The Handmaid's Tale season 5: Release date, cast, latest news
The dystopian Hulu series' fifth season has a confirmed release date.
*Warning: spoilers ahead for The Handmaid's Tale season four*
We've known for some time that The Handmaid's Tale would officially be returning for a fifth season, but it's only now that we've got our first look at the new episodes – and a release date.
In one of two first look images we see June wearing a white coat and staring onwards, while the other sees Serena wearing a funeral veil, in mourning over her husband, Commander Fred Waterford's death.
We also now have an official synopsis for season 5, which reads: "June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada.
"Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah."
Despite all this excitement for the new season it could be bittersweet, as Hulu's head of originals, Jordan Hellman, has hinted that season 5 could be the last for the dystopian show.
Speaking to Deadline, Hellman suggested that talks were underway about how and when to end the show – although no decision had been made at the time.
He explained: "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 [a] 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."
It seems from the first look images and official synopsis that season 5 will still have a heavy focus on June, despite season 4's ending suggesting she would escape from Gilead.
Back in July 2021 McKenna Grace, who plays teen handmaid Esther Keyes, had spoken with The Hollywood Reporter about taking on more of the narrative focus and the possibility of her character becoming "the new June".
She said: "I feel like there’s only one June. But there is the whole rebellion and there are all of these other girls. So, there’s one June and I supposed there’s one Esther as well! We’ll see what she gets up to into the next season. I have no clue, but I have hopes.
"I think she [Esther] definitely can be part of this rebellion and the new generation of Handmaids. She will cause quite a stir."
Read on for everything you need to know about The Handmaid's Tale season five.
*Warning - contains spoilers for season four.*
The Handmaid's Tale season 5 release date
The first two episodes of The Handmaid's Tale season 5 will premiere on 14th September 2022 on Hulu in the US, with new episodes airing weekly.
The series began filming its fifth run in February 2022 and is expected to conclude in July 2022.
We're yet to hear just when we can expect season 5 to start airing on Channel 4 in the UK, but if the last season is anything to go by, we could expect it to be a couple of months later that we get new episodes here. If so, then expect a November release date. We'll keep this page updated with any new announcements, including confirmation of the UK air date.
Is there a trailer for The Handmaid's Tale season 5?
There's no trailer for The Handmaid's Tale season five yet, but we'll keep this page updated with any news.
The Handmaid's Tale season 5 cast
The following central cast members have all now been confirmed to return:
- Elisabeth Moss as June Osbourne
- Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
- Madeline Brewer as Janine Lindo
- Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia Clements
- O.T. Fagbenle as Luke Bankole
- Samira Wiley as Moira Strand
- Max Minghella as Commander Nick Blaine
- Amanda Brugel as Rita Blue
- Bradley Whitford as Commander Joseph Lawrence
- Sam Jaeger as Mark Tuello
One major cast member we know won't be returning is Alexis Bledel as Dr Emily Malek. In a statement released in May, Bledel said: "After much thought, I felt I had to step away from The Handmaid’s Tale at this time. I am forever grateful to Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support."
Another character that won't be returning - unless in flashbacks - is Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), after he was murdered by former handmaids in the season 4 finale.
However, we can likely expect a return for McKenna Grace as a former wife and now handmaid Esther Keyes, while Zawe Ashton could also be back as Moira's girlfriend Oona.
Elsewhere, Clea DuVall could also return as Emily's wife, Sylvia, with Charlie Zeltzer as their son Oliver.
Additionally, Dave star Christine Klo has been cast in the new season as a new character named Lily.
Deadline reports that Lily is "a Gilead refugee who now is a leader in the Canada-based resistance movement."
They add that Lily will "enter the story as a leader in the resistance who’s no stranger to perilous situations — with the scars to prove it. A former Martha, she’s gritty and resourceful. Once someone earns Lily’s trust, she becomes a fierce ally."
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 spoilers
At the end of season four, June successfully brokered a deal with Commander Lawrence and Commander Fred Waterford (in custody in Canada) for 22 women and resistance fighters trapped in Gilead.
However, Waterford was instead released in No Man's Land, where he was chased and beaten to death by June, Emily, and other former handmaids.
"I felt that it really delivered the finale that I felt, and I think my cast-mates felt, was needed and deserved for the fans," actor Joseph Fiennes (Waterford) told Entertainment Weekly.
His death will no doubt have major consequences for season five, and we'll doubtless see its impact on the lives of both June herself and on Waterford's pregnant wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).
During a previous chat with EW, Strahovski revealed that when she first read the finale, her “jaw was on the floor”.
She added: “For me personally, it’s the most satisfying season finale that Handmaid’s has had to date, so it’s just exciting.”
However, this might not be the last we see of Fred Waterford, after the showrunner Bruce Miller hinted that we will continue to see Waterford in flashbacks.
"I think that although Fred is dead, his influence on June continues and that is, in our show, shown through her mind’s eye of flashbacks," he told Deadline.
The series will also become a "a June-Serena thing", focusing on the two female characters, according to Miller.
Serena will react with the “white-hot fever of revenge," Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. “Even though Serena didn’t like Fred and they have a complicated relationship, it’s now a June-Serena thing. She will want to find a way to metaphorically or realistically get June for this. June hit her house and she wants to hit her back. 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.”
Fred Waterford's death was hinted at in the original Margaret Atwood book, which very briefly suggests that Fred was killed during a 'Salvaging' ritual.
Another future plot line hinted at during season four episode nine is that Serena's child could be claimed by Gilead, while she herself could be forced to become a handmaid.
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Will season 5 be the final season of The Handmaid's Tale?
Showrunner Bruce Miller says he is “in no rush to end it."
"I’m not going to shut it down while we have interesting stories to tell," he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. However, in a more recent interview, he added that he didn't want to "overstay" his welcome.
"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," Miller told Deadline.
Executive producer Warren Littlefield previously spoke ahead of season four and implied that several more seasons of The Handmaid's Tale could be on the way.
"We have not planned season four to be the end, but we also look to Margaret [Atwood]'s book The Testaments and know that that story takes us 15 years into the future," he told TV Guide. "We don't see ending it in [season four], and I can honestly say to you, we don't have a definitive out. But I think we want to keep the bar high, and it would not be a bad thing to leave the audience wanting more and then we could ideally shift into The Testaments."
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