'The Handmaid's Tale': What Was Written on the Wall in the Last Scenes of the Season 4 Finale?

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 finale ended with a shocking and satisfying twist. But there was one brief scene in the episode’s final moments that featured a cryptic message. Here’s a breakdown of what it meant and how significant it is for June Osbourne (Elisabeth Moss). 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 10 of The Handmaid’s Tale.]

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season 4 finale brings Fred Waterford’s story to a brutal end

 In the season 4 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, June takes matters into her own hands to deliver swift justice to Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes). Unwilling to accept his impending freedom, she arranges a deal between Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) to have Fred sent back to Gilead. 

But when Fred arrives in Gilead, he is shackled by Nick (Max Minghella) and taken to a wooded area where June and dozens of women (likely freed from Gilead) are waiting. The enraged group descends upon Fred and beats him to death. 

Later, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) gets a package containing Fred’s mutilated finger. And in another scene, his headless body is seen hanging on a wall. 

What was written on the wall beneath Fred Waterford’s body in the final moments of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ finale?

In the cryptic final scenes of The Handmaid’s Tale finale, Fred’s mutilated, headless body is hanging on a wall, likely somewhere in No Man’s Land. The message, “Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum,” is written in red (perhaps blood) beneath his body. 

It is a semi-Latin phrase that appears in Margaret Atwood’s novel. And according to the author, it translates to “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

The message has a deep meaning for June

“Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” was the title for The Handmaid’s Tale season 1 episode 4. In the episode, June, who is serving as a handmaid at Waterford’s home, finds the message scratched into her closet wall. 

It appears that the phrase was left there by the previous handmaid. And when June asks Fred about it, he tells her it means “don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

Seeing the message written beneath Fred’s mangled body proves two things. For starters, it confirms June and the other women killed him, decapitated him, and hung him on the wall themselves. 

And secondly, it shows that June clearly remembered those moments in Fred’s home. And in a way, she gave justice to all the women he hurt, including the handmaid who initially left that message. 

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ showrunner says June needed this kind of justice

In a recent chat with The Wrap, The Handmaid’s Tale showrunner Bruce Miller talked about June’s version of justice. And he suggested that beating Fred along with the other women and hanging him up on the wall was the only way she could ever feel avenged. 

“So what June was looking for was something that felt like justice,” Miller explained. “As she got closer to justice being given out to Fred, she’s realizing how that would feel, and also looking at the other women who had been through the same trauma and realizing that would feel empty in some ways.”

“Even though he was gone and punished, the fact that it happened abstractly might not be satisfying enough,” he added. “You need more than just Fred being gone. Then you start to come up with the interesting thing that the same event that fulfilled that need in Gilead fulfills that need for her, which is their persecution.”

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