It has been a very long wait between seasons of The Handmaid's Tale, given that production of season 4 was halted as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, the shooting was able to resume safely, and the premiere of the new season is imminent: The first episodes of season 4 premiere on SBS and On Demand on Thursday 29 April, mere hours after the world premiere in North America.
The cultural phenomenon picks up exactly where we left off, with June having accomplished yet another strike against her captors in Gilead, and paying a high price for her efforts. If you're not yet all caught up on the dramatic events of season 3, we've got you covered with this comprehensive recap.
June is now the face of the Mayday revolution, and her desire for justice and revenge threatened to consume her, and destroy her most cherished relationships.
On the eve of the show's premiere, we joined executive producer and star, Elisabeth Moss, along with showrunner and executive producer, Bruce Miller, and executive producer, Warren Littlefield, for a preview of what this season has in store.
"It was time for shit to happen, and we tried to make shit happen." - Bruce Miller
It's June vs Aunt Lydia
The season trailer features a bloodied Lydia demanding that June be captured: "Find her, and bring her to me," she demands. No doubt Lydia is on the hook for dereliction of her duty, by not intercepting the hellraiser Handmaid's plan to reduce the ranks of the junior population of Gilead.
Elisabeth Moss: "Yeah. God, June versus Aunt Lydia. I mean, I think one of the themes that we deal with this season is power and what real power means, and who has it. That's what so much of the book was about and it's what so much of our show is about.
"Power isn't always what it looks like. Power can be dangerous. It can be something that is destructive. And I think for both June and Lydia, they're both seeking power on their own journeys, but perhaps in very different ways and with different objectives."
Bruce Miller: "We’ve got Lydia in this season in a Javert (a la Les Miserables) kind of position, where she's just obsessed with June, and has so much of her personal worth tied up in what June is doing and how much damage June is wreaking out in the world. And she feels responsible.
"It's really interesting [to examine] who's responsible for someone else's behaviour, and how much of those things do you take on. Although they are enemies in this story, they're inextricably linked. They spend a tonne of time thinking about the other one, and what the other one is doing. So it's fascinating to have two people who really would like to be rid of each other, to be tangled up with each other, all the time."
Things are going to *happen*
The trailer promises a lot. June is on the run. She does a lot of running. She appears to seek asylum at the border? In the final moments of the trailer she declares, " I ask for justice." Is she testifying at Fred and Serena's trial, maybe? And speaking of those two, why is Fred looking at an ultrasound image?! So many questions.
Bruce Miller: "I think that the biggest thing is that this season we're delivering... I think we set up a lot of things, but we're making progress. We're delivering on the things that we've set up, and that's very satisfying. I mean, it is something that has to do with COVID and the pandemic: life is short!
"I think in this season, we weren't waiting around, we were trying to make progress. It was time for shit to happen, and we tried to make shit happen. And I think that made me feel like, 'Wow, you can have shit happen, and you can still have a really interesting show'.
We're going to Chicago
Warren Littlefield: "This year, in some ways, is about patience rewarded."
"We've planted seeds for several years about this uprising and hotspot in Chicago, and that the forces of Gilead really can't keep it under control. And, that's where the uprising is. And Nick is going to be sent to Chicago. And, now we go. Now we leave our central universe around the Greater Boston area, and, Boom, we're in a completely different environment."
Bruce Miller: "All that claustrophobia we had in the first three seasons in the house, has now been exploded to exactly the opposite. We're not claustrophobic."
Warren Littlefield: "In season four, we have no home base. Seasons one and two were the Waterford House. Well, we burned it down. And then it was Commander Lawrence's house. That was pretty spectacular. Yeah, we don't use that as our home base anymore. And in season four, we're nomadic. We are following June's passion, her drive, her relentless pursuit for change. And that takes us like everywhere.
"We're out on the road. There is no home base. So go figure. And this year of COVID, we attempted our most ambitious production year, because we're out there following this journey. And so I don't know if we can keep up that level, then it excites me about where we go from here."
Elisabeth Moss directs three episodes this season
(Moss' first episode as director is episode 3, premiering at SBS On Demand on April 29)
Elisabeth Moss: "I feel like as June I've been so intrinsically involved in so much of this show from the very beginning, that I know it so well. So, it exists in my bones, this show. And so it's not as big of a shift as you would think to take on that new position.
Bruce Miller: "I think the thing that Lizzie did that was so amazing is she directed as Lizzie, she didn't try to be somebody else. It was more an extension of how she prepares as an actress, and how she works as a producer, to be a director.
"She is a generational talent in terms of being an actress. She's just remarkable and unique. And she brought that to her directing. She was Elisabeth Moss, with those years of television experience, with those years of acting experience, bringing those things to bear.
Certainly, if I didn't think she could direct, I would never have said yes. And the reason I knew she could, was not because of the other things, but because of just the amount of respect and intelligence and depth as a human being that she brings to all the stuff that she does, she brought to directing. And I wasn't surprised."
Warren Littlefield: "She does the work. She had every right to say, 'I can't go on that [location] scout. Just show me pictures.' She had every right to not give it a 24/7 commitment. But with the director crown on her head said, I'm going to do all the work, all the details. I'm going to learn what this is. I've observed it for my whole life, but now I'm actually going to do it. And so there was no red carpet, there was mud and cold and snow, and it was ugly.
"And I think it's fair to say she relished it. And, I think that's the best tribute I have is like, wow, no one held the door open. She did it herself."
SBS will air the double-episode season premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale at 8.30pm Thursday 29 April, with episodes 1-3 available at SBS On Demand from 7:01PM. A second double episode will air on Thursday 6 May at 8.30pm, with weekly episodes to follow at 9.30pm. Episodes will be available to stream weekly at SBS On Demand.
Also returning is SBS Australia’s award-winning Handmaid's Tale companion podcast, Eyes on Gilead. Each episode of the podcast offers entertaining and engrossing analysis of The Handmaid's Tale, along with exclusive interviews with the stars and talent behind the show. You can subscribe to Eyes On Gilead on your preferred podcast platform now.
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