The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 10 recap – the finale/ending explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: June 16, 2021 (Last updated: December 16, 2023)
View all
The Handmaids Tale season 4, episode 10 - the ending - the finale


Somehow, this series continues to be beautifully directed and impactful. This is a true finale.

This recap of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 10, “The Wilderness,” — the finale/ending explained — contains spoilers.

Read the recap of the penultimate chapter.

There are so many moments in this finale that requires the audience to sit back and simply absorb; I’ve said this so many times, but the direction of this series, coupled with Elisabeth Moss’s consistent Emmy-worthy performances, propelled by an equally impressive performance by the cast, is incredible. Let’s recap the finale…

The finale opens with June with Fred Waterford in a flashback; June narrates how making the Commander feel loved is imperative, as her life depended on it, which of course, ignites the mirroring of two scenes later. In the present day, US Official Mark speaks to June and gives her an update: he talks about Fred’s leniency in return for being an asset. June has no comment about Fred’s case. June is pained by the fact that Fred will get out and will be offered immunity. Mark reminds her that Fred is already an intelligent asset. June tells Mark that she isn’t on her side and states that weak men continue to have power.

When June says, “so I should get comfortable with the fact that he’s going to get out?” you can feel so much weight in her words that carry for the rest of the finale.

Moira’s idea for June to go to Geneva

Back at home, Moira tells June that she should go to Geneva, testify and talk to the press about her experiences while Fred is there. There’s frustration that Fred is going to be free. There’s a strange acceptance from June that Fred is more important than her. It’s a sobering moment — how human value changes in different environments. Moira refuses to believe this notion; she’s ready to raise the money and go to Geneva.

When June speaks to Emily, she is awfully conflicted — she wants to focus on her family and let go of Fred. Of course, the lack of justice derails that notion. We have seen this character grow so much, and we are unable to see her find peace. Her heart is constantly shadowed by knowing the man responsible for so much pain will live free.

June needs to find a solution, the Gilead way, not the American way.

Serena wants immunity to be expedited with the judge

The next scene is so flagrantly audacious that it is difficult not to shake your head — who do the Waterfords think they are?

And then the intelligent asset, Fred Waterford, is interviewed by officials — he is giving them information that will bring closure to families. Serena privately tells Mark that the interviews show too much contempt towards Fred, and she wants her husband be called “Commander” — she also requests access to the internet and wants the house-hunting to begin. Mark reminds her that everything is based on a judge’s ruling, but Serena is insistent; she wants it to be expedited. Mark is confused, and rightfully so, to why Serena wants a family with Fred.

It’s safety. Serena’s thirst to feel safe after realizing she is going to have a child has amplified. Ironically, she now knows how every single Handmaid in Gilead felt.

Fred’s apology and admission that he misses Offred

And then the finale of The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 brings an eery, spine-chilling scene — episode 10 yet again reminds the audience of the precision in the performances — this is a one-of-a-kind series.

June visits Fred at the government facility, and he’s obviously surprised — he tells her he holds no ill will, despite what she said in court; he feels she framed events in a way to the judge and felt like she had to. He admits there were discomforts in his house and that he has deep regrets. Fred plays the father-card, making it about his incoming son, and tries to relate to June longing for her daughter — he apologizes. There’s so much audacity in the conversation as June’s eyes well up. She wasn’t expecting him ever to say anything like that, and she begins to laugh through the tears.

And strangely enough, June asks for a drink, and the tension starts ripping through the scene as Fred pours her a whiskey. Fred confesses to finding himself missing Offred, calling her inspiring and strong, and June says she misses that version of herself as well. They both toast to Offred, and for the audience, this is a scene that’s so uniquely sinister and chilling. It’s hard to wrap our heads around it. On the way home, June tells Luke that she will put Fred on the wall as she stares blankly outside the window. For now, she isn’t June. For now, she’s Offred plotting for revenge.

Meeting Commander Lawrence

The next morning, June tells Mark that Fred will not get out and that he’s going to help her. Mark says that June is inappropriate as she knows where he lives and his contact details. When the conversation calms, June begs Mark to listen and asks him to give her a ride. They reach a cafe, and the military has cornered it off — it’s a safe zone for Mark and June to talk to Joseph Lawrence. The commander wants to make a deal with them for Fred to return to Gilead. Mark talks about how Fred has been an asset and says Joseph is wasting his time. So Joseph gets out a file regarding twenty-two women that worked with the resistance — June tells Mark that he can save them, and that’s worth more than Fred Waterford. Mark states he will take it to his boss.

Mark walks off, and Joseph tells June that she hasn’t lost her touch, but he doesn’t believe it will be enough for her regardless of what happens to Fred when he returns to Gilead.

June wants Fred to be as afraid as she was

Back at home, June tells Emily that she wants Fred to be afraid like she was and reminds her of the time when she was caught in the woods, and they took Hannah. She wants Fred to be “scared to death”. Emily absorbs her words, hanging on to every word, just like the audience, and Luke listens nearby. Meanwhile, Fred leaves Serena to go to Geneva, but Mark tells him he isn’t going. The court has deemed him unfit for leniency, and Fred is thrown at the back of a prison truck. Fred is furious, but Mark declares he no longer has a lawyer and he’s in his custody. Never doubt June.

Home is where the hatred is

Mark gets his men to move Fred towards the border and tells him that he’s going home. As he walks across the bridge with Mark, Fred realizes it is an exchange as women from Gilead pass him on the border bridge to freedom. Joseph Lawrence is on the other side. Fred tells him that everything he did was to protect his family and that he will not apologize. Nick then joins them on the bridge and asks his officers to detain Fred. Joseph allows it to happen as Fred panics and tells Nick that he will regret this.

Fred is “scared to death.”

What’s scary about the following scenes is how enjoyable it was to watch; the series has absorbed our minds so much that we become June, where our moral compass is skewed for the thirst for revenge. Deep down, we don’t want justice.

Fred has no idea where he’s going as they travel late into the night — he’s scared of the unknown. Nick walks with him through the woods, and Fred tries to talk him out of it, but Nick punches him and asks him to keep moving — he tells him that he’s in “No Man’s Land”. Ahead of them is June, who walks towards them slowly with a smile on her face, and then she kisses Nick passionately. Fred is in disbelief as to what he is seeing. June thanks Nick, and then he walks off — June uncuffs Fred, shows him a whistle and a gun, and asks him to choose. He confidently believes June cannot kill him, so she blows her whistle. Loads of women appear with torches (including Emily), and Fred’s fear escalates – June tells Fred to run, and the women run after him through the woods.

Fred should have chosen the gun; it would have been quicker.

The end of Fred

Eventually, Fred falls to the ground, and June can see the fear in his eyes as she remembers her time with Fred in the private club in Gilead when they danced together, bringing the chapter full circle to when she narrated about needing to make Fred feel loved — the scenes are mirrored. She finally has Fred “scared to death.” June starts beating him, and then Emily joins her, and she has a face of joy. The other women who were wronged by Gilead join in on the beating with the song “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore in the background. What pure television.

The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 10 – the finale

Daylight arrives, and the women walk back to their cars — June has blood on her face, and she closes her eyes briefly and looks towards the camera, taking in the moment. And then the finale moves to Serena — outside her room, a guard opens a letter before giving it to her; it has Fred’s wedding ring inside and his finger.

June returns home, and she sees Nichole in her cot; she’s delighted to be with her daughter. Luke sees the blood on her face and looks confused. June apologizes, and Luke drops the floor looking dazed — he knows she’s done something, and regardless of whether it was necessary, he knows it will never be the same again — June will never be the woman he met before Gilead. She asks for five minutes and then states she will go — June tells Nichole how much she loves her. The scenes flit between June holding her baby and Fred’s body hanging on the wall. F*****g incredible.

Let’s reflect

Now that season 4 is over, we have many, many questions that will likely tap into our minds until we get to see season 5:

Will June be in trouble with the authorities? When she asks Luke for five minutes, it implies that she will not be returning — why? We can only assume that she will be arrested under international law.

Where does this leave Serena? Now, a single mother and a widow, her life in Canada are looking bleak. It would be beautifully ironic if her child were taken off her once born.

Joseph told June that getting revenge on Fred will not give her the peace she is looking for. It’s foreshadowing that June may grow worse before she gets better.

The key question will always be, will June and Luke ever get Hannah back? Also, Janine is still trapped in Gilead, and her story isn’t over yet.

What did you think of The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 10 — did you enjoy the finale and the ending? Comment below.

Endings Explained, Hulu, TV - Ending Explained, Weekly TV
View all