‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Drops Early: What You Need To Know

Blessed be. After a nearly 2-year hiatus, 'The Handmaid's Tale' is back for season 4 and premiered EARLY. HollywoodLife has all the latest updates about the hit Hulu series.

June’s story is far from over. The wait has been long for The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, but we now have new episodes in front of us. We’ve all been wondering: when does The Handmaid’s Tale return? Well, we have that answer now. The cast revealed on social media the night before the intended release date that Hulu was dropping the first 3 episodes early!

After a COVID-19 delay, the critically-acclaimed Hulu series is back for its highly-anticipated fourth season and has already been renewed for a fifth season. Elisabeth Moss is back as June and taking on a new role in season 4 as well. The majority of the main cast is returning, along with a brand-new actor joining the crew. HollywoodLife has all the key information you need to know about season 4, including what to expect, the cast, and more.

Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss as June in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ (Hulu)

The First 3 Episodes

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 started in the aftermath of June helping dozens of children escape to Canada, all while staying behind in Gilead. June recovers from the injuries she sustained in the season 3 finale and ends up at the home of Commander Keyes, along with other handmaids. June meets Mrs. Keyes, a young wife played by Mckenna Grace. Mrs. Keyes hates Gilead as much as June, and she reveals to June that she’s been raped repeatedly by Commander Keyes, as well as other commanders and eyes. She later confesses to June that she’s been poisoning Commander Keyes with nightshade in order to prevent future assaults.

Mrs. Keyes also ends up murdering one of the men who sexually assaulted her. Just before that moment, June hands her a knife and says, “In this place, we all fight. Make me proud.” When Mrs. Keyes is done with her killing, she crawls into bed with June, her face covered in blood.

June continues to try and avoid getting captured by the guardians. She learns about a brothel, and one of the jezebels tells June about a safe house. June offers the jezebel the opportunity to kill the commanders who frequent her brother in exchange for information. The jezebel takes the offer and uses nightshade to try and kill the commanders. June is later captured by guardians, led by Nick. June is taken back to Gilead and interrogated. She breaks when Hannah’s life is threatened. She reveals the location of the safe house in order to protect her daughter.

June and other handmaids are put in a van with Aunt Lydia. Another chance for escape arises, and the handmaids go for it. However, only June and Janine make it out alive. Even though she could have easily killed her, June chooses not to murder Aunt Lydia. In other Handmaid’s news, Nick and Commander Lawrence have some deep discussions, Serena Joy is pregnant, and Luke, Moira, and Emily start to wonder if June will ever be saved.

Season 4 Release Date

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 was originally supposed to premiere on April 28. However, just hours before the initial release date, the cast blessed The Handmaid’s Tale fans with an epic gift. The first 3 episodes of season 4 were available starting 9 p.m. ET on April 27. The season is kicking off with the first 3 episodes. Following the premiere of the first 3 episodes, Hulu will then release one new episode per week.

What To Expect In Season 4

The fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale will consist of 10 episodes. The previous two seasons had 13 episodes each. In season 4, June strikes back against Gilead as a fierce rebel leader, but the risks she takes bring unexpected and dangerous new challenges. Her quest for justice and revenge threatens to consume her and destroy her most cherished relationships. A full trailer was released on March 30.

On the same day that the release date was revealed, Hulu also dropped a new season 4 teaser. “Global sanctions on Gilead are mounting as the latest wave of violence continues. No matter where the war finds you today, just remember, we are still here,” one of the voices of Radio Free America says in the teaser.

June finds herself facing new and old enemies. “She’s out there planning who knows what kind of atrocities to visit upon our righteous nation. Find her and bring her to me,” Aunt Lydia says. At one point, it looks like June and Lydia come face-to-face in what’s sure to be an epic battle.

Elisabeth Moss Max Minghella
Max Minghella & Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ (Hulu)

Nick is also back in a big way in season 4. Commander Lawrence says to him during an important talk, “You can’t save her.” That’s not going to stop Nick. Nick and June do reunite and share a passionate kiss. There’s also a glimpse of a confrontation of June with Mrs. Keyes, played by Mckenna Grace. “We don’t hide. We fight,” June tells Mrs. Keyes.

During the 2021 Oscars, another trailer for season 4 aired. June is seen giving her testimony. “Mine is just one voice. Countless others remain unheard. Women imprisoned by men, who can never be heard again. It is for those women I ask for justice,” June says in the trailer.

Where Season 3 Left Off

The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 ended on a very dramatic note. June was able to rescue more than 50 children, as well as Rita, and get them safely to Canada. Upon arrival at the airport, June notices a guardian watching the plane. June tells the group to go on without her. June gets help from Marthas and handmaids to distract the guardian so Rita and the kids can get away.

June is eventually chased by the guardian through the woods. He shoots her, but she’s able to clip him with Lawrence’s gun. Before she kills him, she makes him radio in that everything is all good. She sees the plane take off and cries knowing her plan worked. The finale ends with June being carried away by other handmaids. The plane gets to Canada, and Moira, Luke, and Emily are there when Rita and the kids arrive.

Fred also turns on Serena, and she’s arrested as a result. Fred told Tuello about the crimes Serena left out of her initial testimony, including having June sleep with Nick to conceive their baby.

Season 4 Cast

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 features the return of all the main cast members. The series stars Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Amanda Brugel, Bradley Whitford, and Sam Jaeger. Sam has been upped to a series regular in season 4.

Mckenna Grace
Mckenna Grace has joined the cast of season 4. (AP News)

Mckenna will have a key role in season 4. According to Deadline, Mckenna’s Mrs. Keyes is “a sharply intelligent teenage wife of a much older Commander.” She has “a rebellious, subversive streak, and is calm and pious on the outside with turmoil, even insanity, on the inside.”

In addition to playing June and executive producing the series, Elisabeth will also direct an episode. The third episode of season 4 will mark her directorial debut.

Cast Interviews

Season 4 began filming in March 2020, but production was quickly halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020, Elisabeth posted an Instagram photo from the set of The Handmaid’s Tale and revealed that the cast and crew had stopped filming. “We shut down production of season 4 in order to preserve the health and safety of our cast and crew and join the world in an attempt to flatten the curve,” she wrote. “This show is my life and this cast and crew is my family. Nothing is more important than making sure they and everyone around them is safe. We hope to be back in production as soon as it’s safe to do so. In the meantime stay safe and healthy and take care of yourselves. So much love from our family to yours.” Filming resumed in September 2020 in Canada.

Major details about season 4 have kept the cast tight-lipped, but Elisabeth was able to tease a little bit of what fans should expect in the new season. “I will say that the first half of this season is definitely bigger than we’ve ever done,” she told Deadline in January 2021. “It has been incredibly challenging. It has been, on a production level, really, really outside of our box, and it’s just bigger in every way. It’s one of those things where you’re going to think that something’s going a certain way in Episode 1, and then you’re going to have that change in Episode 2. Then, you’re going to have it change again in Episode 3, and you’re never going to quite be able to figure out where it’s going.”

Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss and Amanda Brugel in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ (Hulu)

Commander Lawrence actually stayed behind in Gilead. When it comes to the future of Gilead, Bradley weighed in with thoughts in an August 2020 interview. “I think part of the thing that is allowing [Lawrence’s] humanity to peek out a little bit is the sense that this is not sustainable,” he told TVLine. “I would argue it’s — at this particular moment at the beginning of this season — I think it is vulnerable, which gives me, as an audience member, hope. But it’s obviously very difficult to take down that structure.”

Executive producer Bruce Miller said that Nick’s backstory will be explored more in season 4. Fans had been wondering about Nick since he was largely absent in the show’s third season. “We planned to develop it [Nick’s backstory] this season and we just didn’t have the real estate,” Bruce told TV Guide in 2019. “Max is a spectacular, fascinating actor. Elusive and handsome and really open and really closed at the same time. He’s terrific and he and Lizzie have such good chemistry together. It’s just a real estate problem, it’s not a lack of interest. We love and are fascinated by Nick, and it’s that you just don’t have enough minutes in the show.”

The cast came together — virtually — to reveal The Handmaid’s Tale has already been renewed for season 5 in December 2020. A release date and filming plans for the fifth season have not been announced yet. Given the current timeline of season 4’s release, it’s safe to assume that season 5 likely won’t air until 2022.

Where To Watch ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 will be available to watch on Hulu. All 3 seasons are currently available on the streaming service. Plans for a Hulu subscription start at $5.99 a month.

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