‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4: Does Rita Miss Gilead?

Rita is finally free of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, but does she miss her life there? There are moments in the show’s newest season that show Rita is struggling to acclimate to life in Canada. In a recent interview, actor Amanda Brugel explains why Rita is experiencing some homesick feelings, even though she has no love for the country that kept her as “property.”

[The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 spoilers ahead.]

Amanda Brugel in a purple dress looks concerned as Rita in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4 Episode 2, 'Nightshade'
Amanda Brugel as Rita in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Episode 2, ‘Nightshade’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Who plays Rita in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

Rita Blue is a former Martha who was assigned to Serena Joy and Fred Waterford’s home. Although they didn’t bond for a while, Rita was integral in helping June get Nichole out of Gilead in season 2. Fans thought she could be a spy for the United States, but that theory was debunked. Rita, just like most of the women in Gilead, was forced into her position.

The character is played by Brugal, who has a long list of credits on her resume. She plays Pastor Nina Gomez in Kim’s Convenience, Eugenia in Snowpiercer, Faith Hanlon in Dare Me, Sonia in Workin’ Moms, Marci Coates in Orphan Black, and more.

Her portrayal of Rita is quietly strong, and Brugel told Elle people mistakenly underestimate her “all the time” because of this. She said:

“She’s sort of done that to herself. The character is so quiet and stoic because she’s purposely made choices to not be noticed, to be smaller, to be muted so she doesn’t get in trouble and isn’t on anyone’s radar. I find those people are usually the strongest and usually the survivors because they’re the most cunning.”

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Rita misses ‘the strange home dynamic’ of Gilead

In season 4, Rita has been granted asylum in Canada after escaping in June’s Mayday plan. The “Angels Flight” mission successfully got 86 children out of Gilead. Now, after years under Gilead’s oppressive thumb, Rita is free and able to make her own choices. Fans might be confused by some of them, because they make it seem like she misses the place that oppressed her. But as this show has argued through all four seasons, trauma is complicated.

As Brugel said:

“I think Rita is grateful to be free and in Canada. But I truly believed, or at least I played it like that this season, that she missed Gilead. She misses the routine and the structure and the strange home dynamic that was in the Waterford house. Suddenly she’s in Canada and has no family. She’s by herself and has no purpose every day.”

To give herself a sense of that routine, Rita bakes bread from scratch in her apartment, a task she had to complete frequently in the Waterford home. She also has a shockingly positive meeting with Serena Joy in her prison cell. But don’t mistake her joy over Serena’s baby news as friendship.

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Amanda Brugel thinks Rita should raise Serena Joy’s baby

Serena unsurprisingly asks Rita to work for her again by helping her raise her son. Of course, Serena sees it as friendship, because why would someone who willingly owned people harbor an ounce of self-awareness? Rita shuts down a bit in response. As Brugel told the outlet:

“I think she was reminded of her old life, something she was used to, and she fell back into that dynamic. When Serena starts talking about [how] her and Rita had been friends, I think Rita quickly realizes Serena is weaving her web again. For the first time ever, she had the freedom to say, ‘No, thank you.’ She was drawn in and wanted to see something familiar, but by the end was like, ‘Oh no, you’re up to your old tricks, I’m out.‘”

After seeing Serena Joy, Rita turned on her (as she should!) and told Fred the baby news. Fred had the audacity to call Rita in a friend in their meeting, to which she responds, “We aren’t friends.” Brugel said she wishes Rita could have told Fred off more in that moment, but that would be uncharacteristic of her. She said:

“I was shocked that she would do this, or that the writers gave me this gold to release upon Fred. But I really wanted to make sure it was handled in a Rita-like fashion. I think a lot of audience members want her to pop off or start screaming, and that’s just not who she is. She asserts herself with strength and gravitas but also grace. In the end, she still betrays Serena and lets Fred know he’s having a baby, but she does it with grace.”

Brugel also shared her hopes for season 5. In her ideal world, Serena Joy’s baby will be taken from her, just like Gilead took the children of so many. And she wants the baby to be put in Rita’s care.

“That would give Rita purpose,” she said. “It would give her a child back that was taken from her. Also, I would totally take the baby to go and visit its mom in jail.”