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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5: Alexis Bledel’s Departure As Emily Is An Emotional Rollercoaster

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

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

Since its inception, The Handmaid’s Tale has been one of Hulu’s most wildly successful original shows, getting some Emmy nods along the way. One of the performers that got a ton of love from Academy voters and fans alike was Gilmore Girls alum Alexis Bledel, who won her own Primetime Emmy for the show’s first season back in 2017. Fans were disappointed when it was revealed that she wasn’t returning for the upcoming fifth season. And I can personally say that Bledel’s departure as Emily is an emotional rollercoaster.

Alexis Bledel appeared in a total of 20 episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale throughout its first four seasons on Hulu. Emily quickly became a fan favorite character during that time, and is the first Handmaid who we got to see rebel against Gilead. I had the privilege of seeing the first two episodes of Season 5 (both directed by Elisabeth Moss) while attending the Toronto International Film Festival, and the way the premiere handled Bledel’s exit was really a journey.

Much of The Handmaid’s Tale’s Season 5 premiere focuses on the aftermath of the Season 4 finale’s wild cliffhanger ending. Namely June, Emily and the other Gilead survivors killing Fred Waterford with their own hands. While the audience will watch as Elisabeth Olsen’s protagonist grapples with that act, the episode also reveals that Emily left Toronto and returned to Gilead following Waterford’s Salvaging in no man’s land. To be clear: this isn’t because she missed being a Handmaid, but because she’s seemingly become even more bloodthirsty and is on the lookout for others like Aunt Lydia. 

The way this news is broken is with one quick line of dialogue between June and other survivors from Gilead. At first this really grinded my years, as I thought the series was unceremoniously writing off one of the most popular characters without giving her a proper sendoff. But luckily for myself (and fellow fans) there was more to come with Alexis Bledel’s goodbye to the gritty apocalyptic series.

Because while the beloved Gilmore Girls icon wasn’t present in the Season 5 premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale, we got to see the exciting return of a familiar face: Clea Duvall as Emily’s wife Sylvia. She was noticeably absent throughout the entirety of Season 4, but luckily her return (and reaction to Emily’s departure) helps to give some much needed closure. And it’s a scene that’s sure to tug on the heart strings of those watching.

It remains to be seen how large of a hole Alexis Bledel’s absence will have in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5. The Hulu original has always been an ensemble series, where characters like Emily would be absent for episodes at a time. Still, it’s hard to see such a beloved OG character depart without one last scene.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 will debut on Hulu September 14th. In the meantime, check out the fall premiere list to plan your next binge watch. 

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.