It’s the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, and we’re desperate for a happy ending. Will we get one, or will we be left weeping into our revolution muffins? Tara Ward recaps.
I didn’t think anything could be tenser than the time Maria made the Von Trapp kids hide from the Nazis in the Sound of Music, but the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale took that scene and danced the dystopian cha-cha all over it. June pulled it off it. She busted this nightmare right open by flying 52 innocent children to freedom, but did she pay for it with her life? And what happened to all that leftover soap? I’m happy, but I still have questions.
“Victory goes to the hardest heart,” June says, after a viscerally terrifying flashback to her first day in Gilead. Forget hard hearts, that flashback turned mine into a wobbly soufflé that collapsed in the first minute and still hasn’t recovered. I was worried the flashback was an omen, that June would start and end this finale trapped in a cage, and we’d never realise my dream scene of an angry Aunt Lydia hooning around on her mobility scooter, shaking her cattleprod at the rescue plane in the sky as June flipped Gilead the bird from the pilot’s seat.
But let’s start at the beginning, because June has a lot of soap to chop up. Soap! Handy in a bathroom, handy in a revolution. Mayday has arrived and everyone in the Lawrence household is bricking themselves, but June’s so calm she should release her own relaxation podcast. Sure, she overreacted a tad when a Martha turned up early, panicked and left her kid behind, but to be fair, June doesn’t have time for that sort of shit. She’s got soap to boil and hinges to wax and authoritarian regimes to undermine, and if she doesn’t hold fast now, all those revolution muffins will have been wasted.
Even Lawrence doesn’t stand a chance against June. Guards begin house-to-house searches for the girl hiding in the Lawrence basement, and Lawrence wants to pull the plug on the escape. But this is one power struggle June’s determined to win. “You are not in charge. I am,” she says, bloody ropable over the idea that another man wants to tell her what to do. Lawrence is so mad he calls her “young lady” like he’s Curtis from Love Island, but this has the same impact on June that Curtis had on the British voting public.
The votes are in, and leaving the villa tonight is… June Osborne.
Serena’s also about to leave the villa, because old mate Fred sold her down the dystopian river by telling Mr Truello she committed “serious crimes” outside of her immunity status. Before Serena can get any decent wear out of her lovely new pink coat, Truello arrests her for rape. Making Nick impregnate June so Serena could keep their baby is not cool, and Serena is toast. Smell you later, Waterfords.
Back at the Lawrences, the escape is all go. We’ve waited 13 long episodes for this moment and I, like Martha Beth, am ready to nervous spew my guts out.
Somehow, the group make it to the airport without a) being seen and b) any kids losing their collective shit at being ripped from the only home they’ve known, forced to sit in a dark basement listening to an old geezer read Treasure Island, and made to trek through a muddy forest in the middle of the night. I can’t even get my kids to walk down the chip aisle in the supermarket without them starting World War 3. June truly is a miracle worker.
And then, we see the guards.
Shit just got real in Gilead. The women throw stones at the guard to distract him from noticing the bajillion children running into the airport, but he’s got a big gun and they’ve only got a few bricks. June makes one final selfless decision to step into the light, leading the guard on a chase through the forest. It’s a nod to the very first episode when June was chased, but this time, we’re desperate for a happier ending. Now we want Canada instead of cages, tears of joy instead of fear, and all the poutine a tired handmaid can get her hands on.
June takes a bullet and falls to the ground.
June is our Fraulein Maria, our Julie Andrews, and you can bet your big bonnet she didn’t free the Von Trapps of Gilead to die alone in a forest. She shoots the guard, makes him give the all clear on the radio, and kills him with another bullet. The plane flies over as June lies injured on the forest floor. Praise be, double thumbs up, the children are saved.
Luke, Moira and Emily are at the airport when the plane lands, and Luke hugs Rita as she tells him this was “all June”. Luke’s bumped into the entire Waterford household apart from his wife by now, and if I were him, I’d be getting a bit tetchy about that. The arrival of the children seems a touch too syrupy, but it was still a happy ending, even if the sight of Luke waiting for Hannah to get off the plane nearly did me in once and for all.
What about our hero? As June is rescued by her handmaid buddies, she quotes scripture about reaching the land of milk and honey (and soap, presumably). She smiles as her eyes close peacefully.
Is June dead, or just knackered from saving the world? Under his eye, see you in season four.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.