The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 Ending Explained: Wild Cliffhangers For June, Serena, Janine, And More

June drinking coffee in The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Hulu)

Spoiler alert for the Season 5 finale of The Handmaid's Tale.

Every streaming service has a few megahits, and for Hulu that’s definitely The Handmaid’s Tale. The Emmy winning drama is wildly popular every season, with the streaming service recently wrapping up Season 5, which is also the penultimate entry into the series. The season finale was full of wild cliffhangers for June, Serena, Janine, and more.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 has been a fascinating ride, with much of the action actually taking place outside of Gilead. But, just because June and most of the cast were refugees in Canada doesn’t mean they’re truly safe. Tensions rose both in Toronto and Gilead, putting a ton of the characters in jeopardy. Let’s break it all down.

Moira in The Handmaid's Tale being scared of June

(Image credit: Hulu)

How Did The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 End?

The Season 5 finale episode “Safe” showed how truly unsafe June was in Canada, as she was the victim of an assassination attempt, with a man running her over outside her home. Luke stops the Gilead agent, who succumbs to his injuries in the hospital. This makes Luke guilty of manslaughter on Canadian land, and Elisabeth Moss’ character insists they flee the country with baby Nichole.

But, the authorities are looking for Luke, and he stays behind so she can get on the train of refugees heading west. Their split was a heartbreaking sequence, as it had been so nice to see the couple finally reunited for the past two season of The Handmaid’s Tale. That wasn’t the final twist, though, as June and Serena reunite on the train with their babies in hand. With Billie Eilish playing in the background, we’re left to see how these two frenemies will move forward after their history and the whirlwind events of Season 5.

Serena Joy reuniting with June

(Image credit: Hulu)

June And Serena’s Surprising Reunion

Some have called The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 June versus Serena, with the two facing off in person and from afar various times throughout the episodes. They also seemed to once again find some common ground, however, especially in the episode where June helped Serena give birth. And it looks like the sixth and final season will see these two women once again be forced to lean on each other as they travel to Hawaii together.

Elisabeth Moss directed and starred in the finale episode, and recently spoke to THR about the final sequence where June and Serena reunite on the train. She wanted it to echo an earlier sequence from Episode 2, and said:

The other thing I wanted to do that wasn’t necessarily in the script, but that I did as actor and director, and that Yvonne fully embraced, was this idea that Serena is kind of offering this olive branch with this line about, ‘Do you have a diaper?’ She’s almost making a joke because her baby is obviously a different size from June’s baby, so she knows the diapers aren’t going to fit. She’s offering it as this kind of olive branch, and what I wanted to do in response to that was to duplicate the smile that Serena gives June at the end of episode two. When Serena’s looking down from the screen at June and she smiles, I wanted to do the same smile on June to have a full-circle moment.

While this reunion seemed pleasant enough, Moss made it clear that the two women are far from friendly. And as such, it’ll likely be interesting to see how they interact during Season 6, especially without their respective support systems.

Luke talking to June after her accident

(Image credit: Hulu)

Luke And June Are Separated Again

Season 5 was a big one for O-T Fagbenle’s Luke, who definitely got the most screen time he’s had so far in the series. He and June were a united front, even during their terrifying captivity in No Man’s Land. Which is why it was so heartbreaking to see the couple once again be separated, as June takes Nichole on the train bringing American refugees west. In the behind-the-scenes clip that’s available for those with a Hulu subscription, writer Eric Tuchman addressed how/why this sequence ultimately came together, saying:

One of the questions that June and Luke have wrestled with through this series, something that's haunted them is that they didn’t leave Boston soon enough.

It looks like Luke will be in prison in Canada; hopefully he’s not sent back to Gilead for his crimes. One can only imagine how they would treat June’s husband if given the chance. Perhaps Tuello will be there to advocate for him.

Janine talking to Naomi in The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

Janine Becomes The New June, And Meets A Mysterious Fate

The Season 5 finale also seemingly put Madeline Brewer’s Janine in danger. After standing up to both Naomi and Aunt Lydia, she and a Martha from Lawrence’s house are taken away toward the end of the episode — seemingly due to the Martha’s connections with Mayday. In a scene that seemingly paid homage to Alexis Bledel’s Emily, she comforts the woman she’s in the back of the van with. Moss spoke to THR about this scene, offering:

I think it’s her being brave in the face of fear. June is scared. But she was brave in the face of the fear, and Janine is brave for the other woman in her van. She sees that the other woman in the van is crying, and she knows that she has to be brave and calm for her. June found her strength and her bravery having to be that for other people, not for herself. She had to be brave and she had to be strong for the other women, and I think that’s what Janine is finding.

Will this be the end of Janine? Let’s hope not, as she’s the last Handmaid left standing in Gilead out of the main cast. Still, things don’t look good for her.

Nick talking to Waterford in The Handmaid's Tale

(Image credit: Hulu)

Nick Draws A Line In The Sand For June

The final Handmaid’s Tale character who is left in jeopardy thanks to the Season 5 finale is Max Minghella’s Nick. After June’s attack, he travels to Canada secretly to visit her at the hospital, and agrees to help Tuello as an informant for the Americans. But, that wasn’t enough to satisfy him, as he punched Bradley Whitford’s Commander Lawrence and ends up in a holding cell. It’s there that his pregnant wife Rose claims she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. In the behind the scenes clip on Hulu, Minghella spoke to this rash decision by his character, sharing:

I think Nick believes Lawrence is probably responsible in some way for this targeting of June. And obviously that’s not a good line to cross with Nick, and it has consequences.

Speaking of consequences, it remains to be seen what will happen to Nick after this. And if he’s made an enemy out of Lawrence, will his secret deal with Tuello come to light? Only time will tell. Indeed, most of our favorite characters are in dangerous positions. That includes Moira and Rita, who are also refugees in Canada.

Alas, we’ll likely have to wait for quite a while before The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its sixth and final season. Hulu is also developing a spinoff for Margaret Atwood’s sequel novel, The Testaments. In the meantime, check out the TV premiere dates 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.