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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4: How Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes Created June and Fred’s Prison Scene

Fred's death in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4 was determined by June and Fred's prison scene earlier in the episode. Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes broke down how the scene was made and what their characters were thinking going into it in recent interviews.

June visited Fred in prison in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 finale to get answers. And it was Fred’s apology to June that sealed his fate. Truly, she wanted him to give her a reason to act on her impulses. And, of course, Fred delivered. Their interaction was the pivotal setup for the epic final scenes. And actors Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes explained how the scene was created in recent interviews.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4.]

Joseph Fiennes as Fred Waterford in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4. He sits on a grey couch in a high-end prison cell with floor-to-ceiling windows. He wears a white button-down shirt and black sweater, his arm is on the back of the couch.
Joseph Fiennes as Fred Waterford in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Why did June visit Fred in prison in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4?

June spent The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 finale grappling with the possibility of Fred getting out of prison. She couldn’t stomach the plea deal he was granted, but everyone around her encouraged her to move on. Luke straight up told her to “let it go.” Clearly, easier said than done. June visited Fred looking for answers to her moral dilemma. Does she take justice into her own hands or let the legal system run its course? Moss told Elle June was also having an existential crisis about her identity. She said:

“She’s in a place where she needs to know what to do. She’s choosing between her family and the bureaucracy—staying put, working with the government, fighting the good fight, and doing it probably the right way—and her own revenge. But she’s also going with the question of, ‘Who am I after Gilead?'”

During the scene, Fred has the nerve to say he misses Offred. Surprisingly, June agrees. Moss explained June’s mindset at this moment. She said:

“I think it’s very sincere on June’s part. She misses that person that she was, in a way. That person in Gilead who knew what to do, who knew who the enemy was, and who knew what she had to do about it, which is get her daughter and get out. Now her mission isn’t so clear.”

June and Fred’s prison scene was inspired by survivors of abuse

The apology is what made June decide to kill Fred. And it was inspired by stories from actual survivors of abuse. Liz Garbus directed The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10. And Moss detailed how Garbus used her experience as a documentarian to make the scene realistic. She told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Liz had come from her documentary work from having worked with and spoken to various female survivors, and she talked about how the worst thing that you could hear from an attacker or an abuser was that they were sorry. Because it meant they knew what they were doing. That it would be better if they were totally insane and had no idea. But the fact that they knew what they were doing, and had the conscience or perspective or objectivity to be able to apologize, was like the nail in the f—-ing coffin.”

Moss also said she and Fiennes felt like they were acting in a play when creating the scene. 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. Joe [Fiennes] and I commented on the day that it felt like we were doing a little short play, especially because the blocking felt like the audience was on one side, so it felt like a stage.”

Elisabeth Moss sits on a stoop wearing a light blue scarf and black coat as June in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4.
Elisabeth Moss as June in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5: Showrunner Reveals Serena Joy’s Reaction to Fred’s Demise

Joseph Fiennes says Fred’s apology was genuine, but he hasn’t evolved ‘by any means’

As for Fred, Fiennes told Vanity Fair about his character’s mindset going into the scene.

“I don’t think Fred has become a different person by any means,” he said. “But I think he is forced to take a look at himself through the circumstances he finds himself in, which wouldn’t necessarily have happened if he was in Gilead.”

Fiennes noted Fred was only apologizing because he believed he was getting away scot-free. 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.”

June knew that too. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Fred is now on the wall.