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TIFF 2022: “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 5

In the 2021 fourth season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss), with the help of her fellow handmaids and the Canadian government, finally took revenge on Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and brutally murdered her Gilead commander and rapist. It was a long time coming for audiences searching for redemption for their favorite handmaid, now taking refuge in Canada.


But, as audiences in Canada discovered when TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) recently premiered the first two episodes of the fifth season, that feeling of satisfaction was short-lived.

How does Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) respond to the news? Can June and her husband Luke get their daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) back? Will June go to jail for Fred’s murder?

After the entire cast, along with creator Bruce Miller, sat down for a Q&A in front of the excited hometown audience, Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski acknowledged that her character is now under new pressure. She is pregnant, widowed, and taking refuge in Toronto.

“I feel happy to take on the pressure, even though I really miss Joe,” Strahovski responds, referring to her co-star Joseph Fiennes. “It is really fun to play this character. There are so many juicy things to do with her and such an exciting setup for this season. I would just say: don’t let it fool you – where the season begins. We really have an opportunity to truly explore the – dare I say? – Juliet and Juliet love affair that is the June and Serena relationship. That exploration goes to new heights and new depths this season. So, I’ve loved it.”

One thing is certain: with the US Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, and many states banning abortion outright, the fight for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy will continue to unfold in Gilead and the United States simultaneously.

Many think the 1985 dystopian novel of the same name penned by Margaret Atwood was eerily prescient. Imagining a fundamentalist, patriarchal, and white-supremacist regime in the US where women had some fundamental rights denied to them? After the Supreme Court verdict was announced, Atwood tweeted a photo holding a coffee mug inscribed ‘Told you So.’

Fans mistakenly thought she was endorsing the decision. The author soon explained: “When Handmaid’s Tale came out in ‘85, there was disbelief. I thought a religious-right takeover was possible in the US and was ‘Crazy Margaret.’ So premature, but unfortunately too close.”

Bruce Miller, producer of the successful series, explains that the news about Roe v Wade was announced after the current season had wrapped. “But Margaret Atwood is really responsible for this being predictive when it came out and predictive 30 years later. Those questions she proposed – about women and reproductive rights and women and their bodily autonomy – are clearly all still in play now.”

Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress Elisabeth Moss also directed the first two episodes of the new season and confesses that the experience changed her relationship with playing June.

“I always wondered if it would distract me from the acting if I directed,” she explains. “I was actually very happily surprised to learn that it has only deepened my understanding of the character because, to be honest, when I’m just acting, I don’t really pay much attention or do any of the thinking you’re supposed to do.”

Moss adds: “When you’re a director you have to think about it, and do a lot of preparation and talk to the writers and the other actors. I found I did a lot more work as an actor being a director too.”