Handmaid’s Tale recap: Gilead is a place on Earth

Heaven is a place on earth, and June is saving the world one ’80s pop hit at a time. Tara Ward recaps season 4, episode 9 of The Handmaid’s Tale

Praise be, for there was a tiny bit of good news in Gilead this week. Aunt Lydia gave Janine a snazzy new eye patch, and it was a moment that filled my dystopian heart. Sure, the patch was to cover Janine’s eye socket that tore open when Ofmatthew/Natalie went rogue with a can of lobster chowder in last week’s episode, but in The Handmaid’s Tale, you take joy where you can. “I look like a pirate. A space pirate!” Janine said happily. Aunt Lydia agreed and laughed like she’d never laughed before, but sadly, did not treat us to a hearty “arrrrrgh” like the pirate queen she is.

Between you and me, there aren’t enough pirate queens in Gilead. There’s definitely none in the hospital, where June’s been trapped for 32 days and counting. Natalie lies brain-dead after the shooting, and Aunt Lydia won’t let June leave until Natalie’s baby is born. “She’s just a vessel,” June says of her former walking partner, as the medical staff prioritise the baby’s care over the mother’s. As the Wives and Handmaids gather to pray for the baby, June begins to unravel so badly that Belinda Carlisle starts singing to her from the hospital machines.

“Don’t you hear it?” June asks, as ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ rings out.  Do you hear the heart monitors sing, singing the songs of angry women? Listen, the only thing I want to hear coming out of Gilead is “Commander Waterford met a slippery end” and “June was reunited with her daughters, husband and secret lover, who all lived happily ever after in Nick’s apartment above the garage” It’s not too much to ask, is it?

Yep, it is. Day after day June sits on the floor, humming ‘80s hits until her knees begin to bleed. Fluorescent lights buzz and machines beep and June begins to identify people by their smell, which is one hell of a party trick. In her spare time, she watches young girls attend appointments to see if they’re ready to start breeding. “This has to end,” June says, and I don’t know if she’s talking about Natalie’s suffering or this entire dystopian hellhole,  but either way, I hope Belinda Carlisle knows how to kickstart a revolution with a rousing rendition of ‘Circle in the Sand’.

What are June’s options? While the baby lives, Natalie suffers, but if she dies, June can finally GTFO of hospital. June hatches a foolproof plan. “I know how we can help her,” she tells Janine, brandishing a scalpel she scavenged out of the sharp plastics bin. June’s solution is to kill Natalie, which then frees June up to return home so she can be forced into having sex with the ruling elite and help publicly hang innocent people. Jeez, Gilead is such a shitfest.

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But oooh, heaven is a place on earth, because Janine’s not putting up any of June’s ‘kill your walking partner to save yourself’ bullshit. “She’s one of us,” Janine says of Natalie, before doubling down on June’s misery. “When did you get to be so selfish? Everything is about your problems,” she tells June, and when Janine’s the only one talking sense in this cruel world, you know we’ve hit rock bottom.

Hang on, rock bottom is Serena Joy turning up like a bad smell, June attacking her with the scalpel, but completely underestimating Serena’s ninja moves. The only person June hurts is herself, and she’s treated by a kind doctor who encourages June to honour her daughters. June tells him this is a fantastic idea that she’d never have thought of by herself, sings him the first verse of ‘Honey, Leave a Light On For Me’ in gratitude, and then sets fire to Gilead and singlehandedly moves all the nice people across the Canadian border.

Just jokes. After Natalie’s son is born, June chooses to stay with Natalie until she dies. “He deserves to be free,” she tells Natalie, and realises her new mission is to get all the children out of Gilead. I hate to be a party pooper, but maybe June should start with saving her own kid, and go from there. Anyhoo, the thought of being the Pied Piper of Gilead makes June so happy that she sings ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ until Natalie carks it. Killed by Gilead, or by ‘80s pop? Only Belinda Carlisle knows the truth.


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