The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8: Testimony Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep8 Emily

Episode 8, Testimony, examines how the characters are coping, or not coping, with their trauma. June faces Fred for the first time since S3Ep10, Witness, when he forced Joseph to perform the Ceremony. They meet in international court, when June testifies against Fred. As generally happens when women accuse powerful men of sex crimes, the results are mixed. The women who know June are empowered by her testimony. Luke sends June more mixed messages. Moira is sympathetic, but prefers to keep June’s experiences at a distance. June searches for and finds an outlet for her anger, which also brings out Emily’s repressed anger. Serena Joy and Fred never change.

Aunt Lydia continues to have difficulty dealing with her own anger and trauma, which leads Joseph to reprimand her and then give her a puppy turn over a handmaid captured in Chicago to her for discipline. That’s right, Janine’s survival is finally confirmed! Lawrence says he’s giving Janine to Lydia for her to use as a punching bag, but I’m convinced he knows Lydia actually needs a support handmaid to love and Janine is really good at loving people. Before she became a rebel, she was notorious for kidnapping her baby, jumping off a bridge and then later for bringing Angela back to life. Janine is a miraculous character and now God has brought her back to Lydia to fulfill a new purpose.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8: Testimony Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 9: Heroic Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep9 June & Aunt Lydia

Episode 9, Heroic, is probably one of The Handmaid’s Tale most controversial episodes. Almost the entire episode takes place in Ofmatthew/Natalie’s hospital room, where she is brain dead after being shot by a Guardian in episode 8. Natalie is comatose, but kept alive as an incubator for her baby for as long as possible in order to give the baby the best chance of survival. Little care is given to her comfort and none to her potential wishes. She is now blatantly referred to as a vessel for the baby and nothing more, ultimately the only role that matters for the women of Gilead.

It was shocking enough to watch as a pregnant Black woman was shot by the Handmaid’s Tale version of the police in the previous episode. In this episode, we watch as her body is treated like an inanimate object by almost all of the many people who file through her hospital room. Natalie is reduced to frequently malfunctioning life support for her womb, an obstacle in the way of the healthy baby boy they want to eventually harvest from her, just as they’ve stolen her previous three children.

Season 3 aired in the summer of 2019, long before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths in May and March of 2020. It’s a reminder of the long history of racism, medical mistreatment and violence in the US; of the continued commodification of women’s bodies, especially those of women of color; and that everything in The Handmaid’s Tale novel/S1 has already happened somewhere in the world/history. It’s all still happening in the US and globally. The series continues to be grounded in reality, no matter how extreme it seems.

It’s a genius move for Aunt Lydia to punish June for her harshness toward Natalie by sentencing her to remain kneeling in the room 24/7 until Natalie gives birth. Natalie was annoying, but after 5 years of Gilead’s abuses, she was also mentally fragile. She did what she hoped would allow her and others to survive, just like the rest of the handmaids. June’s constant presence in Natalie’s hospital room, swathed in handmaid’s red, reminds those who enter that Natalie is a human being, not just a vessel.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 9: Heroic Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7: Home Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep7 June & Gilead Gang

In episode 7, June is recognized as a citizen of the United States and is accepted by Canada as an official refugee. This should mean that she’s not subject to extradition by Gilead as one of their citizens, but it doesn’t mean they won’t try to assassinate her in Canada or extradite her as an escaped criminal. In the meantime, Mark Tuello and Rachel Tapping put her up at a fancy hotel for the duration of her initial recovery and debriefing. Luke soon has other ideas and takes her home instead, where she attempts to fast track settling back into normal life, along with catching up with old friends and enemies from Gilead.

It’s a lot for her first 2 days in Canada and eventually it all catches up with her.

Recap

The episode begins where episode 6, Vows, left off, with June stepping onto Canadian soil. No sooner has her foot touched the pavement than Mark Tuello begins speaking. He and Rachel Tapping, the US government official who’s met frequently with Luke, are there to officially welcome June to Canada. But first, a few questions: “If you were returned to Gilead, would you be subject to a danger of torture, a risk to your life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment?”

June has a hard time keeping up with what they say and is afraid they’re here to send her back, especially after the cold welcome she received from Oona’s crew. She manages to answer, “Yes.” She also answers yes when Rachel asks if she’d be persecuted based on being a woman. Mark reminds her that she’s a citizen of the United States. She finally says, “My name is June Osborn. I am a citizen of the United States and I seek asylum in the country of Canada.”

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7: Home Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 5: Unknown Caller

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep5 June at Lawrence's Desk
Episode 5 focuses on reunions and espionage, including a callback to the “coconuts and treason” of S2Ep9. Following up on the protest video of Luke and Nichole from the previous episode, Serena makes a deal with June, who then negotiates with Luke, so that Serena can fly to Canada to visit Nichole. Serena’s contact in Toronto is once again Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger), the US official who offered her asylum during her diplomatic visit to Toronto with Fred in season 2.

Recap

Now that she’s received visual confirmation of Nichole’s successful escape to Canada by way of the video from the previous episode, in voiceover June muses on her gratitude for her daughter’s freedom. She gives credit to God, herself and the resistance network who set up Nichole and Emily’s journey North. Attaining freedom for their children is the dearest hope for handmaids. Rather than resenting her for achieving this dream instead of them, the other handmaids are happy for her. If one child can make it out, perhaps someday the rest can, too.

After seeing him in the video, June’s longing for Luke becomes unbearable. She remembers how strong her sexual desire for him was in the past. Now she dreams of more simple pleasures that remind her of her individual identity, such as hearing his voice say her real name, having his arms hold her and feeling reassured of his love. She’s also confused about exactly what she feels for Luke now. She loves him, but is it the same love that she felt in the past?

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 5: Unknown Caller”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 6: Vows Recap

Handmaid's Tale S4Ep6 Flashback June & Luke1

Episode 6, Vows, follows the adventures of June and Moira, beginning moments after Moira found June wandering in post-bombing Chicago with a head injury at the end of episode 5. Moira’s vow that she won’t leave June behind again conflicts with June’s vow that she won’t leave Gilead without Hannah. Through flashbacks, we’re reminded of how close the friendship is between the two women. We also learn more about what June and Luke expected from each other going into their marriage, versus June’s current worry that he’ll blame her for losing Hannah.

Though June’s insecurities and trauma are at the forefront in this episode, the exploration of her relationships with Luke and Moira are also a reminder that she had an entire life before Gilead. She, and thus the audience, have been more and more consumed with the people and events in Gilead as time has gone on, putting the rest of her life and loved ones on the backburner, as Luke has noted. On the way to Canada, she begins to confront the issues in her life that she’s set aside for five years.

Parallels with episode 2:3, Baggage, the episode when June almost escaped Gilead in a plane, run throughout this episode. But now, June is no longer baggage that Mayday is reluctantly getting out because Nick called in favors. She’s the most important person in the world to Moira, who’s right there, taking risks with her, and that makes all the difference for both of them.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 6: Vows Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale and Its Film Noir Influences

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep11 Femme Fatale June

As The Handmaid’s Tale has shifted away from its season 1 dependence on the original book’s plot line, it’s frequently drawn from the dark, mature themes of the 1940s and 50s films of the Film Noir genre. Nick, June, Fred and Serena in particular tend to be involved in Film Noir plotlines, with an emphasis on mystery, crime, betrayal, murder, loyalty, regret, femmes fatales and sinful excess.

In an old school Film Noir, Nick would be the main character- his role as an Eye is close to the typical role of an investigator. He has connections in the community, a morally ambiguous, mysterious past and is conflicted in the present, making him the perfect Film Noir anti-hero. June would normally serve as the love interest or femme fatale who needs Nick’s help and either saves him or leads him astray- or possibly both.

The other characters frequently treat her as if she is a femme fatale, a seductive woman who leads her admirers into actions they wouldn’t otherwise take.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale and Its Film Noir Influences”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 5: Chicago Recap

Handmaid's Tale S4Ep5 Nick on the Council

In episode 5, the halfway point for season 4, June and Janine acclimate to war-torn Chicago. Janine wants to stay with Steven’s group, which emphasizes survival over fighting, while June wants to find a more proactive group of fighters. In Gilead, Nick, Lawrence and Lydia scheme separately and together, both in the service of Gilead and themselves, leading them to double-cross each other.

While Nick, Joseph and Lydia are all effective agents as individuals, as spy teams they need some training in coordinating objectives. Or to agree on their mutual goals, contingent on certain blackmail arrangements if the goals aren’t achieved. Lydia and Joseph begin to work out their own process for remaking Gilead.

As Fred Waterford once said, “Better doesn’t mean better for everyone.” It’s not clear yet who Joseph and Lydia each want to make things better for, but the carpet bombing at the end of the episode makes it clear that by design, their machinations won’t make the former US better for everyone.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 5: Chicago Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 4: Milk Recap

Handmaid's Tale S4Ep4 June & Janine in Milk Car

June and Janine are on the run together in episode 4. They catch a ride west in a refrigerated train car filled with milk, which might be the most Handmaid’s Tale thing ever to happen on this show, other than the next thing that happens- they find a group of fighters in Chicago who call them sex slaves and treat them as such. There’s no rest for the wicked, as Aunt Lydia would undoubtedly say.

In Toronto, the Waterfords jockey for custody of Rita and her favorable testimony in their various court cases. To the Waterfords, freedom doesn’t mean they have to give up the wonderful master-slave friendships they forged in Gilead. In this episode, Rita figures out what freedom means to her and how she actually feels about the Waterfords. Spoiler- they’re not besties after all. As we watch Rita figure out her future, we also learn more about Janine’s past and how it informs the decisions she makes in the present.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 4: Milk Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 3: The Crossing Recap

Handmaid's Tale S4Ep3 June & Nick & Mask

June is off to prison in episode 3, as Nick attempts to keep her alive by forcing her to give up the location of the rest of the handmaids, doing whatever it takes to make her talk. In Gilead, true love means torturing your paramour and killing your friends so that you’ll both live to see each other again someday. It’s a unique twist on Romeo and Juliet’s accidentally on purpose suicides and murders.

Gilead is such a harsh dystopia that sometimes I expect the bodies to turn into zombies, get up and keep going. Most of the living in Gilead are basically zombies anyway.

June acts as a reverse zombie maker. She wakes people up from their psychological numbness, but frequently they die not long afterwards. Sometimes they just symbolically die to Gilead and in reality they become Canadians. That can be fraught with difficulty as well, because June still haunts them.

Luke struggles with June’s choices this week and what they mean for him and Nichole. Joseph and Lydia struggle to regain their former positions in Gilead after June disrupted their lives. As always, June struggles to do the right thing in a world that only offers wrong choices.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 3: The Crossing Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 2: Nightshade Recap

Handmaid's Tale S4Ep2 June & Janine

Episode 2, Nightshade, uses the title as a pun, referring to both the poisonous plant that grows on Mrs Keyes’ farm and the country club version of Jezebels that June visits to make contact with Mayday. It could probably also be used to refer to Nick and his love for hanging back in the shadows, then stepping out into the light at the perfect dramatic moment.

This is an episode of transitions, where fateful choices are made with far reaching, unpredictable consequences. It’s becoming clear that the themes of this season are sacrifice, choice and consequences. Freedom is never really free and even within oppression, there are choices to be made that will eventually affect others. Finding the line where you can live with yourself and with the cost of those choices, whether living in freedom or oppression, is the hard part facing June and the rest.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 2: Nightshade Recap”