Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 13: “Mayday”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Bruce Miller
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Sacrifice” – click here
* Season 4 to come next year!
We’re given a glimpse of June (Elisabeth Moss) in the beginning, when she was taken into Gilead and processed like an animal, watching other women treated the same. The horrifying descent into fascism via misogyny as women of every colour are herded into a cage, shuffled past women being stripped naked and examined. June was desperately trying to get any info on her stolen daughter, less concerned about herself than she was about her child. And then on they went to another cage.
This is Gilead— a series of cages, both physical and psychological.
Today, June thinks of the “ruthlessness” of men and where that comes from, why it comes easy to the male gender. She’s discovered her own ruthless side, and it’s what’s necessary. She’s currently anticipating the end result of that discovery. There’s just over fifty children that’ll be brought to the Lawrence house. June has to contend with Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) keeping a watchful gaze over her. She also fights the thought this could all be “a trap” set by the Eyes.
At home, June and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) talk about the plans for their Great Child Escape. Beth (Kristen Gutoskie), June, and the Marthas are gathering supplies for the arduous task ahead, making food and preparing the place to hide the kids. They’re thinking of everything, right down to greasing the gate outside.
They didn’t anticipate early arrivals. One Martha’s brought a child before dark. Sweet and tragic when June has to explain to the girl, Kiki (Kate Moyer): “You won‘t have to be a wife, or a mother, if you don‘t want to.” This child doesn’t know freedom, that a girl can be who she wants, without restriction.
In Canada, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is going through the motions with Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger). There remains more testimony, including a written one. Father Gore has a drop of sympathy for Serena, yet she helped enable misogynistic fascism. She held June down while Fred (Joseph Fiennes) raped her. She helped construct some of the ideological architecture for Gilead. It’s tough to feel great about her enjoying life again carefree, regardless if diplomats feel she was “subject to the state.”
Now the Martha, Maggie, who brought Kiki wants to take her back. She’s too nervous. So, the situation calls for ruthlessness. June holds Maggie at gunpoint and forces her to leave the child. She rushes after the Martha fleeing into the woods, almost about to pull the trigger. She wheels round and points the gun right in Kiki’s face. She’s so traumatised by Gilead, expressing itself in every single thing she does.
Unfortunately, Commander Lawrence tells her later someone spotted a Martha with a child earlier. Roadblocks are about to be setup. He’s “pulling the plug” on the plan. June isn’t willing to let any more women get hurt on her watch. She’s ordering Lawrence around, gun in hand, and he doesn’t like it. “You really think this is still your house?” is a powerful, subversive statement under fascism.
“To the ruthless
go the spoils”
Fred’s telling the diplomatic authorities in Canada about the inner workings of Gilead, all the boring bureaucracy. When Tuello shows up, Fred wants to talk about things his wife did which he feels extended beyond the purview of even Gilead’s sick laws. She gets charged with facilitating Nick’s (Max Minghella) impregnation of June, which, of course, “remains a rape.”
The Marthas and June have to come up with a different way to get the kids out, now that security’s tightening because of Maggie. They’re going to go as far as they can on foot, which may just provide them an advantage while the streets are under heavy surveillance. And as night falls, Marthas arrive with children. Rita (Amanda Brugel) and more soon get there. There are more kids than expected. Strange, though comforting, to see Lawrence reading to them— Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
But the journey accelerates after Maggie’s been arrested. Gilead is on alert. The Marthas get in gear to move the kids. June suggests Lawrence should come, but he decides to stay and deal with his mess. He wishes her luck, using her full name.
Then she’s off to help the Mayday rebellion continue.
It isn’t easy. June and the Marthas have to hide from patrols along the road, sneaking through the woods. She chooses to provide a distraction so the Marthas can get the children past. Except she doesn’t have to go it alone. She’s joined by Janine (Madeline Brewer) and others. The women throw dozens of rocks at the patrol, giving the others time to slip through. Guardians fire assault rifles into the darkness, but it doesn’t stop the Handmaids and the Marthas, even as some are gunned down.
When the other women stay down, June stands up and walks into the light, taking the armed Guardian on a chase through the woods. He shoots her in the side, and when he goes to check on her she pulls that handgun and pumps a bullet in him. She makes him give his fellow fascists the “all clear” before shooting him in the face.
Afterwards, she lies there bleeding and watches the plane take off overhead.
“Sometimes you have to do the things
that you have to do”
In Canada, Moira (Samira Wiley), Emily (Alexis Bledel), Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), and others are waiting with medical vehicles for all the children. It’s a miracle to see their faces outside Gilead. Moira welcomes them to an existence where they’re allowed to be free— to be anything they’d like to be, at any time. Little Kiki coincidentally finds her father among the volunteers, reunited again. Luke waits with tears in his eyes, hoping he’ll see his daughter get off that plane. Rita gets to see Emily again for the first time in a long time, and meets Luke, telling him: “Your June, she did this.” Sadly, he doesn’t get to see either of the loves in his life.
Back in the woods, the Handmaids find June alive. Her sisters are there to take her out of that place, carrying her. She paraphrases Exodus 3:8, resting easy knowing she’s helped others escape Gilead. She may remain there right now, but part of her soul is renewed in the knowledge she’s done good, and there are girls and women who won’t have to know / endure that terrifying misogyny.
The war’s not over, though this battle’s been won.
The final song is “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star
What a finale! Stellar writing, and things are changing, which is a good thing when the series has reached the end of Season 3. It’ll be very interesting to see where things go from here, both on June’s personal level and also on the international level with all those children and women who’ve escaped.
Let’s see where June’s rebellion goes from here next year.