It’s confirmed: The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 is coming to Channel 4 later this month

Looking forward to The Handmaid’s Tale season five? Here’s everything we know about the new season so far, including a newly confirmed UK release date.

Excitement over The Handmaid’s Tale season five has been steadily building for quite some time now and has only notched up further upon its release on Hulu in the US. We’ve been avoiding spoilers but let’s be honest, we’ve been counting down the days till a UK release date is confirmed.

Well, have no fear because we’ve finally gotten the news we’ve been waiting for – and the premiere date for series five is much sooner than we’d hoped. The hit series will return once again to Channel 4, with seasons one to four of the critically acclaimed series also being made available ahead of the launch of season five on All 4.

New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale will be made available at the exact same time the series premieres on Amazon Prime Video. And while we don’t have an exact release date yet, we do know it’ll be later this month (October). So set your calendar reminders, people.

Speaking about the news announcement, head of acquisitions at Channel 4, Nick Lee, said: “Over the series The Handmaid’s Tale has remained reflective, high quality and hard hitting. We’re thrilled Channel 4 and All 4 audiences will be returning to Gilead to see further justice dispensed in the next riveting installment.”

The official poster for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5.

And while excitement about season five may be at an all-time high, it looks like the upcoming series is going to be one actor short.

In a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly, Alexis Bledel – who has played Emily on the show since season one – confirmed that her time on the show has come to an end. 

“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from The Handmaid’s Tale at this time,” she wrote. “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.” 

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No more information was given in regards to the reason for Bledel’s departure, and it is not yet known whether her character will be recast or simply written out of the script.

At the end of season four, Emily was one of the Handmaids who took part in the brutal murder of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) alongside June (Elisabeth Moss), so it waits to be seen how the show’s writers will deal with her character in the aftermath.

Of course, while Bledel’s departure has certainly placed a dampener on the upcoming season, it’s safe to say the show’s return is still hotly anticipated – especially after the dramatic events which took place in season four, which saw our eponymous Handmaid, June/Offred finally escape across the border into the relative safety of Canada.

Will June ever see her baby daughter again?

There, she reunited with her husband, Luke (OT Fagbenle), as well as her friends and fellow escapees, Moira (Samira Wiley), Emily (Bledel), and Rita (Amanda Brugel). 

She was able to hold her baby daughter, Nichole – born from a loving encounter with her erstwhile boyfriend, Nick (Max Minghella) – in her arms for the first time in months. She was able to speak out against Fred and Serena Waterford (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski), reveal the truth about Gilead’s cruel regime, and lift her voice in support of all those Handmaids still subjected to a life of sexual slavery and enforced surrogacy.

And then… well, then she messed it all up, quite frankly. Because – spoilers – she gave in to her need for revenge and brutally murdered the aforementioned Commander Waterford via a hastily organised particicution.

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As such, the fourth season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale left viewers on one hell of a cliffhanger; what on earth is June going to do now? Will she be forced to flee the safety of Canada and return to Gilead? Will she remain on Canadian soil and face whatever punishment they deem suitable? And will Luke ever be able to forgive her for throwing away their second chance at happiness?

Well, according to series star Moss, the action of The Handmaid’s Tale may only just be beginning. In an interview with TVLine, she revealed that the upcoming fifth season is “possibly one of the wilder rides that we’ve had.”

She continued: “We’ve definitely had some seasons [where], you know, a lot happens. Some seasons, not as much happens. This season, I almost can’t keep up.

“And it’s not lip service. I truly mean I almost can’t keep up with the amount of activity that’s happening.”

“So that’s been exciting,” she added. “And it’s been challenging of course, because it means we’re working really hard, and we’re on location a lot. But never a dull moment is the way I would say it.”

Elisabeth Moss has confirmed that the new series of The Handmaid’s Tale is “possibly one of the wilder rides that we’ve had.”

Thankfully, it seems we don’t have all that long to wait to find out what will transpire in season five. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the upcoming season is currently in production in Toronto and is expected to premiere later this year. That’s right, we may just find out what happens next for June before the year is up.

The news comes alongside a brand new cast member being confirmed to join the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale season six. Christine Ko (Hawaii Five-0, Dave) is joining the cast as Lily, a Gilead refugee who is now a leader in the Canada-based resistance movement.

With that, here’s what we know so far.

What is the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5?

We don’t have too many plot specifics to hand at this point, although Miller has described the show’s fifth season as being Sophie’s Choice: The Series.

“I think moving forward, there’s really a couple of things. It’s the American story – can we snap back to normal, or do we have to move on into something new? And that’s where June is right now,” he explained to Entertainment Weekly.

“She’s done this terrible thing, or what she feels like is irredeemable. Can she snap back? Or does she have to decide that sometimes you not only have to sacrifice part of your life, but you have to sacrifice your whole life to making the world better for the next generation?”

June decided to secure her own justice against Fred Waterford in The Handmaid’s Tale S4 finale.

“And I think it isn’t just changing presidents,” Miller continued. “It isn’t just passing one law, like what we’re realising now, but some fights are just a fight you continue to have, a struggle you’ll continue to make.

“The story moving forward is about the long fight, and how do you keep up energy, enthusiasm, sanity, all of those things, while you’re trying to fight for something that you may never see the end of, or you may never see the good from it? It may all be just for your children or your children’s children. How do you keep those fights worthy? So I think that for June, it’s the integration of June the warrior and Offred the warrior, into June the mother and Offred the mother.”

Who will return for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5?

While Gilead is an incredibly dangerous place, it seems safe to assume that the show’s major players will all return in one form or another (except Alexis Bledel, of course).

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This means that we can expect to see:

  • Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne
  • Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford
  • Madeline Brewer as Janine
  • Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia
  • OT Fagbenle as Luke
  • Max Minghella as Nick
  • Samira Wiley as Moira
  • Bradley Whitford as Commander Lawrence
  • Amanda Brugel as Rita
  • Mckenna Grace as Esther Keyes
  • Jordana Blake as Hannah

It’s also worth noting that, while Fred Waterford is 100% dead as a dodo, Miller has already hinted that Fiennes will be back in some capacity for the show’s fifth season.

“The character dying doesn’t mean Joe stops coming and being part of the cast,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “We do have quite a heavy flashback show.”

Miller also laid out his vision for these flashback scenes, noting that “the stories of Serena and Fred that we haven’t seen before, even in early Gilead, are fascinating.”

Who will be joining the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5?

As previously mentioned, Christine Ko has just been confirmed to join the cast as Lily. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 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.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Lily slots into the drama of it all but this is not the most recent series she’s booked – we’ll also be seeing Ko in the second season of hit comedy Only Murders In The Building.

Christine Ko joins the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale S5 as Lily.

Will The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 be the final chapter?

Speaking at Deadline’s Contenders TV virtual event, Miller admitted that he is “never looking to end” the show, noting that he is lucky enough to “work with a group of very undifficult people; we have a lovely group of writers, a spectacular group of actors and visiting directors and our crew.”

However, he continued: “I don’t know how you felt about the pandemic, but I certainly learned the things of my life that are pretty rare and working with these people is one of them. So, honestly, yes, 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.

“As long as I am writing for Elisabeth Moss, you know, it really doesn’t get much better.”

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Moss, meanwhile, has said that she will continue on in her role as June and take it “season by season” but warned it couldn’t go one forever.

“I think that this show is about this one woman’s journey,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

“This show is about a woman creating a better future for the next generation and, specifically, for her own children. And that’s the only thing that I’m thinking about and focusing on in season five right now, without knowing all the details.

“It has been about her daughters and it will always be about her daughters.”

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How will The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 tie into The Testaments?

Now, we know that The Testaments – Atwood’s award-winning sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale – is getting its own TV series, which means the two shows can’t overlap too much. However, this does mean that Miller and co are working towards the ending envisaged by the author herself.

We’re dipping into spoiler territory for those who have yet to read the sequel, of course, but it’s worth remembering that it shows us a very different side to Aunt Lydia. Indeed, it turns out that she is a source for Mayday in Canada, smuggling damaging information out of the country in order to bring about Gilead’s destruction.

Will we see this side of her in The Handmaid’s Tale TV series, we wonder? After all, we’ve seen her stand up to Gilead on a number of occasions in the fourth season – and show her softer side to Janine, too. And she, too, has access to June’s daughter, Hannah, who we know is training to become an Aunt herself in The Testaments’ narrative.

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When can we expect to see The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 on our TV screens?

The UK release date for The Handmaid’s Tale season five has been revealed as “later this month”, with an exact date yet to be confirmed. It will air on Channel 4 at the same time as Amazon Prime Video and previous seasons will be available to stream on All 4 ahead of the series five premiere.

Images: Hulu/Channel 4

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