The Handmaid’s Tale delivered its most exciting season yet with season 4. The epic finale aired June 16 on Hulu, and it’s now nominated for Outstanding Direction of a Drama Series at the 2021 Emmys. Liz Garbus directed The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10, “The Wilderness.” And leading up to the Emmys on Sept. 19, she broke down the directions she have Elisabeth Moss in June and Fred’s final scenes, revealing which one was the most important piece of the episode.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10, “The Wilderness.”]
What happened at the end of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Episode 10?
The Handmaid’s Tale killed off a main character for the first time in the show’s four seasons in the finale. And fans were delighted it was Fred Waterford.
Since arriving in Canada, June struggled to acclimatize. She couldn’t reconcile Gilead June with Canada June. To really figure out how she could move forward, June visited Fred in prison. She knew that how Fred acted during that visit would determine her path. And Fred ruined any chance of survival he had by apologizing for his crimes. Fred said he finally understood the pain parents went through when Gilead stole their children now that he was going to be a father. Setting aside his complete erasure of his “adoption” of Nichole in this moment, Fred recognizing the horror of his actions is what solidified June’s decision. She was going to get her just desserts.
And boy, did she. June, Emily, and other Gileadean refugees killed Fred in a brutal salvaging at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10. And then, June hung him on a wall, like she promised she would.
Behind the scenes of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Episode 10
Fred’s death in The Handmaid’s Tale is truly one of the best scenes in the show’s history. But it couldn’t have happened without the prison scene and Garbus’ direction. For the first time, June had all the power. And she was milking it for all it was worth.
“To me that scene is the set piece of the episode,” Garbus told Gold Derby. “I think June walks in there wanting to convince herself to keep that pot on a simmer and enter life as a normal Canadian mother.”
When directing Elisabeth Moss through this scene, Garbus told her “to inhabit that space, to walk around, to touch all his things.” This was to “diminish his [Fred’s] sense of privacy and ownership the way he had done to her.” June was “circling her prey,” Garbus noted.
And while the salvaging was June’s brutal form of revenge, this power play she makes in the prison cell was part of the revenge too. To make that clear, Garbus drew parallels to The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Episode 1, “Ofred.” Fred’s control of June, in particular. Garbus said:
“She is that still person the way that you know that Fred had to be in his cell. She is that person who cannot move, who has this vulture on her, possessing all of her body and all of her things, and she cannot do anything. So, this is the flip side of that, and this is her owning him, controlling him and making him helpless in a very intimate way.”
Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes loved filming their final scenes together
Moss opened up about the scene and working with Garbus in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. And she said the set, paired with Garbus’ direction, made filming it feel like a play. She said:
“That scene was actually very experimental. The walking around the room really freed me up because I was able to just play. All of that stuff — the picking up of the Bible and the cigar, when I decided to sit and the position I took on the couch — all of that was very improvised.”
Fiennes elaborated on the prey and predator dynamic to Vanity Fair. He said:
“It’s a complex one — victim and predator. And I think there’s a part where Fred does seek forgiveness, and thinks he gets it. At the same time, we’ve got to do a scene where June feels justified to do what she ends up doing. It was a delicate walk to have someone cognizant of the horror he’s inflicted, wanting forgiveness and being remorseful. But at the same time, there was a sense that he would do it again if given the chance.”
Whatever consequences June faces for killing Fred in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Garbus says The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10 is the “bookend to an amazing, tragic struggle for June.”