Alexis Bledel's Most Iconic Handmaid's Tale Moments

Alexis Bledel as Emily in Season 1 of The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

Spoilers ahead for the premiere of The Handmaid's Tale Season 5.

Upon its launch as a streaming service, Hulu had a few hit original shows. Chief among them was The Handmaid's Tale, which was based of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. Since the show's first season back in 2017, Gilmore Girls alum Alexis Bledel was a fan favorite character as Emily. She even won a Primetime Emmy in the process for Season 1. And it's for this reason why fans were so disappointed to hear that Bledel wouldn't be returning for Season 5. To honor the character and actress, I've compiled Emily's most iconic moments from the first four season of The Handmaid's Tale (opens in new tab).

The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 began a few weeks ago, with the writers tasked with a way to write off Alexis Bledel's character, given the actress' absence. It turns out that after the violent events of Season 4's finale, Emily retuned to Gilead to hunt down people like Aunt Lydia. Her wife Sylvia had a fascinating give and take with June, seemingly ending Emily's story in the process. And while we mourn the loss of that character, here are some of the most iconic (and often quite violent) moments to come from Bledel's former Handmaid.  

Emily driving in The Handmaid's Tale Season 1

(Image credit: Hulu)

Ofglen's Joyride (The Handmaid's Tale Season 1)

The first season of The Handmaid's Tale was a brutal but captivating one, with each episode bringing those of us with a Hulu subscription into the oppressive world of Gilead. While Offred/June originally didn't trust her walking companion Ofglen, Alexis Bledel's character slowly revealed that there was much more to her. We watched in horror as Ofglen's Martha lover was hanged before our eyes, before she was mutilated by the Aunts.

Following this ordeal and being given a new station, Alexis Bledel's character ends up being the first Handmaid we see truly rebel against Gilead. She introduced herself to June as Emily, before carjacking one of The Eyes' vehicles in view of the other Handmaids. She eventually kills one of these guards, before being apprehended and taken away. This was truly the tip of the iceberg regarding the show (and the character's) violence, but will always have a place in the history of the narrative, and stand out for those who watched Season 1 back in 2017. 

Emily in the Colonies in The Handmaid's Tale Season 2

(Image credit: Hulu)

Emily kills a wife in The Colonies (The Handmaid's Tale Season 2)

After killing an Eye, Emily was sent to live and work in The Colonies, doing manual labor with radioactive waste until she died. Her time there is a truly grim set of episodes in The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, and further shows the way Gilead brutalizes and dehumanizes those it deems as sinners. Alexis Beldel's character is shown as a makeshift nurse, helping to bandage up the wounds of other women who are trying to survive this deadly environment.

Before Janine joins Emily and gives her someone to look after, we see a Wife named Mrs. Connor (played by the one and only Marisa Tomei) join The Colonies. While Emily seems to take her under her wing, it soon becomes clear that she's got more vengeful plans in mind. She gives Mrs. Connors poison disguised as medicine, and leaves her to die alone on the bathroom floor-- punishment for Mrs. Connor's part in the ritual raping of her own Handmaid. Given how much of Emily's story has been about violence, it certainly gives her Season 5 exit a bit more context.

Emily and June reunited in Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

Emily and June's reunion (The Handmaid's Tale Season 2)

While Emily and Janine were expecting to die in The Colonies, Ofglen #2's bombing of  the Red Center in Season 2 left Gilead needing more fertile women. As such, those two characters were brought back and given new postings. Emily reunites with Offred and the other Handmaids at Loaves and Fishes, where the two finally have a proper meeting. June and Emily's relationship has been a strong narrative throughout The Handmaid's Tale's first four seasons, with the two sometimes not even having to use words to communicate. 

June finally sharing her name with Emily starts a chain reaction in this iconic scene from Season 2. Elisabeth Moss' character introduces herself to more Handmaids, who follow suit and connect with their sisters for the first time in this way. It's a beautifully shot and edited sequence, all started by a scene featuring Alexis Bledel's now-departed character. 

Emily after stabbing Aunt Lydia in Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu )

Emily attacks Aunt Lydia (The Handmaid's Tale Season 2)

Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale introduced some new characters, including Bradley Whitford as Commander Lawrence. Emily is assigned to be his Handmaid, taking on the mantle Ofjoseph. She and the audience alike were relieved to see that she'd no longer have to endure The Ceremony, and that she was treated with some respect in the house. Unfortunately, Ann Dowd's Aunt Lydia was not one of those people to treat Emily with kindness.

In the Season 2 finale "The Word", Aunt Lydia visits Emily at the Lawrence home and taunts her. When Alexis Bledel's character refuses to answer, Lydia cruelly says "It's as if I  cut out your tongue," a vicious reference to the mutilation she endured in Season 1. That was enough to make her snap, with Emily stabbing and striking Lydia, before she fell down the stairs. It was a rare moment of comeuppance for Ann Dowd's signature character, and a scene that left Handmaid's Tale fans talking in the break between seasons. 

Emily arriving in Canada in The Handmaid's Tale Season 3

(Image credit: Hulu)

Escaping Gilead And Saving Baby Nichole (The Handmaid's Tale Season 3)

The Season 3 premiere of The Handmaid's Tale picked up immediately after the events of the cliffhanger finale. As June returned to the Waterfords, Emily was tasked with escaping Gilead and and making her way into Canada with baby Nichole. It's a tense and thrilling sequence, with the fan-favorite character carrying the crying baby through wood and water in her bright red Handmaid robes. 

Eventually the pair of refugees safely make it across the border, and taken into the safety and care of Canada. Emily is shown entering a hospital with Nichole still in her arms. As they're given care by the medical staff, she's given a touching round of applause by those working in the facility. It's an emotional sequence, one that is admittedly hard to watch knowing the character would eventually return to Gilead willingly. 

Emily reading with her son Oliver in The Handmaid's Tale Season 3

(Image credit: Hulu)

Emily's Reunion With Her Family in Canada (The Handmaid's Tale Season 3)

Emily's family appears a few times throughout The Handmaid's Tale run on Hulu, starting with a flashback back in Season 2. We watch as Alexis Bledel's character was separated from her wife Sylvia (Clea Duvall) and their son Oliver while trying to flee America as Gilead took power. So when she finally made it to Canada safely, we were treated to an emotional reunion in the Season 3 episode "God Bless the Child." 

After seeing Sylvia and Emily timidly reunite, eventually their son Oliver appears on screen. It's a heart breaking scene that shows how much time has gone by since she was abducted and became a Handmaid. Emily breaks Gilead law by reading to her son, as Clea Duvall's character silently weeps while watching. Like Emily's escape, it's a scene that is even more tragically beautiful given the character's decision to leave her family behind in search of her own violent justice. 

Emily in the woods in The Handmaid's Tale Season 4

(Image credit: Hulu)

The Handmaids (Including Emily) Kill Waterford (The Handmaid's Tale Season 4)

Speaking of violent justice, that's exactly where we last saw Alexis Bledel's Emily in the flesh. After struggling with her rage throughout Season 4 (including celebrating a former Aunt killing herself in Canada), eventually she joins other former Handmaids in the Season 4's brutal cliffhanger ending.

After doing a prisoner exchange, Nick hand delivers Commander Waterford to June in No Man's Land. There she lets a whistle blow, revealing her now violent mob of refugees, largely Handmaids. Emily is there, and is at the head of the pack as the women chase down and brutally tear Fred apart. Making out the specifics of the violence is difficult because it's so dark, but it looks like she might have even held his face as June brutally bit it. 

In the end, Fred Waterford's death would be the final time we'd see Alexis Bledel as Emily in The Handmaid's Tale. The actress departed the show shortly before filming began, with the writers needing to quickly find a way to write her out. In the end I found her exit successful despite these circumstances, largely thanks to the scene shared between June and Sylvia. And given how much violence she's both endured and enacted, her fate does make logical sense. 

The Handmaid's Tale airs new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu. In the meantime, check out the fall premiere list to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.