The Handmaid’s Tale: when is season 4 finale, is there a season 5 and will Elizabeth Moss return?

The series is based off the bestselling novel from Margaret Atwood, originally published in 1985

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the biggest programmes to dominate pop culture in recent years, after first debuting in 2017.

The series is based on the best selling novel from Margaret Atwood, and tells the story of those living under the totalitarian regime of dystopian society Gilead.

Sign up to our What to Watch newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is what you need to know about season five.

Be aware that this article contains spoilers for season four of The Handmaid’s Tale.

When is the season 4 finale?

The season four finale has already aired in the UK, having been broadcast on Sunday 22 August.

For those who missed the episode whilst it was on TV, you can catch up on the show on the Channel 4 website.

You can also catch up on all the previous episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, all the way back to season one, episode one.

Will there be a season 5?

Before season four of the dystopian drama even aired, it was confirmed that The Handmaid’s Tale would indeed be returning for a fifth season.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Bruce Miller said: “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.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue to tell these stories, with our incredible cast and crew.”

In another Interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller admitted that he’s unsure whether the next season could be the show’s last.

He said: “I mean, we talked about it, and [Elizabeth Moss] and I have talked about it, and the writing staff and I have talked about it extensively about where we’re going precisely, but I do feel like after this year, it’s a good time to reassess.”

Jordan Helman, Head of Scripted Originals at Hulu, told Deadline: “The success of The Handmaid’s Tale remains paramount for us.

“That said, what is also most important to us is that we close out that show in creative fashion that feels organic, so we are in constant communication, literally right now, talking with Bruce [Miller], Lizzie [Moss] and Warren [Littlefield], about what the best way to end The Handmaid’s Tale is.

“We haven’t landed on an answer… I imagine we’re going to be able to answer that question in the coming months.”

Who is in the season 5 cast?

Assuming that all the biggest players revive their characters once again for the potential final season of the show, that could mean that the cast would include:

  • Elizabeth Moss (The Invisible Man, Top of the Lake) as June Osborne
  • Yvonne Strahovski (Stateless, 24: Live Another Day) as Serena Joy Waterford
  • Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls, Mad Men ) as Emily
  • Madeline Brewer (Hustlers, Anthem: Homunculus) as Janine 
  • Ann Dowd (Lambs of God, Good Behaviour) as Aunt Lydia
  • O-T Fagbenle (The First Lady, Maxxx) as Luke
  • Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black, You’re the Worst) as Moira 
  • Bradley Withford (The West Wing, Cabin in the Woods) as Commander Lawrence
  • Amanda Brugel (Kim’s Convenience, Snowpiercer) as Rita

It’s unlikely that Joseph Fiennes (Sherwood, American Horror Story) will return as Fred Waterford, as at the end of season four, June and her fellow survivors exacted their revenge on the Commander by beating him to death in the no man’s land between Gilead and Canada - however there is always the possibility that he could return in the form of flashbacks or hauntings, given the extreme trauma he inflicted on June.

What could the season 5 plot be?

For fans of the books that the show is based on, written by author Margaret Atwood, they may be expecting storylines from the recently released sequel The Testaments to make an appearance.

Speaking to Deadline, Miller said: “There’s a lot of life in this story. I’m certainly fascinated by what happens in The Testaments and if that’s going to be part of our future, that’s a bigger question.”

However, there is a chance that season five won’t feature any material from The Testaments, because MGM Television and Hulu has already signed on for another TV adaptation specifically focusing on The Testaments, which means it’s likely to end up as a standalone series.

The death of Fred Waterford is likely to bring big consequences in season five, with Miller hinting that Serena will react with a “white-hot fever of revenge” against June.

“There’s that absolute toe-to-toe, woman-to-woman venom, but also, what is the relationship between two women where one killed the other’s abuser? It’s complicated,” Miller said.

Another plot point that could resurface in season five was the hint that Serena’s child could be claimed by Gilead, and that she could be forced to become a handmaid.

Miller told Entertainment Weekly that there are a few things viewers can expect from season five.

He said: “I think moving forward, there’s really a couple of things. It’s the American story - can we snap back to normal, or do we have to move on into something new?

“And that’s where June is right now. She’s done this terrible thing, or what she feels like is irredeemable. Can she snap back? Or does she have to decide that sometimes you not only have to sacrifice part of your life, but you have to sacrifice your whole life to making the world better for the next generation?

“And I think it isn’t just changing presidents. It isn’t just passing one law, like what we’re realising now, but some fights are just a fight you continue to have, a struggle that you’ll continue to make.

“The story moving forward is about the long fight, and how do you keep up energy, enthusiasm, sanity, all of those things, while you’re trying to fight for something that you may never see the end of, or you may never see the good from it?

“It may all be just for your children or your children’s children. How do you keep those fights worthy? So I think that for June, it’s the integration of June the warrior and Offred the warrior, into June the mother and Offred the mother.”

When will season 5 be released?

It’s likely that fans of the show will be waiting until at least 2022 before the next season of the show is released.

Speaking in a recent Q&A, Miller said: “The writer’s room is starting in a week or two.

“Honestly, a lot of the cast have projects that were unmoored because of Covid for a million reasons so even though our actors are extraordinarily flexible to fit in the work on our show, everybody has things they do.

“We want to encourage people to do things outside of the show, that’s their work and their art, they bring good stuff back but people have lined up all these jobs and now a lot of those jobs moved to after.

“So we’re going to have to see how all that shakes out, we want people to fulfil the obligations they had to other projects, but we want to fulfil the obligation we have to the audience, so we’re starting writing as quickly as we can while we figure all that stuff out.”

A message from the editor: Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.