What We Know About The Handmaid's Tale Final Season

When "The Handmaid's Tale" premiered on Hulu in 2017, it was to much acclaim. While Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name is based on actual events, the dystopian world of Gilead felt further away at the time of the show's premiere than it does now. In his review, The Guardian writer Sam Wollaston wrote that he couldn't "think of another television event that has hit quite such a nerve, and gone on resounding and resonating worrying and creeping into your soul and into your dreams like 'The Handmaid's Tale' has."

It's a show that feels like a nightmare you can't wake up from, one you're not convinced is really a dream. But it was still just a dream — a dream that looks too close to the reality we know, especially in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The nightmare of "The Handmaid's Tale" is ending, though; Season 6 will be the show's final.

However, don't worry! This is far from the end of Gilead. Back in September 2019, Hulu and MGM announced they'd tapped "The Handmaid's Tale" showrunner/sometimes writer/sometimes director Bruce Miller to create an adaptation of Atwood's "The Testaments," what Miller calls "an important extension" of the story of the fall of Gilead (via The Hollywood Reporter). But before we get to "The Testaments," we still have one final season of "The Handmaid's Tale" to get through. Here's what we know about Season 6 so far.

When will the final season of The Handmaid's Tale be released?

We have not been able to stop thinking about the cliffhanger ending to the Season 5 finale of "The Handmaid's Tale." In case you forgot, we ended with Serena and June fleeing Toronto by train, both holding babies and June's arm still broken from when she was run over repeatedly by a man in a pickup truck. Back in Gilead, Nick's love for June finally got the best of him; a misstep that we expect will have at least some consequences. But what Nick might face will be nothing as severe as what we (and Aunt Lydia) expect Janine will face.

When The Hollywood Reporter asked Moss what she wanted viewers to hold onto going into Season 6 of "The Handmaid's Tale," Moss explained that she felt like every character now has a blank map ahead of them — one that the final season will fill in. "I think the tide is turning," she said. "And it's turning for a lot of our characters. There's clarity happening ... and it's going to be interesting to see who chooses good and who chooses evil."

Sadly, answers to all questions have to wait. Moss warned in an interview with Elle that the wait for Season 6 would be long. Given that there's generally at least a year between seasons, we don't expect to see the last season of "The Handmaid's Tale" until at least the end of 2023, if not early 2024.

Who is in the cast of the final season of The Handmaid's Tale?

No official cast list has been announced yet, but based on the Season 5 finale, there are characters we expect to see in Season 6 of "The Handmaid's Tale." We know Aunt Lydia, played by Ann Dowd, is instrumental in bringing down Gilead based on Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments," so we think she has to be in the final season. We can also safely assume Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski will be back as June Osborne and Serena Joy Waterford, hopefully having made it to Vancouver.

We also expect to see Max Minghella and O-T Fangbenle reprising the roles of Nick Blaine and Luke Bankole, whose characters were left waiting to face the consequences of their actions. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, showrunner and creator Bruce Miller shrugged off the idea of Nick facing any lethal consequences for punching Commander Lawrence, given how few rules actually apply to commanders. But where Nick's wife will end up, and if we'll see her again, is another question. Since Rose (Sadie Munroe) was pregnant at the end of Season 5, she'll probably be in Season 6.

Esther and Janine, played by Mckenna Grace and Madeline Brewer, are two other characters facing consequences that we hope to see return in the final season of The Handmaid's Tale. We also expect Samira Wiley to return as Moira and Bradley Whitford to reprise the role of Commander Joseph Lawrence.

What else do we know about the final season of The Handmaid's Tale?

Whatever is going to happen in Season 6 is in the hands of show runner Bruce Miller. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he explained that Hulu and MGM had given him and his team complete creative control regarding how to end "The Handmaid's Tale." But what that means for the characters in his television show remains unclear.

Many expect Season 6 of "The Handmaid's Tale" to pick off right where Season 5 ended. But when he was talking to Entertainment Weekly about his process, Miller explained he tries to avoid picking up new seasons exactly where the previous season left off. "I never want to get too ahead of myself and make it like this huge thing you immediately undo," he said. He added that he had been studying the final season of hit series like "Game of Thrones" and "The Sopranos" to get an idea of how to make not just a season of a show, but a final chapter to June's story.

For Miller, the final season of "The Handmaids Tale" is just that: the end of June's tale. While the book version of Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments" features June heavily, Miller doesn't believe the TV adaptation will be a continuation of June's story. He told Deadline that "The Handmaid's Tale," for him, was like June's memoir, and "The Testaments" will be something different—something we cannot wait to watch.