbye to her and Nick’s young daughter Nichole, and she tells her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) she will leave in a few minutes.

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The season 4 finale of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ sets up ‘The Testaments’

In 2019, Atwood published a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale titled The Testaments. The 2019 novel takes place 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ends. While June does not physically appear in The Testaments until the end of the story, the novel does reveal that June is working as an underground resistance fighter against Gilead.

With June killing Fred in the season 4 finale of the Hulu series, the character takes the steps needed to become who June is in The Testaments. When Fred’s death was brought up during the Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC panel with The Handmaid’s Tale creators, Atwood shared her desire for June to go underground soon in the Hulu series.

“But having done that, it has to have had an effect on her,” Atwood said. “And we do see the beginning of that effect, and I expect that you will explore that in the next season. Like what has she become, number one? Number two, what sort of a target is on her now?”

Atwood added, “So I expect she’s going to have to go into deep cover.”

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Margaret Atwood thinks ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ should focus on ‘vengeance’

After June made the choice to murder Fred, the show has the ability to go in multiple directions. Going forward, Atwood hopes the show focuses on the consequences of “vengeance.”

“It brings up the question of vengeance, which I expect that you will explore that further as time goes on,” Atwood told Miller during the Variety Streaming Room panel. “And does vengeance, does getting vengeance… does it improve your life?”

Miller answered that he plans to leave that question on viewers’ minds until the series comes to an end.