Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
4×03: “The Crossing”
Directed by Elisabeth Moss
Written by Bruce Miller
* For a recap & review of 4×02, click here.
* For a recap & review of 4×04, click here.
Now June’s been captured and taken back to Gilead, surely to face the tortures of the damned. She’s once again chained and masked as we’ve seen her before. It’s all the worse because Nick was the one to capture her, even if he somehow convinces himself it’s for her own good. He tells June the other Handmaids have gone on to the next safe house and says she has to give up information if he is to help her. How can she take anything he says seriously? He’s brought her back to a fascist rape state. And now Aunt Lydia’s taking custody of the Handmaid, calling herself the Handmaid’s “guardian angel.” Good lord. As expected, June’s taken through dark corridors past various prison cells where other detractors are kept. She’s brought to her own cell, where Lydia has twisted designs for the Handmaid, starting with a beating and a lecture.
June is stretched out on a table while a lieutenant (Reed Birney) comes to ask her questions. He wants to know the location of the other Handmaids. However, they’re not going to get any answers like that out of June. “God has forsaken this place,” she says, right before the lieutenant starts in on some physical abuse. After that comes torture. They go straight to waterboarding, using a cloth with a cross on it; how perfectly symbolic. Outside, Lydia does her cross-stitching—the banality of evil.
In Canada, Luke hears that June’s alive but has been captured and taken back to Gilead.Following the waterboarding, June’s brought to another room where Aunt Lydia warns that things will get “quite a bit worse” if the Handmaid won’t give up information. She rightly accuses Lydia of all the horrible things the older woman has done in Gilead. That doesn’t faze Aunt Lydia, who sees herself as a righteous person. June taunts Lydia with the latter’s failures, and it genuinely bothers Lydia, obviously. All this only means June is going to suffer more tortures, in spite of her brave face and harsh words. Next is having fingernails pulled out. June decides to give up information about the Handmaids, though, is it just to throw them off? Definitely. Right now it gets June warm clothes and a bed instead of having her body further brutalised.
Luke continues to worry about June. But he wonders if his wife chose this, and Moira says of course not. Everybody seems to be questioning June’s intentions. I get that other people are in pain, like Luke and Moira and others, but they’re all free; not to mention Luke is a man who’s never been in danger from Gilead himself personally. It’s like everyone, such as Moira and Emily last episode too, just wants to criticise June while she’s the one who’s locked away in a cell, facing more potential rapes and definitely more torture. It’s easy for them all to sit across the border and talk shit. While back in Gilead, June’s taken up to the roof where the lieutenant’s waiting, asking for real info on the Handmaids. When the question isn’t answered another Handmaid is pushed from the building. Then another. Can June bear the guilt she feels? She’s not responsible, yet that’s the tactic, to make her feel that way. Such is how a fascist state operates; also how misogyny works, too.
Afterwards, June is taken back to the cell and locked inside a crate.
In a different room, Joseph and Nick talk about June. Nick says he wants to keep June alive, whereas Joseph thinks it’s all useless because they’ll never be together again. The whole thing is darkly comic, given that these two men are sitting in a nice room with a fire, drinking good liquor, talking about things that don’t affect them while women are being raped and tortured and killed all around them. A typical bunch of straight white men sitting around doing nothing as women sacrifice everything. Nick also tells Joseph: “You owe me.” What is his deal, anyway? What’s the purpose of taking June back to Gilead if he legitimately wants to help her?
June’s liberated from the crate and taken to a dinner with Joseph at a big table filled with foods. She takes the chance to have something to eat after being locked away so long. He tells her about why he’s back in Gilead, then he mentions the incident at a Jezebels in Pennsylvania with the poisoned liquor. He wants to know where the other Handmaids are, trying his own methods to get the info out of her. But neither food nor torture are going to make June give up her sisters. Then Joseph says that if June doesn’t give the Handmaids up it will result in Hannah being hurt. She’s convinced they’d “never hurt a child.” She’s forgetting none of this is actually about the children, it’s about power. And she now realises Joseph’s useless, too.
What’s next for June, then?
She’s brought to see Hannah, who cowers from her in a corner, locked in a glass case like an exhibit in a museum. She gently goes to the girl and tries to offer comfort, putting a hand against the glass. The lieutenant comes back in, then finally June gives up the location of the other Handmaids. She’s unwilling to let her daughter be hurt, even if it means going against the rebellion and seeing her sisters brought back to Gilead. At the farmhouse, the Handmaids wake to discover they’re being hunted, and soon they’re found.
June receives a visit in her cell from Aunt Lydia, hearing about the capture of her friends. She then tells Lydia she’s prepared for “it all to be over.” She wants to die. Lydia says nobody will be executed, because they need lots of Handmaids for their “sacred duty.” The Handmaids are being sent to a Magdalene colony, where they’ll work and work until a Commander and his wife are ready to rape them and impregnate them; a “breeding colony.” A new horrific existence for June and the other Handmaids. Moreover, Lydia lays all the blame on June: “You‘re responsible. Your fault. Your choice.”
“This is the start of a new adventure”
June sees Nick again. He tells her Hannah’s safe again. He apologises, though June doesn’t want to hear it. She’s more traumatised by how her daughter reacted to her; scared of her own mother and not of the rapist fascists surrounding them. That’s a difficult thing to have experienced, compounding everything else horrible June has had to deal with in Gilead. Again, I’m unsure of how Nick can say he loves June when he’s the one who brought her back to that place. [Am I alone on this? Fuck Nick. If he loved her he’d get some weaponry and escape that place with her.] Nevertheless, June kisses Nick before she leaves to face her new fate.
Soundtrack Note: “Street Spirit” by Radiohead plays while the Handmaids are transported.
When June and the other Handmaids are being taken to their new destination, they’re stopped at a train crossing. June takes her chance to attack Aunt Lydia, giving them all a chance to escape again. She doesn’t beat Lydia to death like she wants to, instead running with the other women. One of the women is gunned down by the Guardian with Lydia. June and Janine make it past the railroad tracks, but a couple of their sisters are run over and killed by a train. This leaves the remaining pair of Handmaids alone on the road together, and the passing train gives them time to run a while. Let’s hope they stay free this time.