Spoilers for all of The Handmaid’s Tale below.
If you’re desperate for answers after the season 4 finale of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t fret: a fifth installment has already been confirmed. The cast, led by Elisabeth Moss, starred in an Instagram video to announced the good news in December 2020—a full five months before the season 4 release, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Emmy-winning series, created by Bruce Miller and based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, premiered its 10-episode fourth season on April 28. It’s unclear how many episodes the fifth season will contain, but the cast and crew are eager to get started. “We’re very grateful to Hulu and MGM that the show will be returning for a fifth season, and especially to our loyal fans for their support,” Miller said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter. “We are thrilled to be able to continue to tell these stories, with our incredible cast and crew.”
Here’s everything we know about the show’s return and what the showrunner has said about season 5 and beyond.
The Handmaid’s Tale was renewed for season 5 in December 2020.
On December 10, Moss was joined by several of her Handmaid’s Tale cast members to announce that season 4 filming had resumed and season 5 was on the way:
Season 4 coming to you in 2021 and… we have been renewed for a season 5!!! Thank you to all of the fans of the show who make it possible for us to keep working on this show that we love so dearly. We’re hard at work now bringing you season 4, literally I’m on set as we speak… just can’t tell you WHAT set you’ll have to tune in for that 😉😈💃🏼
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Most of the cast is expected to return.
It’s safe to assume that most of the ensemble will be back, including Moss, Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford, Madeline Brewer as Janine, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, O.T. Fagbenle as Luke, Max Minghella as Nick, Samira Wiley as Moira, Bradley Whitford as Commander Lawrence, Amanda Brugel as Rita, and Sam Jaeger, who was promoted to series regular for season 4, as Mark Tuello.
Other season 4 cast additions included Mckenna Grace (The Haunting of Hill House) as Mrs. Esther Keyes, a wife-turned-Handmaid, and Zawe Ashton (Velvet Buzzsaw) as Moira’s girlfriend, Oona. Grace spoke to THR about potentially returning for season 5, saying she “would be honored” to do so and that Esther could take her position as a new Handmaid in “a bajillion different directions.” She told the outlet, “I hope that she isn’t just done and gives up, because I don’t think that’s who she is.” Grace then continued, saying she thinks Esther “will cause quite a stir” and could “be part of this rebellion and the new generation of Handmaids.”
Even Joseph Fiennes, who plays the recently-deceased Fred, is expected to come back. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Miller said “certainly I think we’ll see Fred again,” specifically in flashback scenes.
However, in a surprise turn, Alexis Bledel announced in May of 2022 that she would not be returning for season 5 of the drama.
“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from The Handmaid’s Tale at this time,” she said in a statement. “I am forever grateful to [creator] Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support.”
Bledel played Emily or Ofglen throughout the series, and ended last season murdering Fiennes’ character with a group of escaped Handmaids.
Elisabeth Moss will likely direct a few episodes.
The series’ star directed episodes 3, 8, and 9 of season 4, and Miller told THR, “This is not going to be the last time she directs.”
There’s no release date yet.
The premiere date for season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale has not been unveiled, but with season 4 premiering in April 2021, a 2022 release season 5 could happen.
Season 5 may not be the last.
Showrunner Bruce Miller hasn’t decided how far into the future The Handmaid’s Tale will run. He told THR in December 2020 that he had “very different ideas” about the show’s timeline before the pandemic but has since changed his mind. “I do feel like after this year, it’s a good time to reassess,” he said. “So I know where I am in the story, and I do feel like we’re kind of reaching kind of a pivot point, but whether that’s the end or not, I don’t know. It just feels like it’s a good time to reassess what you were thinking, just because the story world has opened up because the real world has changed so much.”
Then, during a panel in February 2021, Miller said that he would continue as long as his star actress, Moss, was involved. “Every time I come upon a season, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “And every time we get to the end, I’m thrilled and feel like we could go on forever and ever. I’m so excited by how crazy the [season 4] story is. As long as Lizzie [Moss] will do this with me, I’ll keep going.” He later clarified to THR, saying, “When I said that I’ll do the show as long as Lizzie wants to do it, that is born of the pandemic and born of the work she’s done this year. She deserves to have me there writing for her as long as she wants. She earned that this year. I will write beautiful words for her to say for as long as she wants to say them.”
In August 2021, Miller explained, “The team made an incredible TV show. So I’m not so quick to say, ‘oh, you know, let’s just, walk away.’ I don’t know how you felt about the pandemic, but I certainly learned the things of my life that are pretty rare and working with these people is one of them. So, honestly, yes, I know what the end is and I’m not going to overstay my welcome but I’m also not going to rush off if I don’t have to because as long as I am writing for Elisabeth Moss, you know, it really doesn’t get much better.”
Future seasons may be TBD, but a Handmaid’s-related spinoff is confirmed. Hulu has secured the rights to Atwood’s 2019 sequel novel, The Testaments. Miller admitted to THR that “production difficulties” amid quarantine had impacted the project, but that it was still in the works. “I mean, you’re kind of already laying the groundwork for The Testaments [on The Handmaid’s Tale], because now I know a little bit about more in the future than I knew before,” he told the outlet.
The cast and crew are already speculating about what might happen in season 5.
The next season of Handmaid’s will most likely follow June as she processes the fallout from Fred Waterford’s murder, continues her fight against the Gilead regime, and works to get her daughter Hannah to safety. “I don’t think she’s done, and I don’t think she’s fully satiated,” Moss told ELLE.com about June’s decision to kill Fred. Moss also told THR after the season 4 finale that June “wants to bring the whole system down, and with that would come saving Hannah, saving Janine, and the proper revenge on Serena.”
As for what might happen when Serena finds out about Fred’s death, Strahovski told ELLE.com that the scariest part for Serena is the “knowledge that June was the one who ripped him apart.” She explained, “That’s the biggest threat. And if she goes out into the real world and gets released, especially if she gets to keep her baby, that’s the part that will constantly have her living in fear.”
Miller hinted to ELLE.com that he has an idea in mind of “what Serena deserves” in the following episodes. “I would like her to have just one moment of realizing what she’s done,” he said. Miller also told Entertainment Weekly that Serena is the character people should be worried about. “Because Serena, although she has mixed feelings about Fred, and certainly the death of your abuser is a complicated emotional thing I imagine, she also does not like to lose,” he explained. “And I think she would definitely feel like this is June coming into her house and taking something from her specifically, and then gloating by sending her the finger and the ring. So I think that June has definitely poked Serena, and it’s gonna be very interesting to see how she decides to come back…”
Then there’s the question of what might happen to Gilead as a whole. Will Fred’s death push the regime further into chaos? Miller confirmed to THR that his brutal murder could be a “rallying cry for the Gilead uprising.”
“It has the potential to push things in a ton of ways,” he said. “It could push Serena to be a very sympathetic figure. It could push her into a rage that is inexplicable; it could push her into a level of freedom. For June, it could push her to infamy or it could push her to prison.”
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