Joseph Fiennes on the end and death of the brutal “Handmaid’s Tale” season 4 finale

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Spoilers for Episode 10 of Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Wilderness” and Margaret Atwood’s book Wills below.

They say separation is such a sweet pain, unless you are a fictional rapist who regularly twists the word of God in order to justify your own cruelty. After four long seasons of torture, assault and general brutality, The Handmaid’s Tale Seminal villain Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) met his demise at the hands of June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) and her pack of ex-Handmaids in Wednesday’s gruesome Season 4 finale. It’s a fitting ending – seeing Fred hang from the wall with one finger less to match his now widowed wife, Serena – and the kind of violent revenge that’s been brewing since the day June first came to the house. Waterford house. “As a viewer, we need this moment more than anything,” Fiennes told ELLE.com. “It was inevitable.” But by the end of the season, it’s clear that Fred’s murder is more than just a body count – it’s June’s way of stepping into her real post-Gilead self.

Below, Fiennes sits down to discuss how he first found out he would say goodbye to the show, what those last few days on set looked like, and why he’s more than happy to let go. Fred’s slimy shoes behind him.

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Do you remember the first time you found out June would kill Fred?

[Showrunner] Bruce [Miller] Hinted at me at the end of season 2 that season 3 could play out like season 4, but he kept me around. Only by reading [the episode] that I really got to see, and rightly so, how he would be paid back in full for all the horror he inflicted. I loved it, and I was very grateful that it became a season finale. I think the whole season has grown into something really exciting. Of course, you never know in this world if justice will be served, but you just feel this impending need. So to tell you the truth, I was thrilled. I applaud as a member of the audience rather than a character.

I don’t think there are any cut-out cardboard villains, but I think everyone has been tainted by Gilead’s meanness.

I don’t know if satisfying is the right word, because obviously it’s very violent, but it was definitely impactful.

This raises this amazing and complicated question of revenge and the revenge paradox. June brings Gilead — physically, mentally, spiritually — to Canada. She brings all the horror of Gilead with her, and she is a changed person. There’s a lovely moment in Episode 10 where she talks with Emily, and she’s so torn and aware of the rage that she just can’t stem it. Unlike Moira, who really talks about it, “We have to find a different way out. We cannot become the monsters who made us suffer. I love all this complexity in the tale of revenge.

Emily and June Handmaids Tale Season 4 Episode 10

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There is also the scene between Fred and June in the prison, where Fred shows all his true colors. He has such a distorted perspective on what happened in Gilead, but he also knows that June is a mother who has suffered tremendous loss. What were you trying to accomplish and communicate in this scene?

This is one of my favorite scenes of all time, and it follows four years of dating Lizzie. [Moss]the character of. Like all predators, there is this feeling of changing the narrative, blaming the victim, and feeling victimized. That’s what’s horrible, pathetic, and horrible about Fred, and that’s why he will never change. But also, he is aware of the horror. He is aware that he is a serial abuser. He can say the words “I’m sorry,” but I don’t think he’ll ever go so far as to stem or face this kind of horrible predilection and behavior. I loved it because it was very nuanced. It was beautiful, the way Lizzie reacted in shock. He doesn’t have to say it, he’s already out of the trial, so there’s honesty. But he’s twisted and you can’t trust him, even though in his mind it’s a very real admission of guilt and a very real apology. But it’s also imbued with the fact that he knows, and he might even hint at her that, if the opportunity presented itself, he would do it again.

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What conversations have you had with Lizzie or with Bruce going into this particular scene?

We had a number of hours to really explore it and just play with it, rather than intellectualize it. For me, it was really about watching the way predators rationalize the truth and twist the narrative to feel better and almost align themselves with the victim’s skin. It was my journey, which is ugly and obnoxious, but I felt, from certain books I read, that this was the angle I was going to approach.

There were also a few moments that were cut. There are a crowd of madmen who are all for the Waterfords, as you can get in any society, a margin of people who are disenfranchised with everything their government does and who will believe the lie of a new plot. There was a scene where there were women disguised as maids going to Offred’s and undermining her, in favor of the Waterfords. So there was a time when he thought [June’s] walk into the cell to say, “Call those crazy fans.” But it all clouded the water, and rightly so, it was ruled out.

Handmaids Tale Season 4 Episode 10

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How did you feel when you said goodbye to this character? How was that day on the set for you?

Very emotional. I have learned to love and cherish my time and the wonderful relationships I have with the actors, the crew, the actors, the directors, the producers, everyone. We are a tight-knit community. We’ve all seen how this show draws parallels, like [Margaret] Atwood’s novel did that, with the company, especially in terms of recent administration in the United States. There’s a part of me that feels so honored to be involved in a show that caught the air, was so prescient and continues to be on some really important themes. I’m sad to leave behind such a big company that has improved my acting as an actor, but I’m also thrilled that I don’t have to grow that horrible, itchy, itchy beard and get into gooey skin. by Fred. I feel pretty happy that I didn’t have to do this really nasty and dangerous road again.

Is there any chance we will see Fred again in flashbacks?

I would love to see a flashback to the early years. I always thought, certainly for the subsidiary characters, that it is so useful to have these stories. I think back to a particular flashback where Serena and Fred are at a movie theater, and he turns to Serena to say, “They’ve stormed the Capitol.” It was so weird to think about that when you think about it [the] January 6 [attack on the U.S. Capitol]. I just remembered how amazing and uplifting it is about the fragility of democracy and the dangers of extremism.

The Testaments: The Continuation of the Handmaid’s Tale

Now that Fred is gone, who do you think is the villain of the show?

Well everyone’s got blood on their hands now, from June to Tuello to Commander Joseph and Nick. I think there is very little way back morally for June and anyone who was involved in the murder of Fred. As much as we think is justified as viewers, in the real world it is hoped that forgiveness must begin with a feeling of pity and understanding. Of course, the show isn’t about that, and we need retaliation and we need a sense of justice, but is it justice?

I don’t think there are any cut-out cardboard villains, but I think everyone has been tainted by Gilead’s meanness. You could say aunt Lydia, but we know by Wills it might be a different path for her. I think Gilead’s tentacles are rooted in Canada now, so I’m going to be really curious to see how these complexities play out.

Fred and Serena Handmaids Tale Season 4 Episode 10

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And now Serena is alone. What do you hope to see happen for her and her child next season?

It’s very tempting, isn’t it, that she can become a Servant? Wouldn’t that be amazing? But then it becomes a different handmaid’s tale, so I’m not sure they would go down that road. This relationship with Tuello is quite interesting, but again, for me, he’s a marked man in terms of how he got out of jurisdiction to help with Fred’s murder. Fred’s death, as much as it was about anger and June’s need to find some sense of justice, it was also to bring her through a set of feelings that she, and thousands like her. , had lived. It was less about actual death. It was more, now you will taste the fear. Maybe this is something we will see Serena experience.

Over the past four seasons, how have you worked to embody this character and then separate yourself from him in the end? I guess it’s a dark place.

It does, and I have to take a really long, deep breath before I jump on a plane and go to Canada to film. Most actors like bad guys and bad people, but I didn’t find any mileage or fun in it because, like our dystopian setting, everything is too real and people like Fred are too real. Especially with the most important people in my life who are two wonderful young girls and my wife, being synonymous with Fred goes against everything I believe in. So I find it difficult. Obviously, I want those who know me to be proud. Of course, they are proud of my work and the success of it, but I wonder when my daughters grow up, if they will be really proud of this particular work. It’s hard to negotiate. He’s so gooey and mean, and it’s ubiquitous. And because you are surrounded by articles of this kind of behavior, it is really very nice not to go back to this territory.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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