The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Ending Explained

What’s going to happen to June after The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 finale? Major spoilers.

The Handmaid's Tale 4-10 June and Emily
Photo: Hulu

Warning: contains The Handmaid’s Tale spoilers.

It’s going to take June Osborne some time to get Gilead out of her system. Season four of The Handmaid’s Tale may have finally brought her to Canada, but the years of abuse and violence she’s suffered, not to mention her forcible separation from her daughters Hannah and Nichole, have taken a deep toll. The season four finale showed June let down by international law and forced to seek vigilante justice for the pain caused to her by Commander Fred Waterford. Unable to move on knowing that Fred would go unpunished, June arranged a Salvaging of her own, setting upon her former Commander with a battalion of other ex-Gilead women in the woods. Fred was beaten and hanged, and June was left smeared with his blood. The question is: what happens now?

Is June going to jail?

After June and the others emerged from the woods at dawn after stringing Fred Waterford up, she drove home and picked up baby Nichole, still daubed in Fred’s blood. When Luke woke up and found her, he wordlessly understood that she’d killed Fred, and was devastated. June told Luke “I know, I’m sorry,” and asked for five minutes with Nichole and then she would go. 

The question is: go where? Is June planning to go on the run after the murder, is she going to turn herself in to the police, or does she simply know that Luke and Moira would never accept her after what she’d done, and so she’d no longer be welcome in the family home? Fred’s murder was committed in No-Man’s Land, said Nick, which could prove a loophole if June and the others are found not to fall under the jurisdiction of either Gilead or Canada. That’s one for season five to answer.

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Who helped June to kill Fred?

A group of Gilead escapees, former Handmaids and Marthas such as the women in the library-based support group. Perhaps they were direct victims of Fred Waterford (he was a much more frequent visitor to Jezebel’s than he made out to the interview panel), or perhaps they just jumped at the opportunity to get revenge on a Commander. Emily was certainly there and took part in the attack, but Moira and Rita weren’t visible among the crowd, and it’s hard to imagine either of them going along with the plan.

What does “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” mean?

The Latin sprayed on the wall underneath Fred’s hanging corpse roughly translates as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” and is a recurring phrase on The Handmaid’s Tale taken from Margaret Atwood’s original 1985 novel from which the TV series is adapted. It’s not a real historical Latin phrase, but a form of joke that provided the title for season one, episode four, where it was revealed as the line June discovered scratched inside her bedroom closet in the Waterford home, put there by her predecessor in the role. The Waterfords’ previous Handmaid, who had also been subject to abuse by Fred, hanged herself in that closet – more blood on the Waterfords’ hands. In the finale, it’s there as part resistance slogan, part in-joke, and part ‘fuck you’ to Fred.

Is Mark Tuello in love with Serena?

When Fred Waterford was being swapped with the Gilead prisoners on the bridge, he verbally attacked Mark Tuello, telling him the Lord knew what he desired and what he coveted. Fred’s use of the biblical phrase ‘covet’ recalls the Ten Commandments rule about not coveting your neighbour’s wife/ox/servant. Fred seems to be insinuating that Tuello has romantic designs on Serena, a theory backed up in the finale by Tuello asking Serena to explain why she would live with Fred as man and wife. Tuello and Serena first met back in season two, when he attempted to turn her from Gilead with the promise of “treason and coconuts.” However she feels about Tuello, it’s clear from her offhand farewell to him that Serena had no affection for Fred before he s killed. That said, it’s certain she would never admit to that in public. His murder and her being goaded by the severed finger package is sure to play well among the Waterfords’ fan club, perhaps turning Fred the Redeemer into a martyr and making Serena even more powerful in season five.

Is Commander Lawrence on June’s side?

We explore the tricky character of Joseph Lawrence in more depth here, but judging from his actions in the finale, June certainly seems to have his sympathy. Lawrence admires June, and is impressed by what she’s managed to achieve. He didn’t put up a fight when Nick and the Eyes arrived to take Fred Waterford away, and most likely knew he was sending Fred to his certain death. There was no love lost between the two men, especially after Commander Waterford forced Lawrence to enact ‘The Ceremony’ with June towards the end of season three, an act that precipitated Joseph’s beloved wife Eleanor’s suicide. Currently, Joseph Lawrence is on a mission to fix Gilead and “make things right again,” though what that means precisely is still up in the air.

Is there going to be a season five?

Yes. The show was renewed for season five back in December 2020, and showrunner Bruce Miller has indicated that the fifth season could be the end of the story. Hulu is also developing a spin-off series based on Margaret Atwood’s sequel The Testaments.

Which song was playing while Fred Waterford was being killed?

That was ‘You Don’t Own Me’ by Lesley Gore, first released in 1963.

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The Handmaid’s Tale season four is streaming now on Hulu in the US. Season four is airing weekly on Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4 in the UK.