It Starts On The Page: Read The Emmy-Nominated Script For Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’; Plus, Q&A With Writer Yahlin Chang

Nominated for 21 Emmys including for Outstanding Drama Series, a category it won in 2017, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale stars Elizabeth Moss as June Osborne in a dystopian future where she lives under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. The fourth season starts with June being taken to a safehouse by other handmaids, after being badly injured in the events of the Season 3 finale.

The episode, titled “Home,” written by Yahlin Chang, is a nominee in the Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series category. It begins with June officially requesting asylum in Canada. As she struggles with the prospect of her freedom, she is reunited with loved ones and her nemesis, Serena (Yvonne Stahovski).

Here, the Emmy-nominated Chang answers some questions about her work on the episode as part of Deadline’s It Starts on the Page, a series showcasing scripts from this year’s Emmy-nominated programs and the writers who brought them to life.

DEADLINE: What was the inspiration behind the script for this episode? 

YAHLIN CHANG: After everything June’s gone through, she gets the fairy-tale ending we’ve all been wanting for her – she is FINALLY out of Gilead. I was so lucky to get to write PAST that, to what would really happen after the fairy tale ends. Based on conversations with our U.N. consultant, because June’s such a high-value intelligence asset, she would instantly be brought to a very nice, very secure location to be debriefed. This worked perfectly for our story because the fairy tale continues – she’s whisked off to a luxury hotel and given delicious food, money for clothing, etc. –  and what this luxury treatment does is that it makes her feel worse. The trauma of Gilead, everything she had to do to survive there, leaving her daughter and her friend behind, feeling responsible for her friends’ deaths – all of that has filled her with guilt and shame and self-loathing. And the dissonance between how she feels about herself and how everyone in Canada is treating her – being so kind, understanding, patient, pampering her – just makes her feel even more ashamed. Essentially, her trauma prevents her from getting her fairy-tale ending. In Gilead, her anger and her desire for vengeance are what kept her alive, what gave her purpose and meaning. For all its faults, Gilead was a place where June knew who she was. She doesn’t know who she is in lovely Canada. Where does she put all her hate and rage? Ironically, she doesn’t really find her “home” (episode title) until she finds the perfect repository for her rage – Serena. She can turn all her shame and self-hatred out towards Serena. In the saddest way possible, Serena is her “home.” And then in the VO at the end of the episode, when June describes Serena as pathological, toxic and abusive, June’s really talking about how, underneath it all, she feels about herself – even if that self-knowledge might linger just outside of her conscious understanding.

DEADLINE: What is your favorite line from the script?

CHANG: June to Serena: “You want to know why God made you pregnant? So that when He kills your baby inside your womb you’ll feel a fraction of the pain you inflicted on us when you tore our children out of our arms. Do you understand me? Do you understand me?

(Earlier in the episode, June has a panic attack in the supermarket and flashes back to when Serena roared “Do you understand me?” to her way back in Season 1.)

DEADLINE: What was the most difficult scene to write?

CHANG: June confronting Serena was actually fun to write because after all of June’s confusion and shock being in Canada, there was something extremely clarifying in her being able to confront Serena. They’re in a total reversal of their positions in Gilead because in this scene in Canada, June, deliciously, has all the power. The most emotionally difficult scene to write was the first truly intimate conversation between June and Luke when Luke apologizes for having failed June for not getting her or their daughter out of Gilead. He’s just so sad and ashamed, and she feels guilty for the same thing he does. It’s two incredibly traumatized people feeling guilty and bad about themselves. This is where having incredible actors like Elisabeth Moss, OT Fagbenle and Yvonne Strahovski to write for is both privilege and inspiration. I look at the blank computer screen, imagine the characters in a room together, imagine what they’re feeling, along with what feelings they’re running away from and trying to hide from themselves, wind up and go — just let them talk. In a weird way, sometimes it feels like the characters are telling me what they should be saying — and I just type it down.

DEADLINE: How many rewrites did the script go through? 

CHANG: My rewrites for this script were for production issues – ever-changing Covid restrictions, actor availability, scenes we couldn’t shoot logistically because they wouldn’t fit into our allotted time or budget. Since we block shoot, we were prepping and shooting episodes 406 (“Vows”) and 407 (“Home”) together, and 406 was a very expensive and logistically complicated episode, so wrestling with time and budget for these two episodes together necessitated many production revisions.

Click on the script below to read it.

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