Elisabeth Moss on The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Finale Twist: ‘Holy Sh*t!’

Spoilers below.

June Osborne is finally headed to safety…or is she? At the top of The Handmaid’s Tale’s season 5 finale, she and her daughter Nichole have boarded a train of refugees escaping from Canada, only to search out Serena Waterford and her child aboard too. And if that isn’t enough to fret about, June’s husband Luke has stayed behind, arrested and charged with murder, and their 12-year-old daughter Hannah continues to be stuck in Gilead. June could also be free from violent anti-refugee protesters—just like the one which ran her over along with his truck—and she or he’s heading farther away from Gilead than ever before, but when the remaining of her family continues to be at risk, then she may be too.

Within the episode’s closing moments, each June (Elisabeth Moss) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) stand head to head holding their young children of their arms. Motherhood binds them together in multiple ways: not only because June was a handmaid for Serena and her husband (and endured abuse from the couple for years), but additionally because she helped Serena deliver a baby of her own this season. But, as June has previously made clear, that doesn’t make them friends. Season 5 began within the aftermath of June killing Serena’s husband Fred, and ends with each women in search of asylum together. How will their dynamic proceed to evolve by the top of this train ride, and because the events of season 6 unfold?


Moss spoke with ELLE.com last week to debate season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale, which she says took nine months to shoot, and its emotional finale. Below, she breaks down Serena and June’s dynamic, how The Handmaid’s Tale reflects the present state of the world, and what’s in store for the sixth and final season.

First, I need to discuss Luke and June’s attempted escape within the train station. They’re about to board a train to get out of Canada with Nichole, but he stays behind since the police are on the lookout for him. Could you talk in regards to the emotions running through that scene?

I believe that the entire episode is in regards to the concept of how all of those characters think that they’re protected. They think they’ve got it found out. They think they understand who their friends are and who their enemies are and what their next move is. After which, one after the other within the episode, each character has that [thought] turned on its head. The episode known as “Secure,” and that’s what I took from it once I first got it and was attempting to break it all the way down to work out what it was about.

For Luke and June, originally of the episode, they think that they’re protected at home, that they’ve got their daughter. There’s a sense of virtually tranquility and peace after they’re drinking coffee within the kitchen, they usually’re feeling like they’ve a plan and all of that. After which, in fact, all of it falls apart very, in a short time, with June getting hit by the truck and Luke checking out he’s going to be arrested for murder, after which they need to go.

So I believe the sentiments which might be going through them are only feelings of fear and panic about how this life that they arrange is falling apart. They usually need to get their daughter to safety, they usually need to get themselves to safety. And there’s that immediate danger of people who find themselves on the lookout for Luke. If he gets arrested, he’s going to be set free on bail, or whatever it’s. And he’s going to be in serious danger from the individuals who have this growing anti-refugee sentiment in Toronto. So that they’re in a particularly dangerous situation.

I believed that scene where Luke says goodbye was really interesting, since it was over the phone, and also you and O-T Fagbenle played it so well. What was it like for you and O-T to convey that emotional conversation where you’re not head to head, at the least on camera? After which what was it like for you filming it because the director?

Well, it’s one and the identical, since I’m doing each [acting and directing] at the identical time. We shot his side first. That whole train sequence took 4 nights to do, and was at three different locations. So once we were on the platform, that’s once we shot the phone call. And we shot his side on the primary night because we knew that he was going to be driving the scene a lot. And the best way O-T works may be very fluid. He likes to improv, he likes to try things, he likes to, in the course of the take, return to the start. And clearly, after five years of working with him, I do know him very well, and I know the way he likes to work. So I just thought that will be conducive to determining what the scene was going to be, to have him do it first.

More often than not when he was doing his side of the phone call, I used to be watching on the monitor and talking to him on the phone. So I used to be half-playing June and saying my lines and half-directing him over the phone. Like, “Okay, return and try this again,” or, “Say that again,” or reminding him about something that he desired to try.

After which once we did my side the following day, he was in my eyesight. So I used to be capable of have him at the least there, even when I couldn’t see him. Our eyelines are so tight on the show…I probably have played 75 percent of this show to the camera, so sometimes I couldn’t see him. But once we did my side, it was great because we knew what the scene was. We knew what we wanted it to be.

I’d say that we co-directed that scene. That’s what I tell him. I believe we co-directed it because he was really helpful once I was doing my side, just so I used to be capable of do my performance. He was helpful in ensuring we didn’t forget anything that we desired to try, and ensuring we said lines that we desired to try. And responses to things that he had said, we desired to make sure that that we got on my side. We also cleared out many of the background, so it was actually quite intimate and quiet, which is what we wanted. We didn’t need to feel like everybody was looking at us. It was vital to create the intimacy of the phone call although they’re on the phone.

handmaids tale season 5 finale

Moss and Fagbenle in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 finale.

Russ Martin/Hulu

Role reversal gave the impression to be a theme this season, with Luke getting left behind from an escape in the identical way that June has previously, and Serena essentially being demoted to a handmaid. Was that intentional?

I believe a lot of this season is in regards to the characters being at these tipping points and really having to choose who their friends are and who their enemies are. And I believe that there’s a sense amongst just a few of the characters, particularly amongst Serena and Nick and Aunt Lydia, obviously, of feeling just like the those who they’ve thrown their lot in with may not have been one of the best people to do this [with]. And persons are starting to alter their mind. I believe that’s something that will likely be really interesting to proceed to explore in season six.

Speaking of Serena, on the very end of the episode, June runs into her and her baby on the train. What were your initial thoughts if you read that twist within the script? And what’s going through June’s head in that moment?

After I first read it, I had what is going to hopefully be the identical response, which was, “Oh my God, holy shit! No way!” And just loved it as a fan.

I believe what’s going through June’s head is definitely something that I need to go away open-ended, because I believe it’s very complicated. I don’t know that she’s feeling anyone emotion. I believe that there’s some relief of not being alone. There’s some relief at having a friend, even when it’s the complicated friend you’ve got. She’s not alone and there’s relief in that. But at the identical time, Jesus Christ, does it need to be Serena?

Right. Of all people.

Of all of the people she could’ve run into, all of the gin joints on the earth. So I believe it’s really complicated, but I actually desired to make sure that that we left it really open and that was this moment of suspension that we weren’t answering the audience’s query. There was a line that we ended up not using since it just felt within the moment like we were answering the query. And I didn’t need to answer it. I desired to be something that you just would come back for in season six.

handmaids tale season 5 finale

Yvonne Strahovski as Serena.

Sophie Giraud/Hulu

How would you describe June and Serena’s relationship this season? It was super fascinating to see their dynamic develop: it’s revenge but not, forgiveness but not, friendship but not.

I won’t go on and on, but simply to go over the arc of the season, I believe [June] starts out feeling nervous about what Serena’s response goes to be to what she did to Fred. And she or he’s attempting to work out who the villain is now. After which at the top of episode two, she thinks she figures out, “Okay, Serena is the villain.” After which she spends the following few episodes with Serena because the villain.

After which I believe after episode seven, when she’s put on this position where she’s holding that baby and she or he could do exactly what Serena did and exactly what so many men and ladies in Gilead have done and take her child, she realizes, “Oh my God, they’re attempting to make me one among them. And I’m not going to be one among you.”

It’s an actual breakthrough moment for her as an individual. And I believe it’s that moment when she rises above it and is like, “I’m not going to be you. I’m going to show the opposite cheek.” She lets go of the hate, and she or he lets go of numerous her anger towards Serena. Since the truth is, the issue is a lot greater than one person. It’s a lot greater than simply Fred. It’s a lot greater than Serena. This can be a whole country that she has to fight. Serena’s not the issue. And I believe June realizes that.

Definitely. It’s fighting an entire system slightly than simply one other person.

Yeah. Exactly. The fight is far greater than one individual.

The Handmaid’s Tale has all the time resonated with viewers, especially women on this time. There are obviously some ways in which this season speaks to current events, just like the extremism in Canada towards refugees, which, unfortunately I did see some parallels with headlines and sentiments within the U.S. straight away. And in addition the show, which is about women’s bodily autonomy at its core, is coming at a time after Roe vs. Wade was overturned. What did it feel like filming the scenes with the refugees in Canada, and in addition filming the season knowing that this was going to return out in a post-Roe world?

Unfortunately, I used numerous images and research from, on the time, what was happening in Ukraine, with people fleeing. And numerous my research visuals were from, unfortunately, the week before, with these refugees fleeing on these trains and the crowds and youngsters and other people being separated and all of that. In order that was something that was an unlucky relevancy that I did tap into.

I believe it’s a double-edged sword. Because on one hand, you’re pleased that you would be able to shed some light on something or bring some awareness to something. However, in fact, I wish that none of it was happening and it was just pure fantasy and just crazy things that we were showing in our crazy TV show. So the relevancy is an actual double-edged sword for us, personally, as humans.

But our show, from the unique book and all five seasons, is largely in regards to the fight for human rights. It’s principally about freedom. It’s about human rights for everyone, and bodily autonomy falls into that. And the fundamental premise of our show is one where those rights have been taken away.

And so, unfortunately, we live in a society where our human rights are being threatened day by day, and in numerous countries, in America as well, are gone completely. And so the relevancy of it’s…a double-edged sword. I’m pleased as an artist to have the option to do something that hopefully brings some awareness to a situation. At the identical time, it will be fun if it was just fantasy.

handmaids tale season 5 finale

Moss behind the scenes directing.

Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Were you on set or when the Roe news got here out at the top of June?

In my capability on the show, I work on the show all 12 months, so it’s difficult to say when it starts or when it ends. We’re beginning to very, very, very preliminary soft-prep season six. Our official prep [for season 5] began in November of last 12 months. We began shooting, I believe, in February. Is that right? January? I don’t even know. So yeah, I used to be shooting the finale when that happened.

What was the energy on set like on the time, if you happen to can remember?

Truthfully, there’s a difference between the job we’ve to do and the way we feel as humans and the way we feel as women. So we’ve all types of non-public conversations about how we feel as people and as Americans. And clearly, all of us consider in a women’s right to decide on and in anybody’s right to decide on, the trans right to decide on. We consider in something that isn’t very present in our show. And at the identical time, there’s a job to do, and also you do your job.

What can we expect from season six? Are there any hopes that you could have for the following and last season?

I believe that it’s going to be a season where June goes to work out who she is and who she’s going to be for the remaining of her life.

Like we were talking about, the fight shouldn’t be nearly one individual; it’s much larger than that. And I believe she is, in season five, attending to that place where she’s realizing that. After which season six goes to be very much about that, after which about all of the characters determining whose side they’re on and what their next move is.

I believe the one thing that we all the time say is that we do shoot the show through the particular lenses of those characters. I don’t think we feel an obligation to tie up your entire story of Gilead, especially not because we’ve got the sequel coming up in The Testaments. So we do have the chance to proceed the story. But so far as June, I believe she’s on her option to becoming the heroine that she will likely be.

We’re very excited to see that. I can’t consider it’s almost over.

I do know, and it appears like it’s going to be so long until you guys get to see the rest. And I apologize personally for that, but every season we do gets greater, and it takes longer to make each time. And since it’s the ultimate season, we really need to make sure that that it’s exactly what we would like to do.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There’s a 75 percent probability she’s listening to Lorde straight away. 

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