Warning: the following contains SPOILERS for The Handmaid’s Tale's Season 4 finale.
Season finales are tricky business. They can be divisive, alienating or gratifying, depending on the execution. This is especially true when a season finale marks the final appearance of a main character. Will the character’s exit be done in a satisfying way? When it comes to Commander Fred Waterford in The Handmaid’s Tale's Season 4 finale, actor Joseph Fiennes' answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
Joseph Fiennes sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss the Season 4 finale of Hulu’s critically acclaimed series based on the book by Margaret Atwood. Throughout The Handmaid's Tale, his character Commander Fred Waterford (the reason Elisabeth Moss’s June Osbourne is initially known as Offred) has proven himself to be pretty despicable and lacking any sort of empathy. However, the finale had Fred getting his just desserts, and Joseph Fiennes thinks the ending was pitch-perfect. He told EW:
I was super-excited. I felt that it really delivered the finale that I felt, and I think my castmates felt, was needed and deserved for the fans. And it felt right for Fred. I knew it was inevitable, as it says in the novel that Fred meets his demise in a salvaging, but this was a much more complex salvaging, similar to Gilead's but owned by ex-handmaids and June in a completely different way. I thought it was brilliant. I think it sets up season 5 wonderfully, in a powerful, complex way. I was super-psyched, and it seems like it paid off.
It’s clear that Joseph Fiennes was satisfied with his character’s ending, even though it means he may not appear in future episodes. If you saw the finale, then you’ll know Fred Waterstone was killed in a rather gruesome fashion - although Joseph Fiennes thinks it was well deserved. As he put it:
No, I think it had to be brutal for Fred because he's put people like June and other handmaids through such a hell and torment and fear in his creepy, pathetic, sadistic fashion. And he has to be shown that same route, and has to grasp the full meaning of fear. I think over and above his death, however brutal that might have been for Fred, I think it's the journey to the gallows that he has to experience. It's so important those tables have turned and to get a form of justice, because June has been so spectacularly let down by the justice system in Canada. So it's a kind of poetic, paradoxical, complicated justice, but justice nonetheless, and it's deserved.
I have to agree with Joseph Fiennes. Fred, similar to Prince Joffrey from Game of Thrones, was so horrible that his death felt triumphant. That it happened in such a grisly way is almost a bonus, as terrible as that sounds. But you just have to remember the pain he inflicted on June, and you don’t feel so bad anymore.
It’s also hard to feel bad when the scene was so beautifully directed. The footage of Fred being torn apart by the women he terrorized is spliced with clips of Fred subjecting June to the indignities of a handmaid. “Don’t bite,” Elisabeth Moss says in voiceover as we watch June sink her teeth into Fred’s arm. The symbolism whacks you over the head, but it’s pretty darn effective. Fred committed atrocities, so it’s only fitting that he dies in an atrocious manner.