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.

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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.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 1: Pigs Recap

The Handmaid's Tale S4Ep1 June in Woods

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 begins where it left off at the end of season 3, with June gravely wounded after the successful takeoff of the flight holding dozens of Gilead’s children and several Marthas, including Rita. After spending several episodes organizing the flight, June and her squad of devoted handmaids further risked their lives, staying behind to distract the Guardians at the airport while the Marthas led the children onto the plane. The plane makes it to Canada as June’s fellow handmaids carry her toward safety.

In season 3, June learned that her own daughter, Hannah, may be out of her reach, but she can still be useful and save other Hannahs. She learned to honor her lost mother and the others she’s lost along the way not just by saving those she can, but also by avenging them when she gets a chance. Her leadership and her goals became more defined in season 3 and as a consequence, Gilead has lost many more children than just her own.

It’s also lost more Commanders. Ofglen took out several with her bomb in season 2. June killed Winslow and influenced Serena into taking Fred with her to Canada as the sweetener in her immunity deal. Lawrence planned to leave with the children, but went to jail instead. The losses caused by MayDay, Gilead’s war on the Western Front (Chicago), and the purges created by sparring between the two Sons of Jacob factions (True Believers, formerly led by Pryce and now maybe by Calhoun, and Career Opportunists, formerly led by Winslow and Waterford, now led by Putnam) have led to a power vacuum at the top in Gilead.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 4: God Bless the Child Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep4 June & Natalie Square Off

Episode 4 brings the handmaids to a community baptism ceremony for all of the babies born recently, including Janine’s daughter, Angela. Nichole is notedly missing from the ceremony. Later, the handmaids are invited back to the Putnams for a reception, under the supervision of a still recovering Aunt Lydia. The baptism reminds June of her two children and her former life, while the party brings her back into contact with the Waterfords. In Toronto, Emily finally meets with her wife and son in person.

The episode continues this season’s exploration of identity, moving beyond the third episode’s focus on retaining one’s self, despite overwhelming pressure to submit to Gilead’s ideology. This week, the focus turns to Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological phenomenon that occurs when a hostage gives in to their captors’ world view out of exhaustion, despair and fear.

We saw the beginning of a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in June in episode 3, as she accepted that she couldn’t fight Gilead on its own terms and stay the same person she’d always been. Lawrence convinced her that she needed to get her hands dirty in order to be effective, and in this episode she mourns the person she used to be while beginning to explore new possibilities. She’s pulled in a few different directions.

How far is the new version of June willing to go to achieve her goals? Lawrence avidly watches her transformation. He may be helping her, but he’s also still a cat playing with mice.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 3: Useful Recap

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Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale- Hannah/Agnes: “Did you try to find me?” June: “I tried so hard.” Hannah/Agnes: “Why didn’t you try harder?”

This is what changed between June’s first escape attempt, when she was caught just as the plane was taking off, and her second, when she voluntarily sent Nichole to Canada with Emily. Her own child, who was also speaking for all of the little girls she’d leave behind, asked her to try harder. The H in Hannah is likely a nod to Holly, June’s mother, who is also invoked in this episode. June could hear Grandma Holly, the lifelong women’s rights activist, speaking through Hannah. She knew she had to listen to those words. They’ve become her inner mantra.

In this episode, June continues to search for ways to make a difference in Gilead. Lawrence continues to test June. Serena is bereft after the many self-inflicted changes in her life. All three reach tipping points which will affect their futures.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 2: Mary and Martha Recap

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In Season 3, episode 2, Mary and Martha, June begins to find her place in the complicated Lawrence household, Luke and Moira get used to having a new baby to take care of, and Emily tries to find the parts of herself that her wife would recognize. Everyone except Head Gamemaker Commander Lawrence digs deep inside themselves to meet their new challenges. As usual, Lawrence surveys the system he’s put in place and makes minor tweaks to keep it interesting and functioning at a certain level.

Recap

June’s voiceover: “I used to be bad at waiting. ‘They also serve who stand and wait,’ Aunt Lydia said. She also said, ‘Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted. Think of yourselves as seeds. What kind of seed will you be, girls?’ I pretend I’m a tree. And I wait.”

This is a lovely little metaphor, until you realize that the seed is consumed in the creation of the new plant. The baby is all, the mother is nothing. It’s also a story you’d tell to children, as is typical of the infantilization that’s programmed into the women at the Red Center.

But June turns it into a metaphor of empowerment. She doesn’t grow a baby who consumes her, she grows into a strong, immovable tree, who waits for the right time to act. Childbearing is a small part of her. She has a family of trees to help with the baby.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 1: Night Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep1 June & Serena in Fiery Bedroom 1

We’re back for season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale in Gilead with June and the gang, since June selfishly nobly didn’t escape in the season 2 finale. She stayed to rescue her first born daughter, Hannah, who had ordered June to try harder to be her mother just a few weeks before the escape attempt. June sent baby Holly/Nichole safely to Canada with fierce mama bear and dragon slayer Emily, knowing that she could trust Emily with the life of her child.

June also stayed in Gilead to help the Resistance, so that all women and girls could be safe from rape, torture and murder. Even if she can’t get Hannah out, she can try to make a better place for her to grow up in. Most of the people in June’s life take a while to understand the sacrifice she’s made. Serena is inspired to make a big change in her own life, as well.

Recap

The season opens with the standard reminder of what’s come before. Season 2 ended with June handing Baby Holly Nichole to her fellow handmaid Emily, and telling her to call the baby Nichole. Then she sent her younger child to safety in Canada, where she knew her loved ones would take care of her. Having fulfilled the promise she made to Holly before she was even born, that she wouldn’t grow up in Gilead, now June turns away from saving herself and toward her older daughter, Hannah. She made Hannah a promise, too, a promise to try harder.

In season 3, June will try harder.

June prays for safe passage for Nichole and Emily as she runs away. She worries that Nichole won’t know her or forgive her if they ever meet again. But, she’s at peace with her decision. “I’m sorry, baby girl. Mom’s got work.”

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 9: Smart Power Recap

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Travel isn’t what it used to be, now that most of the US has become Gilead. If there’s one thing we learn in Smart Power, it’s that the people on both sides of the US-Canadian border miss the easy tourism relationship they used to share. Fred tries to blithely assume that the relationship will return to normal very soon, but the gay diplomat he’s speaking to disabuses him of that notion very quickly. The situation only devolves from there, as the Waterfords and Gilead manage to p*ss off the nicest country in the world so much that they’re thrown out of Canada, with angry protesters at the airport following them right up to their plane.

I really wish the Canadians had thrown them in the Canadian gulag. They might have had to build one just for Fred and Serena Joy, but it would have been worth it. Why hasn’t the UN been able to bring them up on charges as war criminals yet? Why aren’t the refugees in Little America speaking out? Surely Gilead deserves to be sanctioned by the international community for human rights violations, if nothing else. They don’t seem to have much trade with the rest of the world, or good relations with powerful countries to protect them from punishment.

I guess there’s no international “Believe the women” movement happening in this universe, at least until the end of the episode. We can only hope that Moira and Erin have found their true calling, and find a way to keep the attention on Gilead’s abusive practices.

If episode 8 was about longing, episode 9 is about disappointment and facing reality. No one gets what they want, expectations aren’t met, circumstances are reduced, consequences must be accepted. It’s an episode full of lost princesses, as if the movie Enchanted met Alice in Wonderland then got high with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Our feisty princesses spend the hour making plans and considering options, but they don’t even know which universe they’re living in half the time. Is it the universe where unwomen are brought back from the dead and bring their babies back from the dead? Or the universe where wives who have saved their husbands from unfounded charges of treason are whipped for not obeying their husbands? The universe where a plucky Jezebel can jump in a car, make a run for the border, and somehow make it to freedom? Or the one where refusing to murder a friend will get your tongue cut out? Or another appendage maimed or amputated? Every decision is high risk, now that Gilead and the Waterford home have become unstable and unpredictable, and more often than not, the result will be disappointing, if not disastrous.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 8: Women’s Work Recap

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“We do our work in the evenings. She writes, I read. In another life, maybe we could have been colleagues. In this one, we’re heretics.

“I was already on the naughty list. An adulteress. A fallen woman, as Aunt Lydia used to say. But this is new territory for Serena, I think. How does she feel about falling? She seems pretty f**king happy.”

In the background, the Commodores’ Easy plays, with the lyrics, “easy like Sunday morning.” There are cups of tea and baked goods scattered around Fred’s cosy study. If not for their outfits, this could be a working brunch between two professional women before the war.

Episode 8 of season 2, Women’s Work, begins with Serena and June doing the work they were paid to do before Gilead stripped them of their rights and identities. We’ve never seen either woman look so focussed, relaxed and happy.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 7: After Recap

This episode deals with the aftermath. The aftermath of Ofglen2 Lillie Fuller’s suicide bomb, the aftermath of Commander Pryce’s death and the power vacuum it leaves, the aftermath of Gilead’s tyrannical policies and the resulting reduction in fertile women, the aftermath of Gilead’s purges, the aftermath of Luke and June’s marriage. Sometimes there is a resolution or at least a sense of closure, sometimes there is not. The deaths from the suicide bombing will likely haunt Gilead for a long time to come.

“After” begins with the funeral of the handmaids who died as a result of the bombing. It’s a beautiful spectacle, as the handmaid ceremonies tend to be. The handmaids wear red and black, with red veils completely covering their faces and tucked into their collars, keeping them anonymous and vaguely horrifying. They walk in formation to the cemetery, and surround the caskets, which are laid out in a circular formation. Seriously, if I didn’t know better I would have thought I’d accidentally clicked on a horror movie that includes a cult of creepy young women.

Aunt Lydia says the prayers over the fallen, while the handmaids repeat the phrase “We remember them” after each line. Eventually, the women remove their veils.

Aunt Lydia: I wish I could give you a world without violence. Without pain. That’s all I ever wanted. And in their names, dear lord, we remember them. Of ryan, Ofleo, Ofhal, Ofzev…

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