‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Storyline May Have Been Completely Different if It Weren’t for COVID

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 is in full swing and already throwing fans for a loop. While the storyline is riveting and keeping fans on the edge of their seats week after week, it’s not exactly what was planned for season 4. In fact, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a massive impact on what we see on the screen week after week. So, how would The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 have been different if it weren’t for COVID?

Elisabeth Moss as June and Madeline Brewer as Janine in season 4 of 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss and Madeline Brewer in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ cast members got less screen time

Though the storyline mostly focuses on June and her journey from normal woman to handmaid to rebel leader, fans have also gotten invested in the storylines of some of the other characters as well. Unfortunately, due to COVID, some of the other storylines didn’t get to be quite as fleshed out this season as showrunner Bruce Miller would have wanted.

“But it’s always heartbreaking not to be able to focus on other peoples’ stories,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “That is my difficulty. I have such respect for all of those actors. I love them and like watching them work. But, the show is called The Handmaid’s Tale and we do focus on June. This season, because of travel and COVID, it affected our ability to be able to bring people in to do little bits. We had planned longer, more complicated stories that we actually just couldn’t do. For Moira (Samira Wiley) and for Emily (Alexis Bledel), for example, it just came down to a function of math.”

Even though these characters didn’t get quite as much screen time this season, it doesn’t mean they won’t in Handmaid’s Tale Season 5.

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“But having this ensemble of very, very good actors is one of the strongest things about the show,” Miller continued. “So, whether or not we focus here or there for a little, as long as they’re in June’s orbit and within her sight, that is going to be the show. I don’t intend to shrink it down.”

Some things had to change in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4

Some things about the storylines had to change simply because of the COVID rules and regulations.

“Some of them were quite huge,” Miller said of the changes that had to happen. “All of them were prompted by COVID; none of them were prompted by a psychological revisiting of scripts based on new ideas. We stuck as much as we could to the original plan. Most of our changes were for safety reasons; smaller groups of extras, smaller crew. All of that stuff. And also, the hours that we shot.”

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But the one thing that the pandemic did gift the writers of the show with was time to flesh out some storylines and dialogue that we may not have gotten without the shutdown.

“I did a ton of writing and rewriting during the pandemic and I wrote differently. My day was very different. The amount of time I could devote to certain scenes was different because I wasn’t on the set all day long. I looked at storytelling differently and that has to show up in the material. And, all of us did. The staff worked very hard writing over the break and I think it did appear in everybody’s work in different ways. I was more comfortable with long scenes of people talking, because my life was full of long scenes with me talking to people. I wasn’t as focused on keeping the pace snappy, because I was a little more languid in my life. That mood pushes its way into your writing.

Brian Miller

Due to the pandemic, Miller was actually only physically on set for one day of production. But despite the hoops and obstacles that the cast and crew had to get through, June’s story still prevailed and is resonating with fans of the show every Wednesday.