‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ boss on Serena’s shocking twist, [SPOILER]’s death, and what happens next
Warning: This article contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Season 5 episode 6 of The Handmaid’s Tale is a bit of a doozy, to say the least.
In a nutshell, almost every character on the show is at a crossroads by the episode’s end. Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) begins to realize that her benefactors, the Wheelers, may have taken her in as more of a handmaid than a friend. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) learns that Esther is pregnant after having been raped by Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken), and goes to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) to seek a punishment for Putnam. This leads to Nick (Max Minghella), with Lawrence watching on, executing Putnam in broad daylight during brunch with his wife. We also learn that Nick’s wife, Rose (Carey Cox), has just given birth to a baby and knows exactly what he did.
And, finally, when Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and June (Elisabeth Moss) get separated at the border and June is turned over to the Wheelers to be “taken care of” once and for all, Serena begs and pleads to be there when their henchman, Ezra, plans to kill June. She convinces him at the last moment to let her pull the trigger. Instead of killing her archrival and former handmaid, Serena shoots Ezra (Rossif Sutherland) in the head and then takes his car with June, unknown destination.
After we had a moment to catch our breath, EW reached to Bruce Miller, the showrunner, to discuss the episode’s major moments and their implications for the characters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start at the end, actually, with probably the episode’s biggest moment. Serena finally gets a chance at killing June, but she doesn’t. Was it impulsive? Was she impulsive? What was she thinking in that moment?
BRUCE MILLER: I think it is not impulsive. In an earlier episode, she decides that this is the best way out before having the baby. It’s more thoughtful and careful than she’d like. She’s also scheming and evil. It’s a plan she sets up and executes very carefully to escape the clutches of Ezra, the Wheelers. Although Serena is definitely tempted and wants to kill Serena at the moment, I believe her plan is to use this to escape from the Wheelers.
How long have you known you wanted to play with this idea of Serena becoming a handmaid of sorts?
Well, I think that once we decided to have Serena be pregnant, we were very focused on what anybody’s pregnancy would be like in that world, or a world where fertility is falling. Also, what would it look like for Serena if she became pregnant? How would she share that message with others? How would she communicate that message to others? Given her personality, what would she do with it? While pregnancy doesn’t change your personality, it does alter your priorities. She’s still a narcissistic spider, or snake in general. She’s not going change that. But she might have another excuse. It could be that she wants to make the world okay for her child. It’s always about Serena.
We also learn that Nick’s wife Rose is pregnant. We also learn that Rose is pregnant by Nick. She clearly knows what Nick did, but she doesn’t seem happy about it. Can we trust her? Nick is apprehensive about the fact that she knows so many things.
Do you trust her is really more of my question. I don’t know if she trusts me. That’s evolving, too. But you’ll notice that we tried to establish Nick and Rose’s dynamic early on. It’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She asks “Where were you all night?” She gets an honest answer. Not an exhaustive one, but one that is honest. What does this do to Rose, who you are starting to get to understand, who is perhaps a little more difficult than you thought, and why is it happening? She seems very kind. Why does she let him walk over her? It’s all about the fact that you are about to discover that there is another human in the mix. Rose is that person.
And, I think it begs the question of, how does this impact whatever relationship Nick and June have?
Oh, absolutely. I think Nick is very attached to feeling good or bad about the things he does. He doesn’t want to do anything else. He avoids doing anything that could make him feel bad. He has plenty of these things on his plate.
And speaking of that, him killing Commander Putnam in broad daylight like that was interesting. He didn’t hesitate. He made it seem easy. But what are the implications for moving forward?
Didn’t he make it look easy, though? That was really fascinating, wasn’t it? Nick is probably someone who has been through close-up violence in the past and knows how it tortures him. It made Nick prefer to act as a spy driver for the Eyes rather than doing other interesting things. He didn’t want anything to do anymore with violence. As he climbed up, he was required to command troops. This time, he didn’t. He didn’t do it from a distance and he didn’t even pass it on to June as he did in the woods [with Commander Waterford’s death].
Yeah, he just went for it.
That’s what it’s about. It’s getting closer. You can feel Nick’s walls closing in on him in this episode. I love the fact you feel Rose — exactly as you said — is Rose dangerous? Is she dangerous for June, but not for Nick? Is she dangerous for both of them? Is she dangerous for either of them? What’s the matter? She is definitely becoming a problem or something. Warren [Putnam] was a good example. Now this. It’s the idea of putting pressure on the character to make them vulnerable and seeing what happens. Nick’s idea is that he’s done a lot of bad things. I know how expensive that is, and I will not do it again if I can. It’s often out of love for him.
The Handmaid’s Tale — “Together” – Episode 506 Serena (Yvonne Strahovski)
Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) in episode 6 of season 5 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale. ‘
| Credit: Sophie Giraud/Hulu
We’ve also seen a shift in Aunt Lydia, sort of over time, but especially in this episode where she stands up for her handmaid and tries to get justice for her. This is interesting in light of her being an important part of The Handmaid’s Tale‘s sequel, The Testaments, which is also in development as a series. What can you tell us about the character she is?
Well, I think we’re seeing kind of an era of self-examination that she’s going through. Things have been going well for a while in Gilead. But she’s losing it… and it doesn’t seem like things will get any better with the next generation. So she’s reckoning with the decision she’s made when she was younger, or at the beginning of Gilead, what she threw her a lot in with, and that really is what The Testaments is about. She’s now shifting to those issues and I believe the character is moving in that direction. That’s why Margaret Atwood wrote it, and Ann [Dowd] is such a great character. We aren’t doing it like “Oh, we must get into this very exact timeline with events.” It’s going to be bad TV, I think. So we’re trying to make this a really good TV show, and then we’ll try to make The Testaments a really good TV show. We’ll continue to go from there. Lydia’s natural arc is towards self-examination. She doesn’t always end up where she thinks she will, but she is doing it more and more.
I’ve loved her interactions with Commander Lawrence. Is it wrong for me to believe there is a connection between these two characters? Or am I just being too naive?
They definitely have a sparkle when they’re together. It’s something we emphasize in the editing and writing. Then I find myself in your position: I watch it to see the truth. It doesn’t matter what we intended, what matters is what you get out of it. So far, the season is progressing well, but I don’t really know what these things mean because I haven’t seen the world in the order they play. It’s always fun, there’s a little more there, but I think they have chemistry. I don’t believe there is a romantic element. I don’t think she loves him very much. They find each other a bit repulsive, I think. They also find each other admirable. June feels the same about Serena. She respects her. She also hates her.
I also wanted to inquire about Esther’s pregnancy. If Gilead gets its way, we know that Esther will be chained to a mattress until she gives birth. Is this the end of her character?
I don’t know what Janine or June will ever find out about what happened. This may be the end for her story from our perspective, but Esther still has a lot of work ahead of her. I don’t think it will be pleasant. It’s casting, really. People are successful and busy and I am so grateful for them. I don’t want anything to get in the way of anyone. We’ll figure it out, but we haven’t seen the last of her, maybe even this season. I won’t give away anything.
What should people expect from the rest of this season as a whole?
I think that there is a kind of inevitability about the way the show goes, that is driven by June and what would happen to June. It’s difficult to accept because her situation is so unique. But, if you sit down with your friends and have enough beer, you can figure out what the next step will be. [Laughs]
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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