Will June Ever Be Free in Handmaid’s Tale? What Margaret Atwood’s Ending Tells Us About How the Show Will End
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
After a looong hiatus, the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale finally premiered this week on Hulu. Judging by the first three episodes that have dropped so far, it just might be the darkest season yet—and the most shocking, with June’s (Elisabeth Moss) role as a leader in the resistance just one aspect that fans are questioning after some of her fellow handmaids die on her watch.
If you can’t wait to find out what happens next, or how it could all end, one of the best resources for resolving questions about the show’s conclusion, of course, is the Margaret Atwood novel on which the series is based. Using that book—plus Atwood’s 2019 literary sequel, The Testaments—as blueprints, let’s see what we can speculate about how Handmaid’s might ultimately end.
How does The Handmaid’s Tale book end?
Atwood intentionally wrote the novel’s ending to leave June’s fate open to interpretation. After telling her lover Nick (played in the series by Max Minghella) that she’s pregnant, presumably with his baby, she’s taken away by the Eyes of God secret police—but Nick (who may or may not be a bad guy) seems to hint that they’re actually members of the Mayday resistance. She ultimately goes into a van with the men, unsure if she’s finally headed toward freedom.
If any of that sounds familiar, it’s probably because the show already used that storyline in its Season 1 finale, which means the show’s writers have basically been crafting new material in all the seasons since.
Is Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale the last?
Nope! The show won’t be calling it quits anytime soon. Late last year, Hulu revealed in a video starring several Handmaid’s cast members that it’s already been picked up for a fifth season.
Does The Handmaid’s Tale series follow the book?
Even though the entire plot of Atwood’s novel was pretty much used up in Season 1 of the show, several elements did appear in Season 2 and beyond. However, it’s also true that plenty of plot points were changed for the sake of the show. To name just a few: the book features no Black characters, such as the show’s Moira (Samira Wiley); Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) are much older in the book; Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) only pops up on the page in flashback scenes; and Janine (Madeline Brewer) never loses an eye in the book.
All of those alterations suggest that the show’s creators may not feel much need to stick to the books when it comes to crafting future episodes and the ultimate finale. In fact, a few years ago, showrunner Bruce Miller told fans at a Tribeca Film Festival panel discussion about the series, “The end of the book is quite a mystery, so I get to make it up.” He also said that because Handmaid’s Tale has also been made into a 1990 feature film and a 2000 opera that Atwood “was more comfortable with the idea of having her things adapted than I was comfortable adapting her book.”
Is The Handmaid’s Tale based on The Testaments?
Another wrinkle in this mystery: In 2019, Atwood published a long-awaited sequel to her Handmaid’s book called The Testaments. So far, though, that novel’s storylines haven’t been pulled into the show. In fact, Hulu already acquired the rights to make The Testaments into its own series, and while no date for that has been announced yet, it’s probably safe to assume that all of that book’s plot is reserved for the upcoming spinoff. The Testaments is also set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale and is told from the perspectives of three different women—none of whom are June. One is Aunt Lydia, another is presumed to be June’s long-lost daughter Hannah (who’s since been renamed Agnes), and the last is a girl several years younger than Agnes named Daisy. All of that could make it tricky to re-cast some of Hulu’s Handmaid’s stars, although Dowd—who recorded parts of The Testaments’ audiobook—told Time Magazine in 2019 that it would be “thrilling” to see more of Lydia’s story.
How does The Testaments book end?
Without giving too much away: Incriminating info about Gilead is smuggled into Canada, which ultimately leads to the dystopian empire’s downfall and the re-establishment of the United States in its stead. It’s also implied that mom June and daughter Hannah/Agnes are finally reunited, while Lydia commits suicide.
How will The Handmaid’s Tale TV show end?
That’s still the great unknown, but Miller does offer some clues in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. For one thing, he hinted that despite the deaths viewers watched in the first few episodes of Season 4, they should still hold out hope to see those characters pop up again… through flashbacks, of course. “Nobody is gone in Handmaid’s,” Miller explained. He also hinted that June might never get out of Gilead, but then added, “When I say things like, ‘June will never leave Gilead. June will never do this,’ I’m talking about what June thinks. I don’t see the future! I follow June.”
Next, learn about Kate Winslet’s accent in Mare of Easttown.