Yvonne Strahovski on the big final twist of “Handmaid’s Tale”

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Spoilers for Episode 10 of Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Desert”, below.

In a breathtaking season 4 finale, one of The Handmaid’s TaleThe hottest villains get his long-awaited comeuppance. It has been evident for a while that Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) was not long for the world; unlike his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), he didn’t have much strategic mind, instead seeming to think he could live a comfortable life after Gilead in Canada despite his war crimes. But he learns a deadly lesson in the final moments of the season, as ally after ally (Mark Tuello, Commander Lawrence and even Nick) betrays him to June (Elisabeth Moss). As Fred pleads for mercy, June leads a pack of former maids in a rescue from the disgraced commander. After hanging it on the “Wall”, she sends Serena her wedding ring and one of her fingers.

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With Fred out of the question, Serena’s future looks more uncertain than ever. She cannot return to Gilead after Fred betrays the regime and, as she noted in a recent episode, without the privilege of being the wife of a commanding officer, she could become a servant. . But staying in Canada is perilous as well, with June now on the avenging warpath and Serena’s baby expected overnight.

“The knowledge that June was the one that tore [Fred] aside, that’s the scary part for Serena, ”Strahovski told ELLE.com. “This is the biggest threat. And if she comes out into the real world and is released, especially if she is babysitting her baby, this is the part that will make her constantly live in fear. For Serena, June is capable of anything, including tearing Serena or her baby to shreds.

Below, Strahovski delves into the impact of Fred’s death, what could be Serena’s next calculated move, as well as the complex relationship and uncomfortable parallels between June and Serena.

I feel like everyone involved in the show is fair nice to meet you to see Fred go, including Joseph. Did you feel when you heard this was going to happen?

It was, but honestly my jaw was on the ground when I read it. I’m slightly biased because I’ve spent so much time with Joe, and he’s the nicest guy ever. I mean, our families know each other! So it was also sad for me to read it, as Joe’s friend, to know that he was going away. I remember shooting my last scene with him at work, then it was closing time, and I couldn’t help but cry.

It was like Serena was trying to break up with Fred at the end of last season, but the pregnancy changed everything. What is the nature of Fred and Serena’s relationship at this point?

If I had to put a title there, it would be “commercial transaction”. I think for the first time she wasn’t going to use Fred at all – she had still thought for a very long time that she would be okay and not need him. But then, with the arrival of June and everything in between, she realized that she really needed to do a business deal with him and move forward to solidify her chances of being free. But I don’t think there was love there. Nothing can really be saved between them at this point.

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It also feels like she’s becoming a little aware of what she and Fred represent as a united front in the public eye, right?

Yes exactly. It’s solidified when they step out into the crowd and realize that they have a real world fan base in Canada. It’s those kinds of things that Serena takes, puts in her back pocket, and realizes that she can use to her advantage down the line if she needs to. And that means staying by Fred’s side for a bit and wearing that teal dress like he tells her to do so irritably.

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Before I get into the finale, I want to talk about that scene from episode 7, where June finally lets loose on Serena and yells at her. It was such a cathartic scene to watch, but what do you think was going on for Serena at that point?

I thought about this scene a lot before I got to it. My initial thought was that Serena wouldn’t really be that emotional, that she would be a little more arrogant in her reaction just to piss off June even more. But I think the emotion is both a mixture of genuine emotion and also manipulation. Because Serena really needs June to forgive her, mainly because she’s really worried that her baby will be born unhealthy or taken from her; that God will strike her baby. She has this belief embedded in her, both of Gilead and her own personal religious beliefs.

I was really surprised at first that Serena was so deferential and emotional, but it makes sense. It’s not that she really feels the weight of what she did to June.

She is also aware that June is a lost cause for her. There’s no way to save a friendship they might have imagined in a previous season. Whereas with Rita, it was another story. She thought she could really manipulate Rita into some kind of power dynamic, where Serena is, of course, the one in power, pretending all is well and well and dandy. But she knows June is way too smart for this nonsense.

June chooses to kill Fred feels a lot more black and white, in a way, because he’s always been a deadly villain. But with June and Serena, it’s much more difficult to determine exactly what their relationship is. They had moments of real intimacy. Where do you see them going from here?

It’s interesting that you say that, because I recently saw someone put together a YouTube compilation that I found so intriguing and compelling. It’s called June / Serena, he’s a monster. It was an idea of ​​how and why June and Serena are the same person. It was all the times they’d either yelled at someone or did something violent. Especially in Season 4 of June with how her trauma plays out for her as she moves to Canada.

In my mind, I just wonder what would have happened if June had been a commander’s wife and Serena had been the maid. How differently or similarly would they have played their positions? Of course there would be mega differences, but at the same time, I don’t know! That’s a really interesting question, and it goes back to this whole idea that I’ve always had of playing Serena and having to humanize her, which is the element of her survival: what actions are we taking to protect us and survive?

The line where Serena mentions that if she were sent back to Gilead, she could become a servant struck me as such an intriguing idea.

It’s definitely something she seems to deserve. It’s a choice that I personally don’t think they’ll ever make on the show, just because it’s such an obvious choice. But I think going that route would be the only way for someone like Serena Joy to be really, really sorry and remorseful for everything she’s done. I think that would be the only way for her to understand exactly what she put on June and other women, [but] especially June, through.

Interestingly, we don’t see Serena’s reaction to Fred’s death in this episode. How do you imagine she will react?

I imagine it’s really heavy and intense, but at the same time, a new start for her. I think, more than anything, knowing that June was the one who tore it up, or led the band to tear it up, that’s the scary part for Serena. This is the biggest threat. And if she comes out into the real world and is released, especially if she is babysitting her baby, this is the part that will make her constantly live in fear. For Serena, June is capable of anything, including tearing Serena or her baby to shreds.

I hadn’t even thought about this angle. I can’t imagine June hurting Serena physically in this way, but I can certainly imagine Serena worrying about it.

June is kind of a loose cannon right now. She’s made this journey in this season of explosive rage and anger and acting out. To me it’s like, well, Serena is next. Better yet, her child is next.

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How did you read June sending Fred’s finger to Serena?

I think it really looks like a threat, it’s a finger, or some kind of F-you, like, here’s the missing part of you, and you’ve always been as bad as him, if not worse. Or something like, here is the missing piece to your puzzle. There is a kind of message to stick in there.

I was also wondering if June killing Fred would even be the playground in Serena’s eyes – like, yes, I did all of these things to you, but you murdered my husband, so now we’re quits.

As soon as you said that, I imagined Serena taking the stand – like it or not – of saying to June, “Thank you so much for killing him. He needed to go. Believe it or not, don’t she? Like, “Oh my God, you did exactly what I wanted to do for so long” to try and get him to believe that. To make him think they’re on the same side now.

I can’t wait to see where that dynamic goes next season. And in your mind, what do you think Serena deserves? What would be a suitable ending for her?

I think the obvious choice is that it’s under the rule or the Gilead regime, being a maid in the most awful household, and just being subject to all kinds of abuse, mostly from the commander and the wives. . And if not, then June would like to create something quite equal or worse by separating Serena from her child. At the end of the day, I think that’s the most important thing most people want to see for Serena, that she has to go through this kind of pain, which would make so much sense. She’s so close now to getting that one thing she’s wanted all these seasons, the one thing, the one guideline that’s been strongest for this character: her desire for a child. And to have that taken away from her, it would be incredibly tragic and traumatic for her.

But for those who call The Handmaid’s Tale a documentary, I think what’s actually going to happen is that Serena is going to keep it, and she’s going to go on and go into politics and win a Senate seat or something.

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