'The Handmaid's Tale's' use of U2's 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' made the episode go over budget

Sophie Giraud/HuluJune is one unhappy mama at the end of Wednesday’s episode of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’

  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season three, episode five of Hulu’s“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Unknown Caller.”
  • The end of Wednesday’s episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Unknown Caller,” featured the use of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” executive producer Warren Littlefield told INSIDER it wasn’t tough to secure the song. It was just a matter of money. Littlefield said acquiring the song set the episode over its usual budget.
  • INSIDER confirmed with “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” music supervisor, Maggie Phillips, that this is the first use of the song on an American TV show.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

The end of Wednesday’s episode of Hulu’s“The Handmaid’s Tale,” surprisingly featured the use of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” The series’ music supervisor, Maggie Phillips, confirmed to INSIDER it’s the first use of the song in an American TV show.

“It’s costly, but it just felt like that would be a great accent to the episode,” “Handmaid’s Tale” executive producer Warren Littlefield told INSIDER in April.

June handmaids tale 305Sophie Giraud/HuluElizabeth Moss is unhappy with the Waterfords at the end of Wednesday’s episode as the camera closes in on her face.

“We agonize over music and we battle over music choices, from Lizzie [Moss] and [showrunner] Bruce [Miller] and myself, but at the end of the day, hopefully it provokes, hopefully it adds to the power of our story. And sometimes it’s ironic and juxtaposes it,” Littlefield added over song selection for the Hulu series. “Other times, it’s marrying it.”


Read more: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ actress Ann Dowd breaks down that hard-to-watch scene with Aunt Lydia

On Wednesday’s episode, the use of the 1983 song certainly adds to the end of a troublesome moment for June (played by Moss). “The Handmaid’s Tale” follows a dystopian future where fertile women are forced to bear children for the leaders of the Republic of Gilead who can’t have children of their own.

At the end of season two, Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) helped her handmaid June (Elizabeth Moss) send their daughter, Nicole, off to Canada to live a better life with June’s husband, Lucas. Unfortunately, for June, footage of the little girl surfaced with Lucas at a rally.

Handmaids tale lucas nicoleElly Dassas/HuluLucas takes baby Nicole out in public and Gilead notices.

On Wednesday’s episode, the Waterfords asked for June to arrange a meeting between baby Nicole and Serena Joy so she could properly say goodbye. However, that wasn’t enough. After Serena’s visit with Nicole, Mr. Waterford decided he wanted the little girl back in Gilead even though his wife, Serena, decided Canada was the best place for her to be.

Near the episode’s end, the Waterfords filmed a plea to Canada for the safe return of Nicole. June is forced to be in the room as they record their ad and she’s visibly unhappy. June’s hands are clenched and she’s slightly shaking. On the episode’s final moments, June stares right into the camera, betrayed by Serena. As the shot closes in tight on her face, U2’s song starts up and plays through the credits.

Handmaids tale 305 serena fredSophie Giraud/HuluFred Waterford convinces Serena Joy that getting Nicole back is the right thing for them to do.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” focuses on the Bogside Massacre of January 1972, often referred to as Bloody Sunday, that took place in Derry, Ireland. Thirteen unarmed civilians were shot and killed during a civil rights march by British paratroopers.

Littlefield said it wasn’t tough for them to acquire the rights to the song. It was just a matter of money.

“It was fairly expensive, but we just, we liked it. We embraced it,” said Littlefield. “Let’s just say that’s an episode where we went over budget.”

“It usually starts at about $US15,000 and can go up to, it can go up to $US150 [thousand],” Littlefield said of the licensing price of a song for the series.

Littlefield said he doesn’t remember how exactly how much the rights to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” cost, but that it was “in the upper range” of what they usually pay for a song.

Bruce miller warren littlefieldAlberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesBruce Miller and Warren Littlefield in December 2018 at Equality Now’s Annual Make Equality Reality Gala.

For comparison, according to the New York Times, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner paid $US250,000 in licensing fees to use the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the show’s finale.

“There’ve been times where we have to get the help of our Hulu partners. They helped us with Rihanna,” said Littlefield.

Rihanna and SZA’s “Consideration” was featured at the end of the ninth episode of the show’s second season. The executive producer said most of the songs they acquire fall in the $US25,000 to $US35,000 range.

“This is on the higher end,” Littlefield said of U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” “There’s some that are just ridiculous. There’s a lot of things we walk away from because you can’t have everything.” Littlefield said “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was the first choice they wanted for the end of Wednesday’s episode.

A Hulu representative told INSIDER the numbers above aren’t completely accurate.

New episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” debut on Hulu on Wednesday.

Read more:

“The Handmaid’s Tale” actress Ann Dowd breaks down that hard-to-watch scene with Aunt Lydia

‘The Handmaid’s Tale” showrunner says he ‘sees endgames’ for the show

“The Handmaid’s Tale” star Samira Wiley says she was originally ‘concerned about being typecast’

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