Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Directed by Colin Watkinson
Written by Bruce Miller
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, click here.
* For a recap & review of 4×02, click here.
A perfect beginning set to Aretha Franklin’s “I Say A Little Prayer” while June is saved by the other Handmaids after being shot in the woods. She sees Janine, Alma, and the others over her, working fast to take out the bullet and then cauterise the wound. Everything outside is chaos. But the women get the job done to help June so they can continue on from here. They have much to do. Afterwards they’re off on the road, well hidden in a truck to stay out of sight. They have a close call when the truck gets inspected but they get through just fine, apart from the stress.
In Canadian custody, Serena Joy and Fred are in the same room again with Mark. The two somewhat estranged lovers get news about the Marthas arriving from Gilead along with the “eighty–six children.” Things are rapidly devolving for Gilead, in terms of an international incident. Fred believes this will “start a war,” whereas Mark believes otherwise. The Waterfords are stunned, of course. Especially when they hear about June’s involvement. The looks on both of their faces are delicious.
June and the other Handmaids move through the snowy woods. They come upon a massive house in the woods. June goes up alone to see a man holding a lantern, awaiting their arrival. She holds up a hand to call the other Handmaids down, barely able to stand and stay conscious after all the blood loss. And she collapses, just as the rest of the women get to the house. June’s rushed inside and the Handmaids work to help their sister, who’s in very rough shape. Esther Keyes, the “mistress of the house,” talks to June as if the latter is a saint, saying eerie things about dreams she’s had of June.
We witness Aunt Lydia, with her bruised and lacerated face, being shit on by a panel of Commanders for allowing the children and the Marthas to make it out of Gilead. One of the Commanders tosses in a comment about the Handmaids being “sinful whores,” and this pushes Lydia to anger, raging about June—”a Delilah.” Lydia wants to be the one who punishes June when they find her. That woman is a seriously nasty piece of work. And so are the patriarchal Commanders; a bunch of rapist creeps.
In the country house, June continues to get better using all the homemade Martha medicine. She’s not quite out of the woods yet, so to speak. But she keeps getting better. She pushes herself to heal because she knows “Gilead is out there” and it doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t stop looking for them, it will never stop abusing women and children. Also I love that there’s a pig named Mr. Darcy; the wonderful subversion of The Handmaid’s Tale again. The other Handmaids are happy to see June up and on her feet again. She stops by Alma near the perimeter of the farm, where they keep a watchful eye a bit.
“Holy crap, it lives.”
Joseph is being given the “thanks of a grateful nation” by Nick. He hears about his trial; ah, yes, democracy is obviously at work here. Things for Joseph aren’t going to get any better, you can bet on that. He asks Nick about “invasion plans,” but Nick’s just a trigger man, essentially. He urges that there’s a diplomatic mission here, he suggests that the next few weeks will shape what happens for the future of the nation. He tries to instil Nick with thoughts of June and what she fought to do.
Has Nick been wholly brainwashed? Can he still be of any use to the rebellion?
Things between Esther and June have deteriorated. Esther is a cruel person, forcing Janine to eat some pork in spite of the way the Handmaid felt about the pig before it was slaughtered. Oh, the internalised misogyny is strong in that one! Esther physically forces Janine to eat the pork until June says something. This sends the young lady off into the stables, playing with her knife. June angrily tells Esther to have respect for the Handmaids and their horrific struggles. We also hear about Esther’s brutalisation, how her Commander husband would bring in different men to have sex with her because he wasn’t able to get it up. All these women are traumatised, in one way or another. So June comforts the young Mrs. Keyes: “None of this is your fault.”
June’s worried about the state of things hiding out on the farm. She tells Alma, who believes they ought to make the best of what they have, resigned to the idea that this is as free as they’ll get from Gilead. She then watches the Handmaids and the others who’ve escaped Gilead have a good time for the first time in a long, long time. She sees gay men kissing. Janine and another girl dance together. People play cards and have a drink without fear of repercussions. It’s nice to see. At the same time, June doesn’t see this as freedom.
Joseph’s greeted by Guardians who’ve been sent to take him somewhere. He’s brought to a room with a single chair bolted to the middle of the floor. Nick comes in with plans to show Joseph, claiming he’ll be brought in “as a consultant.” It’s a way for Joseph to serve his country. Right now, he gets a shave. Meanwhile, at the farm, June searches for Esther only to run into Commander Keyes, as well as a big ole knife. It’s a tense moment and I almost thought she was going to cut his throat. Outside there’s a truck arriving with a captured Guardian aboard, caught trespassing on Keyes’s land; he’s also a man who’s raped Esther. The guy tries to run off, knocking June over and getting the shit beaten out of him by the other Handmaids. She urges them to stop and take him to the barn.
They string the Guardian up in the stables so he can be punished by execution.
June sentences him to death, giving Esther the knife back: “Good girl. Make me proud.”
Perfect needle drop with Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” playing as a bloody Esther joins June in bed.
And June gets to play mom again, in a different way than ever before.
Fantastic way to open this season. Just when I felt the show starts getting formulaic it surprises me.