Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel about women forced into child-bearing servitude after the totalitarian society took over parts of the United States, the series has moved far beyond the source material as June (Elisabeth Moss) succeeds in her most defiant act yet: freeing a number of Marthas, handmaids and children from the clutches of Gilead.
Our heroine, however, remains within Gilead’s borders, having been shot after distracting the guardians from attempting to stop her plan of getting the women and children into Canada. Despite this huge setback, “June never gives up and she never gives up on what she wants,” Moss tells ET’s Brice Sander, adding: “I always ask the audience to not give up on her.”
The actress, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, admitted that they haven’t begun thinking about season four yet, but that she and creator Bruce Miller would be talking very soon “about our feelings about June and everything,” she said. “We’ll figure it out.”
June and Janine
While her Mayday mission was a success, June was forced to sacrifice herself. But she was not alone in her fight, Janine (Madeline Brewer), Brianna (Bahia Watson) and Alma (Nina Kiri) also stayed behind alongside her. The three were last seen scooping up June as they trudge through the woods, now fugitives in Gilead.
Though Moss couldn’t say anything too specific about June’s upcoming journey, she does believe that June’s daughter, whose whereabouts with the MacKenzies remains unknown, was the motivation behind her sacrifice. “She’s sticking around for Hannah,” she says.
Amanda Brugel, who plays June’s former Martha, Rita, said there’s no series without June in Gilead. “We realized that she has to be there,” she says, adding there were different versions of the ending about whether “she was going to make it [or] if she wasn’t.” Now with a number of key characters in Canada, Brugel says June “has more of a fire and a fight to get Hannah out.”
When it comes to Janine, Brewer would like to see the brutalized handmaid take hold of the strength audiences have seen snippets of throughout the series. “She’s brave, you know? I like that Janine is always giving us the unexpected,” Brewer says, adding that Janine taking action in the Mayday mission was an unexpected move. “I would like to see her really own that [newfound] power.”
Rita and the Waterfords
Following an attempt to negotiate Nichole’s return beyond Canada’s borders, both Waterfords were taken into custody. Fearing a life behind bars, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and Fred (Joseph Fiennes) turned on each other. Reflecting on those final moments of deception, Fiennes said that he loved it “because just before that moment there’s a real feeling, certainly for Fred, that his wife is connected back with him.”
“So to be deceived was a big smack in the face,” he continues. “But, you know, as it should happen to all war criminals. They should definitely get their comeuppance.” Now seemingly stuck in prison, the actor’s only hope is that his cellmate is “not a big burly chap that has predispositions like Christopher Meloni's character [Commander Winslow].”
“Fred and Serena certainly have a lot of stuff to work out in their marriage,” Miller adds.
Coincidentally, Rita, the Waterfords’ former Martha, is now in Canada. Now that she’s free from oppression, Brugel is anticipating that first encounter between Rita and her former rulers. “I really want to see that first, initial conversation with the Waterfords,” she says. “I want to see how that conversation goes because we learn that Rita has such an empathetic heart and I'm wondering if it will turn now that she doesn't have to be as empathetic anymore.”
Like Emily (Alexis Bledel) and Moira (Samira Wiley), Brugel also thinks that Rita will have some recovering to do and would like to explore that. “[We have] an opportunity to see what happens in Canada [to the] people who have been in oppressive situations -- how they grow and how they survive afterwards,” she says.
“I think the show has an obligation to represent an accurate refugee experience because so many of our characters are either trapped or they're going to be refugees,” Miller adds. “Those are their only two choices, so you really have to represent that option as a true option of what it's really like.”
But Littlefield warned that “just because you are in Canada, [it] doesn’t mean you’ll stay there.”
While the final three episodes focused on June’s Mayday mission, several characters’ stories remained unseen, including Nick (Max Minghella). In season three, his relationship with June became even more complicated after it was revealed that he was an Eye, a spy for Gilead. He’s then promoted to the ranks of commander before being shipped off to the frontlines of Chicago, where Gilead was battling the U.S. over territory.
“I love the Nick-June relationship as much as anyone, if not more,” Moss says, while commending the show for not focusing too much on their romance instead of June’s fight for freedom. But like fans, she misses Nick. “I think he should come back.”
“I don’t think I saw enough of him this year either,” Miller adds, echoing Moss’ sentiment. “Max is such a wonderful actor and we love having him in the show. It’s just, you know, you follow June and the flow of that sometimes leads you away from all the stories you want to tell.”
For Kristen Gutoskie, who played Beth, a Martha that Nick encountered at the Jezebels before she was placed in Commander Lawrence’s household, there’s a number of unanswered questions about Nick she’d like to see answered next season. “Like, what’s going on with Nick and Beth?” Gutoskie says, adding that she’d like to see the series go deeper into the bigger questions about Gilead: “The ins and outs of the power structure; how it really got started; what the beginning moment was when they actually made this happen. That would be interesting.”
Aunt Lydia and Naomi Putnam
As two of the most staunch followers of Gilead, it’s no surprise that Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and Commander Putnam’s wife, Naomi (Ever Carradine), continue to live under the totalitarian society’s strict rules.
What the escape plan means for Lydia in particular, Dowd isn’t so sure. But she points to episode eight, when audiences learned about her past before Gilead. “She was a teacher; she loves children. She's not there to squash who they are; she wants to know who they are,” she says. “I think her huge attachment to religion and all that goes with it is a complicated thing.”
Meanwhile, Carradine wouldn’t mind exploring Putnam’s backstory like the show did with Lydia. “She’s comfortable in her misery,” she says. “Like, I think a state of dissatisfaction and anger is her resting state, so that’s where I kind of want to see her pre-Gilead because I’m like, ‘Was she just always like that?’”
Season 4 and Beyond
When it comes to season four and beyond, many fans are curious to know if the show has an endgame in mind. The series’ plot has gone far beyond what’s in the book, though Atwood is writing a sequel set to arrive this fall that could provide additional inspiration and/or material for the writers to build upon.
Ultimately, for Miller, it’s about telling June’s journey until they run out of ideas. “I always feel like we let her lead us,” he says. “At the beginning of the show, I was just shocked that she made it through each episode alive and now she seems to be making it through episodes and getting stuff done… Whatever comes after that is is her next step.”
“I definitely have possible endgames in sight, but when they're all going to coalesce into a finished episode and something you can put nicely in the show next to your copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, I don't know when that's going to happen,” Miller notes, adding: “I’m gonna keep going with it until there's nothing more interesting and there's certainly a ton interesting in it now.”
All three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale are now streaming on Hulu.