Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 episode 2.Two executive producers of The Handmaid’s Tale break down the implications of the climactic funeral scene during the season 5 premiere. The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu original series, adapted from the 1985 Margaret Atwood dystopian novel of the same name, which premiered in April 2017. It follows a world where fertility rates have plunged and the East coast of the United States has become a fundamentalist nation called Gilead, where fertile women are enslaved as handmaids and forced to bear children for elite families. The lead character of the series is June (Elisabeth Moss), a handmaid who seeks to bring down the system and most frequently faces off against the steely Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), the wife of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), who is June’s master at the beginning of the series.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 debuted with a two-episode premiere, with the second episode, “Ballet,” ending on a harrowing note for June. After she murdered Commander Waterford at the end of season 4, his widow Serena organized a funeral hosted jointly by America, Canada, and Gilead. While on a date to see the ballet in their Canadian refuge, June and her husband Luke see a televised broadcast of the ceremony, during which Serena is given a white bouquet by a young girl in a group of schoolchildren, who the couple immediately recognize as their daughter Hannah, who still a captive of Gilead.
This scene where Serena flexed her power over June lit a fire in the fan community, so executive producer Warren Littlefield and showrunner/EP Bruce Miller sat down with TVLine to discuss its implications. Littlefield reveals this scene is just as momentous as it seems, representing Serena “stepping in and getting on the throne.” However, the emotions of the scene are viscerally powerful on a straightforward level as well, and Miller notes what is going through June and Luke’s heads is simply, “She’s got her hand on my kid!” Their complicated relationship is going to be full of animosity going forward, but Littlefield notes there is still “this fascinating respect that comes into play.” Read their full quotes below:
This scene will likely be putting the pieces on the chessboard for the rest of the season. In fact, this could be setting up storylines through to the end of the series, as it was recently announced that The Handmaid‘s Tale season 6 will be its final season. It seems that, now that June has dealt a huge blow to both her traumatic past and the society of GIlead, she will be facing off with her much more potent threat – a woman who actually respects her power and knows how to play against her.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 has a ten-episode order, running weekly from now on through November 9. This means there will be eight episodes left to learn about the fallout of this scene. Considering how many twists and turns the show is known for, it is likely that the tension between June and Serena will keep spiking until they reach a breaking point that is going to have huge consequences for both women as well as the world at large.