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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 2 Episode 3: Baggage Recap

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In episode 2, Baggage, June reflects on her complicated relationship with her own mother, Holly, as she faces leaving her daughter, Hannah, behind in Gilead when she escapes. June is moved from the Boston Globe offices and makes her way closer to freedom, so the reality of what she’s doing hits her in this episode. In Canada, Moira’s already physically free, but she and the other refugees must grapple with the lingering effects of what Gilead did to them and what it forced them to do.

June jogs through the Boston Globe building on what looks to be a well-traveled route. She’s been hiding there for two months and is still maintaining her shrine to the executed employees, with candles burning in remembrance. The employees must have loved candles. You’d think she’d have run out a long time ago. It’s a freedom of speech miracle.

She remembers her mother saying that women are so adaptable that they can get used to anything, and wonders what she’s gotten used to without realizing it. This mirrors Aunt Lydia’s statements that normal is just whatever you’re used to, and things in Gilead would begin to feel ordinary and normal to the handmaids before long.

Moira also still jogs, but she jogs through the streets of Toronto. Her route takes her past the refugees’ shrine for their lost American loved ones. It’s not so different from June’s shrine, except it’s outside.

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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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HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Analysis and Commentary

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They Should Never Have Given Us Uniforms If They Didn’t Want Us to Be an Army.

After watching the 2017 Emmy Awards, Metamaiden and I finally got around to our long-planned rewatch of HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale. We watched it when it aired weekly in the spring, along with everyone else, and loved it. I didn’t write weekly recaps because I know the book, having read it in the 80s, and I haven’t figured out how to write about ongoing series based on a book that I already know.

So, after binge rewatching the entire season, we present to you the compromise post: our typical season ending discussion.

 

Review

I’m not going to bother with much of a review. This series has won 8 Primetime Emmy Awards, and every one of the winners for Handmaid’s Tale deserved it. There could have been multiple winners in the various outstanding actress categories. The acting, cinematography, production design, and direction all deserve the many accolades they’ve received.

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