Spoiler alert: Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the season 4 finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.




Tuesday’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 4 finale, titled “The Wilderness”, did not disappoint.

Fans of the show saw once-powerful Commander Fred Waterford beaten to death by June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) and her fellow handmaids after he repeatedly raped and tortured women in Gilead for years.

Joseph Fiennes, who played Waterford, told Deadline of leaving his role, “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ has taught me so much.

“But I can’t wait to sit back and enjoy this show from another perspective.”

Joseph Fiennes in “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)
Joseph Fiennes in “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

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When asked if this was how he imagined the cruel life of Commander Waterford would end, Fiennes shared: “Bruce [showrunner, Miller] knew, like Margaret Atwood knew, that it was alluded to somewhere in the book that a certain Fred Waterford would get his comeuppance via a Salvaging, but when and by whom it didn’t explicitly say.

“So, I always knew somehow it was going to be introduced into the narrative, and Bruce very kindly at the end of each season, we’d have a coffee and a chat about how things are going or where things might go again. I remember it was end of season 2, he very kindly said, ‘Hey, listen, just a heads-up that the time for the commander might be up around about next season.’

“That was at the end of season 2, and then I was furiously reading through all the episodes as we were shooting season 3, and nothing happened. I was like, ‘Bruce, what’s going on?’ And then we had a catch-up, and he said, ‘No, I think season 4.’ So, very kindly, he kept me a year more than I thought I was due to stay, but I kind of had an inkling early on.”

Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (Photo: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)
Elisabeth Moss in “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (Photo: Sophie Giraud/Hulu) — Sophie Giraud/Hulu

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Fiennes was also asked what the character’s brutal death meant to him, telling the publication: “It’s paradoxical, and I think Lizzie’s, or rather, June’s need for justice and revenge is fascinating. It’s something we as the audience need. It’s a certain catharsis because he’s going to get off free, but the paradox is that she becomes a product of the thing that she wants to extinguish.”

When asked to explain himself further, the actor continued, “Well, I love the way that Bruce introduced another theme into the narrative, which is that actually, in revenge, we have to find closure and forgiveness.

“There’s got to be a sense of pity at the kind of, the banality of evil, and I love that June is cognizant of her rage and cognizant that she will lose her higher spiritual self to this urge, this need to kill. It’s confounding and it’s confusing.”

Showrunner Bruce Miller also spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the gruesome finale ending: “The death of Fred was, as everything is, a natural continuation of June’s story. So it’s really a question of, what would June do if she got free? What are the things she would do if she had the opportunity and presented with this opportunity to make this happen? Does she take it or not?

“I think it’s really interesting because for a long time, we were dealing so much with June’s restrictions, and now we’re dealing with June’s freedom, and the choices are hers. They’re not somebody else’s, and she has to live with them.”