The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10: The Wilderness Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep10 June, Mark, Joseph

In episode 10, the final installment of season 4, we follow June as she comes to terms with Fred Waterford’s imminent release from prison. We’ve spent the season watching June try to balance the rage from her experiences in Gilead, the need to fight back and her sense of helplessness over Hannah’s situation with her exhaustion from the fight, her desire to return to ordinary life and her efforts to act like the person her loved ones remember. This episode is the culmination of that struggle, as she makes irrevocable choices about who she is and what she’s willing to do to fight for the world she wants for her daughters.

Recap

We begin with a flashback to a trip to Jezebels back in the season 1 era. June is in her sparkly gold dress and cheap makeup. Fred pulls her out onto the dance floor. Though June smiles as though she’s enjoying herself, her voiceover tells a different story:

“It has to look like love. That’s what he needs. Pretend you like it. Pretend you love it. Pretend you want him. He is your Commander. Make him your whole world. Your sun, your moon and all your stars. Make him believe. Because your motherf—ing life depends on it. Don’t run. Don’t kick. Don’t scream. Don’t bite it off. Don’t… bite.”

She left out “Don’t punch. Don’t hit. Don’t scratch.” I wonder why she didn’t include her arms as weapons. Maybe because she’s so used to Serena holding them down? I fought off a rapist, once upon a time, and I can assure you that I used my arms, legs, wits and everything else available to me, just as she describes. Though it was decades ago, I still feel the potential to fight for my life in my muscles and bones, as if they are always coiled, ready to spring into action if I need to fight again.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10: The Wilderness Recap”

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 9: Progress Recap

Episode 9, Progress, includes several surprise visits which bring both good and bad news. June has an unexpected visit with Nick, where she receives new information on Hannah. Fred receives a visit from Warren Putnam, while Naomi pays a call to Serena. The Putnams congratulate the Waterfords on their forthcoming arrival, then inform them that Gilead is no longer in need of their services. Janine visits Esther in the Red Center to explain the reality of how life works for handmaids.

Mark Tuello’s end of episode visit with June and Luke is expected, but he delivers news that shocks June to her core.

Recap

We begin with June and Luke, apparently the morning after episode 8. It appears that they’re wrung out after staying up all night talking about June’s attempts to rescue Hannah. Luke tries to look hopeful. June apologizes again. He puts the blame where it belongs, on Gilead, not on June. June tells him that Nick said Hannah is safe at home now. Luke corrects her- home is in their house in Toronto, with them. June agrees.

Like June, I was so relieved during the scene on the bridge S4Ep3, The Crossing, that I didn’t question Nick’s wording, but Luke is right. Hannah isn’t safe and she isn’t home. She’s back with the MacKenzies, where she’s okay for the moment, but only for a very few more years. Her time is running out. June knows this from the parades of girls she watched in the hospital in S3Ep9, Heroic and from Mrs Keyes’ and Eden’s experiences (S4Ep1, Pigs and S2Ep12, Postpartum).

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 9: Progress Recap”

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”

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.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 1: Pigs Recap”

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

mv5bzgfmody1njityznlzs00oduwltljnzatzjbimgrizme4zjfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymja0mzy1nte40._v1_

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.

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

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 10: The Last Ceremony

THT210JuneontheBigBed

Episode 10, The Last Ceremony, plays out like an extra intense episode of a nighttime soap opera, with the characters letting their masks slip far enough to reveal their true feelings, whether it’s safe to do so or not, and various schemes, evil and otherwise, playing out. When those masks slip, the characters see themselves and each other for who they really are, and it’s not pretty. The end of June’s pregnancy and the change in circumstances that it will bring has everyone on edge, making them distracted enough to make serious mistakes that can’t be undone.

The episode begins with Emily preparing for the Ceremony, the handmaids’ reason for existing and monthly rape fertility routine. June’s voice narrates the ways that the handmaids’ typically cope with the regular, ritualized rapes, mainly through dissociation. They pretend they aren’t connected to their bodies, they pretend that the man is nothing more than a bee pollinating a flower, they take their minds somewhere else. There are undoubtedly handmaids who plan their revenge during these moments.

Emily looks as pinched and unhappy as she has since she came back from the colonies. She winces in pain a few times. Her current serial rapist Commander doesn’t look so good as he works his way through the act. He’s becomes uncoordinated and stumbles away once he finishes. Moments later, he collapses on the floor. His wife goes to him, then yells at Emily to run for help. Emily, still on the bed in the position her captors left her in, says, with only a hint of snark in her voice, “The chances are better if I lay on my back.”

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 10: The Last Ceremony”

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

mv5bztziyzflmgmtmtayny00ownhltgxm2itnty4oge2zmnlotnkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjywnda2mde-_v1_sy1000_cr0017761000_al_

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.

Continue reading “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 9: Smart Power Recap”