(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 4 finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”)
June Osbourne (Elisabeth Moss) had two possible paths to take in the Season 4 finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the refugee handmaid went down the road that will separate her from her husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle), and infant daughter, Nichole — possibly, forever.
“She has two choices: She’s either going to stay with her family and have that life and allow the bureaucracy and the system to enact justice and do her job for her and enact justice for all of those women who have been harmed or are not there anymore, all of that,” Moss told TheWrap. “Or, she does it herself.”
The “it” in question is being in charge of the punishment of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), the man who — along with his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) — raped, abused and tortured June for the show’s first three seasons, when she was their handmaid, Offred, in Gilead, and is still screwing with her mind come the end of Season 4.
“And it’s a slow burn in Episode 10, because I think when she starts out the episode, I don’t think she has made the decision that she’s going to do it herself,” Moss says. “I think she’s really going back and forth, really going back and forth. And she talks to Emily (Alexis Bledel) and all of this. But I think when she goes to see Fred, she’s going because she’s searching for the answer to the question. She’s searching for, which way do I go? Do I let you go or do I not? And she’s saying to Emily, ‘I want to let him go. I want to be a good mother. I want to be a good wife. I want to let him go.’ So she goes to him because she has this question. She also has the question of, who am I now? And I love in that scene, the moment where they talk about how they both miss Offred. And I think that’s absolutely sincere on June’s part. I think she does miss Offred.”
Moss says that it’s during this conversation that June finds her answer, and all because Fred proved that he’s capable of feeling sorry for what he’s done to her.
“She goes to see Fred and the nail in the coffin is that Fred apologizes. And what that’s supposed to be is that it’s his apology that sends her over the edge, because that means that he’s human,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” star says. “That means that he’s not a psychopath, that he recognizes what he did. He’s aware of what he did. And that is the worst possible thing that she could hear. It would be better if he had no guilt. Had no memory of it, that would be better. You’d be able to go, ‘OK, this person’s f—ing nuts.’ But this guy remembers what he did and now he thinks that because he’s having a child, now he thinks he understands what he put June through. And that’s the nail in the coffin. And when he says that and she laughs and cries, sort of laughing through tears and says, ‘I never thought I’d hear you say that,’ that is the end. That’s the end of Fred.”
June then orchestrates a situation in which Fred, who was supposed to be taken to Geneva and tried — and presumably let off easy and returned to his wife pregnant Serena to start a new life in Canada — is instead brought to Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) in Gilead to be sentenced by his peers. Then another twist comes when Nick (Max Minghella) arrives to take Fred away from Lawrence, who hands him over willingly, and brings him to June and a pack of handmaids ready to tear him to shreds in the woods in the middle of the night.
The final scene of the episode takes place in the early hours of the morning, after a blood-covered June has murdered Fred with the help of her friends, and is holding baby Nichole (her daughter by Nick) in her arms as Luke walks in to see her and piece together what she has done. June tells Luke she will go in a few minutes, having decided she cannot be with him and Nichole now.
“The end is about, she has made that choice,” Moss says. “She has chosen the war instead of her family. She’s chosen the battle instead of her family. She’s chosen the the larger battle and she’s chosen to try to create a better future for her daughters and the future generation. And I think with that, and I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in Season 5, but I think with that, she’s aware of the choices she’s made. She’s now a murderer. They’re going to find out. They’re going to know it’s her. And how can she stay?”
Readers can find TheWrap’s interview with Fiennes about Fred’s death here and our chat with “Handmaid’s Tale” showrunner Bruce Miller about his Season 5 plans here.