'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 5: The 'Season of June vs. Serena' When Both Are Driven by Fear

The two may have a 'trauma bond' from their experiences in Gilead, but recent actions have driven them farther apart than ever before.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

From left to right: Yvonne Strahovski and Elisabeth Moss in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 5


If you've seen the Season 5 trailer for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, you know that June (Elisabeth Moss) killing Fred (Joseph Fiennes) at the end of Season 4 is weighing on her. But she's not the only one.

The loss of a Commander in Gilead is hard on everyone back in that oppressive state, as those who still live there, especially those who are still in power there, have to come to terms with the fact that a handmaid — a woman they stripped of all rights and power — was able to pull off such a feat. His loss is even more palpable for his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), though, who is still in Canada and pregnant with his baby. Without his arm to hold and his side to walk by, Serena will have to navigate her own way to power in the world. Meanwhile, June confesses the depth of her crime to her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) because she fears how much she enjoyed what she did.

That word — fear — is the same driving emotion for both June and Serena when Season 5 begins. Although, to hear Strahovski tell it, fear might not be a strong enough word for Serena.

"I think she's just absolutely terrified once she finds out that June was the one [who killed her husband]," Strahovski tells Metacritic. "I think anything is possible at that point, and given that Serena finally has the one thing she's wanted this entire time, which is a baby of her own growing inside of her, the fact that June could kill Fred means that she could kill the baby and Serena. So, the stakes are just so incredibly high, and she just has so much to lose."

But what is different for the women is what that emotion drives them to do.

"They don't like to be scared, and so, if they have a way to act to get out of it, they do. The way that Serena reacts is by trying to pull a whole country around her to protect her from June, but June can't live the life she did before where she's waiting for them to come get her," creator and showrunner Bruce Miller tells Metacritic.

Hence why June confesses. 

"She doesn't want to have to hide what she did, she isn't ashamed of what she did, and so, she is is willing to let the chips fall where they may because she doesn't want to be waiting for the chips to fall," Miller continues.

"I think that June thought that by vanquishing the villain, Fred, she would experience some relief and some peace, and that doesn't come; it doesn't fix anything — and it certainly does not stop Gilead and it doesn't get her daughter back. It almost becomes a selfish act that makes her feel better for a few hours but then doesn't really do anything. And that's very complex idea to start the season with, and it's a very unusual idea to start the season with," Moss tells Metacritic.

Although Moss notes that the show has always had June and Serena's relationship at the center of its story ("Yvonne and I call them Juliet and Juliet," she says), the perspective of the show still comes from June. So, in earlier seasons, she was pulled in a lot of directions fighting to get her eldest daughter back and get out of Gilead, while Serena was happily encased in the Gileadian system. Now, both women are out, but with complex feelings about their place in that society and in the one they are currently residing in. 

"Their whole relationship has been a trauma bond," Miller points out.

But because June not only drew Waterford blood, but also mailed a piece (his finger) of Fred to his wife, Season 5 is going to be the "the season of June vs. Serena," Moss says.

"There's only one other person who knows what June experienced in Gilead. They have a bond that June doesn't have with anyone else and that Serena does not have with anyone else," she continues. "They are the heroine and villain of the show. They're the most complicated relationship of the show. I think Season 5 brings us to a really, really cool, interesting place because, for me, we are saying to the audience, 'Oh it's been them all along.'"

The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 premieres Sept. 14 with its first two episodes