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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Finale: Season 6 Will Be a Different Show

"The Handmaid's Tale" is poised to be an entirely different show moving forward after that explosive finale.

A blonde woman with a forearm cast and a man wearing a backpack speak in a crowded train terminal; still from "The Handmaid's Tale"

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Russ Martin/HULU

Toto, we’re not in Gilead anymore.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” stayed focused on its central dystopia until Season 4, when June (Elisabeth Moss) escaped to Canada, and even then she couldn’t escape Gilead. June returned multiple times, including in Season 5 to rescue her daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) from a life of subservience to men.

But the world has changed by the Season 5 finale, “Safe,” which premiered November 9. Gilead is crumbling from within, mainly at the hands of its architect, Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). The Waterfords, two of its most prolific and vocal advocates, are no more, with Fred dead (Joseph Fiennes) and his widow Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) questioning her path forward. It’s Serena’s grueling internal journey and June’s willingness to compromise that brings both of them to the same time, place, and goal when they meet on a train in the Season 5 finale.

As jarring as it is to see the two women and their babies traveling as civilians and equals, it’s a logical end for a relentless season. Serena has been losing pieces of Fred and Gilead throughout the season, her resolve to carry on his work weakening as her life reshapes around her new baby. Without Fred at her side, she knows Gilead won’t support her, and needs to get as far away as she possibly can to raise her son in peace.

A woman in a light blue dress carrying a newborn baby; still from "The Handmaid's Tale"

Yvonne Strahovski in “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Russ Martin/HULU

June’s trajectory is the opposite but brings her to the same point. Gilead has a hold on her too, due to years of psychological and physical trauma and because that is where she lost Hannah. As long as Hannah remains there, as long as Gilead remains at large, June will never be able to put it behind her. It’s a persistence and obsession that everyone around her recognizes, one that Lawrence tries to manipulate to bring her to New Bethlehem — but without Hannah, June isn’t interested. For Lawrence, it would be kismet: What could be better PR for such a polarizing nation than its most illustrious spokesperson and notorious refugee coexisting idyllically?

It’s audacious bordering on brazen for “The Handmaid’s Tale” to throw June and Serena into this situation together, as it did with Episode 7, “No Man’s Land.” Make no mistake: Gilead spared no pity for either of them, but they were not pitted against each other purely by circumstance. Serena was keenly aware of her status as a commander’s wife who could not give birth but had a handmaid. She was not complicit, but an active participant in June’s rape, and a strong advocate of the system that treated every birth giver in the country just as poorly. As of now, June is a violent criminal, responsible for (and proud of) killing Serena’s husband and declaring her intent to do the same to Serena. They may both be running low on diapers, but their enmity and history run far deeper than can be magically waved away by shared gender and experience. Together, they are a time bomb, and whatever city they end up in is on the clock.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been renewed for a sixth and final season, the bulk of which is poised to unfold with June and Serena together. It seems unlikely Gilead will fall fully after staying strong for this long, but June and Hannah’s reunion remains the driving force of the show and June’s character. With Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) also captive and Nick (Max Minghella) and Joseph among the only ones who can help, June will be doing everything she can, once again, to keep her family together and take down the people who destroyed it.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is now streaming on Hulu.

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