The Handmaid’s Tale finale has left fans eager for season 5 with the most explosive series end yet

The Handmaid’s Tale finale has been described as ‘the most satisfying’ ending by one major star

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

The Handmaid’s Tale finale had everything fans were hoping for and more, but where did we leave June ahead of season 5 and what’s been said about *that* shocking ending?

The Handmaid’s Tale finale was packed full of all the drama, devastation and determination we’ve come to expect from the hit Hulu show. Ever since the new The Handmaid’s Tale trailer dropped, we knew our favorite protagonist June Osborne, aka Offred, was in for a particularly explosive ride in season 4. And it certainly disappoint! All those viewers who'd held out hope to see Offred make her escape from Gilead were finally rewarded, whilst The Handmaid’s Tale book vs show differences have meant that even fans of Margaret Atwood’s original book don’t have a clear idea of what path the storylines could take. 

Now for anyone who has yet to discover how to watch The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s plenty to catch up on as the show concluded in epic style. With huge questions still left unanswered, many people might be wondering if author Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments could hold the key to the season 4 plot, as they speculate what could lie in store in season 5. 

But what happened in The Handmaid’s Tale finale and when will June return in season 5?

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

What happened in The Handmaid’s Tale finale?

The Handmaid’s Tale finale saw June Osborne finally get revenge on her former master, Commander Fred Waterford. Having finally escaped from oppressive Gilead to Canada, prior to The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 finale, June has testified against her Gileadian abusers, though later she learns one of them chose to cut a deal. 

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The abuser in question was none other than her former master Commander Fred Waterford, who has been held in Canada with his wife Serena Joy, after being arrested at the end of season 3. It was to Fred that June was assigned as Handmaid in season 1, being stripped of her true name and instead referred to as Offred—literally ‘Of Fred’—as she belonged to him. She was tasked with providing a child for him and Serena Joy, who was believed to be unable to conceive herself. 

Now following his dramatic fall from grace and imprisonment in Canada, Fred was having to answer for his crimes and hoped to secure his freedom by providing information. Luckily for June, though Fred’s information was considered valuable and correct, however, this wasn’t enough given his past crimes. Instead, June helps arrange a deal whereby Fred is handed over to Gilead in exchange for 22 women.

Cast of The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

Taken to the border and walked through the woods, Fred instead finds out he was dropped off in No Man’s Land. June then appears, followed by her friend and fellow Handmaid Emily and several other women who’d suffered under his rule. Given the choice between a gun and running away, Fred chose the latter. June has previously spoken of her desire to see him scared to death, as she once was when she and her eldest daughter Hannah tried to run to freedom when Gilead was seizing power.

But in truly dramatic scenes, the women caught up and beat him to death, before cutting off his finger to symbolically return to Serena Joy. Meanwhile, Serena Joy remains waiting to hear her own fate in Canada, pregnant after so many years of believing she would never have a child of her own.

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What does nolite te bastardes caborundorum mean in The Handmaid’s Tale? 

It might seem a small enough detail, but die-hard The Handmaid’s Tale fans would have recognized the phrase nolite te bastardes caborundorum from earlier on in the show when it cropped up again in the finale. This phrase is mock Latin and served as the title of the fourth episode of the first season and is understood to roughly mean, ‘Don’t let the b******* grind you down’. As reported by, the phrase was written on June’s closet wall, which she discovers after being banished to her room by Serena Joy. And it appeared one again in the final episode of season 4, as it was reportedly written underneath Fred’s lifeless body. It's a phrase that The Handmaid’s Tale book fans will already be familiar with as it’s used as a key message for the resistance, reflecting their desire to fight back against the totalitarian patriarchal state of Gilead. 

What’s been said about The Handmaid’s Tale finale and how could it affect season 5?

It seems that whilst fans were left exhilarated by The Handmaid’s Tale finale, even the show’s stars were shocked by what was about to unfold. Speaking ahead of the season 4 finale airing, Yvonne Strahovski, who plays the complicated Serena Joy Waterford, explained to Entertainment Weekly that when she read the script, her “jaw was on the floor”. Not only that, the star expressed her opinion that this The Handmaid’s Tale finale was one of the most “satisfying” they’d ever done.

"I'm genuinely excited about what everyone's going to think about it,” she shared. “[B]ecause for me personally, it's the most satisfying season finale that Handmaid's has had to date, so it's just exciting. I can't help but smile when people ask me about it, because I just can't wait for everyone to see it."

Serena Joy in The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

And whilst Yvonne was left astounded by what was to come, Joseph Fiennes, who plays her on-screen husband, Commander Fred Waterford, has now spoken out about the ways his grisly demise in the finale could influence The Handmaid’s Tale season 5.

When asked about what Fred’s death means to him, Joseph told Deadline: “It’s paradoxical, and I think Lizzie’s [Elisabeth Moss], or rather, June’s need for justice and revenge is fascinating. It’s something we as the audience need. It’s a certain catharsis because he’s going to get off free, but the paradox is that she becomes a product of the thing that she wants to extinguish.”

Joseph then went on to discuss some of the potential “ramifications” June finally getting her revenge on Fred could have on her story in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5. According to him, it’s showrunner Bruce Miller’s careful introduction of a poignant theme which helps influence this new potential pathway.

Joseph Fiennes in The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

“I love the way that Bruce introduced another theme into the narrative, which is that actually in revenge, we have to find closure and forgiveness,” Joseph declared. “There’s got to be a sense of pity at the kind of, the banality of evil, and I love that June is cognizant of her rage and cognizant that she will lose her higher spiritual self to this urge, this need to kill.”

He went on to reference the possible effect on June and her husband Luke, stating: “It’s confounding and it’s confusing. It will rip another kind of dimension into the relationship between Luke and June.

“The ramifications of this will have, I think, adverse effects on that relationship that’s already struggling to reconnect,” he added. “So, it’s brilliant. It’s complicated. It’s needed. Fred is a repeat offender.”

When will The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 be released? 

Though Joseph Fiennes’ predictions about the possible “ramifications” of June’s murderous revenge may indeed come true at some point in future seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale, it seems we’ll have to be patient. Last year, long-term fans were left delighted when it was confirmed that the hit Hulu drama had already been confirmed for a fifth season. 

Elisabeth Moss as June in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

However, there has not yet been any official word yet on when The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 might premiere. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the filming of season 4, meaning a longer-than-usual period between the third and fourth seasons.

With restrictions easing around the world, however, it could be that the cast and crew are able to return to film season 5 earlier than might have previously been anticipated. Even so, there was a break of around one year between seasons 1-3. This could potentially suggest that at the earliest, we might get to see June continuing in her quest to bring down Gilead in 2022.

Until then, we'll just have to catch up on all our favorite dramatic scenes from The Handmaid's Tale's previous seasons! 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.