June made it out of Gilead, but does that mean her troubles are over? Of course not. Tara Ward recaps episode five of season four of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Welcome to the halfway point of season four, mates. It feels like this season is rushing by, and yet the entire series has the vibe of an endless game of Scrabble with Commander Waterford, one we’re sure we’ll win with a Triple Word Score for “FREEDOM” when really the only tiles have to work with are X, J and Q. You can’t do anything with those letters, and you can’t do anything with a series that’s determined to drag us through hell, over and over again. Someone call Mayday, I’m spelling out S-O-S on the Scrabble board of life.
Episode five moved slower than a cold train filled with milk and handmaids, and gave us nothing we haven’t seen before. June was sad, she was mad, she went rogue and she escaped certain death. It’s the template for many episodes in this beautiful nightmare, but the best moment came in the final seconds when Moira found June amongst the bombing rubble. Fancy meeting you here, June, how are things? Great, but let me tell you about the time I fell into a train filled with milk. You won’t believe how long it took to get the smell out of my petticoats.
Moira and June’s reunion means we’re inching closer to June’s escape to Canada, and at this point, it doesn’t matter how she gets there. June can cartwheel across Lake Michigan for all I care, but if we don’t hear some soothing Celine Dion panflute music soon, we’ll be as glum as Nick was when he was ordered to bomb Chicago. Poor Nick. In season one he was just a moody hornbag living above a garage, and now he’s one of the most powerful men in all dystopia. That’s equal rights for you, I guess.
Life in Chicago is as munted as it was in Gilead, and June and Janine struggle to agree on their next move. June wants to join the fight against Gilead, but Janine falls for rebel leader Steven and thinks staying with him might be as good as life gets. Given Janine just escaped from a big tin of milk, it’s hard to disagree. June lets Janine trade their handmaid cloaks for an old baseball cap, and rages at Steven for not letting her kill the bad guys, because June once killed a man with a biro and that turned out fine. Chicago is cramping June’s style, and she’s not happy.
Aunt Lydia’s not a box of birds either, having been demoted to spending her days playing cards and walking on a treadmill that says “blessed day” at the end of a workout. Aunt Ruth says Gilead doesn’t need Aunt Lydia any more, but this enforced relegation doesn’t sit well with our favourite people pleaser. “I have served Gilead with everything I have,” Aunt Lydia protests, to no avail. Aunt Lydia’s mind is willing but her cattle prod is unable, and now all she has are her memories and a healthy heart target of 10,000 steps per day.
Life is one long mechanical footpath, and the men of Gilead can’t keep up the pace. Their sex slaves keep going missing and the economy has tanked, and it’s not a good look. Commander Lawrence proposes a temporary ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill to other nations, but the Council vote him down. Lads, lads, lads. It seems four seasons of dumb decisions isn’t enough; surely they can go to season six or seven without making a good choice.
Lawrence, however, is pulling strings behind the scenes, and builds an unlikely alliance with both Aunt Lydia and Nick. In return for hot gossip about other Commanders, Lawrence agrees to return June to Lydia and to reinstate her Aunt role. Aunt Lydia’s got dirt on everyone, including Lawrence, and she’s finally playing Gilead at its own game. Nick, meanwhile, learns June made it out of Gilead and is gutted to bomb the crap out of Chicago. It’s a tiny town, right? There’s only one place those bombs will fall, and that’s directly on June Osborne.
June ditches her new mates to wander through Chicago like a lost tourist, backpack and map in hand, looking to join the war. She may as well have “bomb me” written on her back, and as Gilead’s planes fly overhead, she and Janine have nowhere to hide. When June regains consciousness after the attack, Janine is gone.
Luckily, someone else steps up to sort out June’s latest mess, because Moira is an angel sent from coincidence heaven. Visiting Chicago as a humanitarian aid worker, Moira emerges from the dust to find June, just as a ‘Fix You’ cover pulls on every one of our remaining heartstrings. Do we mind? Hell, no. It’s the world’s most unlikely reunion, but it’s exactly what we deserve. Get ready Canada, June’s about to start cartwheeling.
The Handmaid’s Tale drops Thursday nights on Neon. You can read all our recaps here.
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