After just over a year since season 4, Hulu’s hit series The Handmaid’s Tale is almost back for its fifth season. When viewers last saw June and company, she and a small group of other women had just killed Fred Waterford and put him on a wall of their own finding. Of course, June would have to face the consequences, but viewers had to wait and see what they really were. This season answers that question as June faces a bit of an identity crisis. It also sees Serena play the role of grieving widow as she works to bring Gilead’s influence into Toronto. Meanwhile, June, Luke, and Moira continue the search for Hannah.
This show’s cast has consistently delivered stellar performances across the board, and this season is no different. As the lead, Elisabeth Moss continues to be a force as June. After killing Fred, much of her trauma hits full force as she reckons with her actions and their consequences. With Hannah still inaccessible but Nichole safe and sound, June’s maternal instincts kick into overdrive. Moss puts June’s turmoil on full display, giving her an edge that feels more urgent, more dangerous.
Moreover, June’s new dynamic with Serena, and Yvonne Strahovski’s compelling performance, was also fascinating to watch, especially as Serena’s arc for the season unfolds. For as awful as she is, Serena has always been an interesting character. And like Moss, Strahovski brings out a range of emotions through Serena. This season she must adjust to a world without Fred and question what that looks like. Viewers gain a little more insight on her shrewdness, and her ongoing pregnancy also becomes a greater part of her identity.
Another large focus of the season rested on Aunt Lydia, Nick, and Commander Lawrence pursuing reforms within Gilead itself. All three have been characters with intriguing motives, some clear and some not as much, especially with the latter two of the trio. Ann Dowd is, as per usual, incredible as Aunt Lydia, with one scene in particular that has stuck with me. She is still a character who seems to have a bit of a crisis of conscience, and her affection towards the handmaids remains. Similarly, Nick and Lawrence push their own plans into action but continue to aid June where they can, calling into question what their actual intentions are (which become somewhat clearer near the end of the season). They have an interesting dynamic with one another, bolstered by Max Minghella and Bradley Whitford’s performances, and continue to quietly stir the pot. How their actions will truly affect Gilead remains to be seen, though they’re heading in a pivotal direction.
Considering this series only has one book to pull from as source material (though a case can be made for two if we don’t take The Testaments entirely out of the picture), the team behind it has done an exceptional job, in my opinion, of expanding Margaret Atwood’s original world. They have brought viewers through Gilead, Toronto, and a little extra in five seasons, taking time to delve into both the world within the show and its characters. It has been able to avoid turning stale, with season 4 finally getting June out of Gilead and giving Fred his comeuppance. Season 5, meanwhile, begs the question of where we would go next in a potential sixth season. As we have not seen the final episodes of the season yet, anything is still possible, and seeds for the show’s future are being planted. However, while this season maintains the show’s quality and its relevance, it does begin to show some signs of weariness. Much of the impact holds, but to ensure it sticks, the series needs to continue heading into its endgame sooner rather than later.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 premieres with its first two episodes on September 14 on Hulu. New single episodes will release weekly every Wednesday. Stay tuned for our recaps. Check out the trailer below: