‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Boss on June ‘Fantasizing’ About Life With Nick & Luke At Different Points
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for all of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4.]
June (Elisabeth Moss) may have escaped Gilead and made it to the freedom of Canada in the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, but now it’s a matter of what’s next for the survivor.
With the way June and others including Moira (Samira Wiley), Emily (Alexis Bledel), and Rita (Amanda Brugel) are coping with what they went through, the focus was on the fact “that everybody’s trauma is so different that it’s almost impossible to predict how people are going to react and also to kind of fathom how it is a reaction to trauma,” showrunner Bruce Miller tells TV Insider.
“One of the things I thought was interesting was that there was a comment that June wasn’t going to therapy and we had looked into that and she would be offered therapy, which is lovely because it’s Canada and the U.S., but most refugees certainly here are not offered therapy,” he continued. “So yes, it would be nice if June was offered therapy. A large number of survivors decide not to do it, just don’t want to relive those things. I just thought that was absolutely fascinating. How June kind of deals with this, her fury and her anger and whether she wants to let it go — when you sum all of that stuff, it’s fascinating.”
June did get a form of justice against her captor, Fred (Joseph Fiennes), killing him and leaving him hanging on a wall (as was the punishment in Gilead), but the season also ended with her expecting to have to leave her family (including baby Nichole) as a result of her actions.
Below, Miller discusses June’s relationships, what’s going on in Gilead, and more.
June’s relationships are complicated, to say the least. How did you want to balance the relationships with Nick [Max Minghella] and Luke [O-T Fagbenle] this season to set up what’s next, especially with Nick’s wedding ring?
Bruce Miller: Oh, you noticed that? I always felt like June, when she was in Gilead, Luke and Hannah and her and that life was a beacon. Moira, Emily at a certain point, those people kind of were an idealized hope of paradise, “if I could just get there.” Now, she’s gotten there, and it isn’t paradise. She still carries all the burdens she’s carried. She’s working through all the things that she was working through. And it’s interesting to me that when she looks back on Nick, that’s paradise, that seems to be stress-free now. So it’s completely swapped that in Gilead, she fantasized about Luke and Canada, and now she’s in Canada, she’s fantasizing about Nick and Gilead. Why is that an escape? That to me is absolutely fascinating that both men for June seemed to be an escape from uncomfortable realities but at different points.
The other thing I think is fascinating is honestly the story of fatherhood. For June, you can’t separate out June the lover and June the partner and June the mother. You saw Nick and June together with Nichole, that’s a family. That’s not a picture of lovers and a child of one raised by — no, no, no, this is a family. This is a unit. When you think about Luke has been charged with taking care of Nick’s child and Nick really has charged himself with taking care of Luke’s child, that transfer of fatherhood is really fascinating to me.
Hannah [Jordana Blake] is still in Gilead, and June and Luke want to rescue her, but can you say how much of next season will see one or both of them actively trying to do that? They haven’t really been able to do that so far.
As active as they can be, they will continue to be. If you look at the way these things work in the real world, and we do a lot of research with the UN, there’s almost nothing they can do, except what they’ve been doing: rattling cages, writing letters. The physical action of dropping into Gilead out of an airplane and grabbing their daughter is not something they’re capable of. I can hear in your question the frustration of, can’t they do something? Well, this is what they can do. And it’s more a question of, are they going to accept that? Or are they going to break out of that bond and do something that is unacceptable and has quite a long shot of succeeding and a very good chance of getting them hurt? Do you decide to do that?
For me, it always is a question of, is June a TV character? Is June a real person? I think June’s a real person who’s seen a lot of TV, and so sometimes she does things that she sees on TV that don’t work out so well. “I vow that I will do this. I will never leave until I do this. I will not leave without my daughter.” And then you do, and what do you do? On TV, if you say you don’t leave without your daughter, you don’t, but in June’s real life, it happens. So how do you deal with the realization that the life of a person is not the life of a heroine, it’s the life of a person? She has to deal with those things on a personal level, so I think that she is coming to terms with the reality of what it means to be a rebel leader, a refugee, a mom, a woman of violence. What do all those things mean? Going forward, that’s the fascinating thing for me, at least for June: not how she snaps back to June, but how she integrates Offred into June.
For Janine, I really think through June’s eyes, but also Janine in general, she’s become a leader this year, her own kind of leader. She’s really grown up this year. She challenged June and says, “the way you’re doing it kind of sucks,” and she’s seen Lydia as a leader, she’s seen June as a leader and Alma [Nina Kiri] kind of as a quasi-leader, and she’s heard them criticize each other and she’s seen Mrs. Keyes [Mckenna Grace] and all that stuff. Mrs. Keyes shows up, the last time they saw each other, Mrs. Keyes was in a superior position and Janine just takes her by the hand, leads her, and it is one of the more beautiful performances of a rise to leadership, a rise to maturity of a character I’ve ever seen what Maddie is doing with [this].
Especially this season, we’ve known her so well. We have the same doubts about her and same affection for her. And we kind of think of her as this spacey, not very grounded, not very useful person. She proves to be absolutely the opposite. She manages Aunt Lydia, she manages Mrs. Keyes, she has an agenda and she gets it. She has a goal and she gets there. So I think Janine as a leader, as someone who is manipulating and guiding the situation to make it safer for herself, is a revolutionary evolution for the character.
How would you describe the state of Gilead and the command structure by the end of the season, especially taking into consideration where Nick and Lawrence [Bradley Whitford] stand and what they let happen [to Fred]?
The command structure that we see is a pretty local command structure. There’s Washington DC, and there are the senior commanders. This is one region’s panel of commanders. And as we often see in a totalitarian state, there’s s**tload of commanders, everybody gets to be a commander. Everybody gets to be a boss because they all want to be bosses and they’re all white guys and they all want to be in charge. So there’s an aspect of that.
My sense from Nick and Lawrence is they’re just trying to survive. They’re trying to do good when they can do good, but they’re trying to survive and they’re good at it. And one of the reasons we still see them in the show is they’re so good at it. Neither of them should really be here and they both are good at surviving. They have skills. Lawrence is a respected figure outside of Gilead, and almost nobody else is. So when he goes to talk to Tuello [Sam Jaeger], the outside world doesn’t want to talk to anybody else. They don’t trust anybody else. So I think that that’s the value he offers and he has certainly maneuvered himself in there. And I think that Nick is kind of a legend. He was one of the kind of architects of Gilead in the part of it that was violent.
They both are prominent, but we’re not looking at the central committee of the universe. I don’t think that that’s what it would look like. This is the local, the discussion board that speaks to the discussion board above them.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 5, TBA, Hulu