‘My name is June Osborne. I am a citizen of the United States, and I seek asylum in the country of Canada.’
Grab your tissues, because if you thought last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale was emotional, this one will dehydrate you until you are a wizened, thirsty old fool. Four seasons after this beautiful nightmare began, we finally watched June Osborne set foot in Canada, where she’s free to eat all the poutine and maple syrup she wants. Don’t get too excited, too soon, though. Episode seven was a wild ride, proving that you can take the girl out of Gilead, but you’ll never take Gilead out of the girl.
“Normal” life is anything but for June, who spends her first night of freedom in a flash hotel as a valuable political refugee. She’s battered and bruised, and after a hot shower, sleeps for 17 hours solid. Luke watches and waits, and when June wakes, they connect over daughter Hannah. Luke confesses his guilt at failing to save them both from Gilead, and June tells him about the time she met Hannah at the lake house. Luke’s reaction to June telling him how big Hannah had grown was heartbreaking. Don’t cry any more, Luke, it’s just a TV show.
June doesn’t tell Luke that the last time she saw Hannah, she was locked in a glass cage and didn’t recognise her mother. June lies to protect her husband, and it’s the first sign that Canada can’t make everything okay. June is still traumatised. Two days ago she was being bombed in Chicago, and now she’s in a fancy hotel suite with tiny bottles of moisturiser and a red dressing gown. Honestly Canada, couldn’t someone have checked the hotel suite before June arrived? “If you see anything red, remove it IMMEDIATELY.”
There were plenty of quietly wonderful moments, especially when June reunited with baby Nichole, a scene made more poignant by Emily being the one to give Nichole back to her mother. Luke calls Nichole “our daughter” and makes pancakes for breakfast, and for a moment, you think June might be okay. Maybe this will work out the way we want it to. Luke and Moira have created a happy, busy home, with plenty of room for June in it. This is all June has dreamt of for the past seven years, but is getting back to normal really that simple?
Of course not. A trip to the supermarket brings on flashbacks and a panic attack, and dinner with the Gilead Four (Emily, Moira and Rita) reminds June that Gilead has screwed up everything from their thoughts to their attitudes to sex. When June learns Serena is pregnant, she’s enraged. After all the pain and suffering the Waterfords put her through, the Commander can’t even do infertility properly.
June’s escape is bad news for Fred and Serena, as her evidence will imprison the Waterfords and separate Serena from her baby. They only have each other now, so Fred persuades Serena to forgive him and “team up” to protect themselves. “This pregnancy belongs to me as much as Offred’s belongs to you,” he tells Serena, which is an absolute burn and an astonishing piece of insight from a man who has repeatedly proved he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
In the most compelling scene of the episode, June visits Serena in her fancy prison for a long overdue confrontation. June has all the power, and she’s rocking a strong Commander’s wife vibe – hair in a bun, face of absolute contempt. “I bought myself here so I could tell you how much I hate you,” June begins, determined to make Serena suffer. “There is no one less worthy of redemption than you,” she snarls, adding she hopes the loss of Serena’s baby will bring a fraction of the pain that she made for the women of Gilead.
Serena falls to her knees and begs for forgiveness, but June’s on a roll. Years of repressed rage and pain bubble over, and angry spit falls from June’s mouth. “Do you understand me?!” June screams into Serena’s face, echoing that brutal scene in Gilead when Serena threw June onto the floor and shouted the same words. We understand you, June. Every. Single. Word.
It feels like June has scraped off her emotional scab, with plenty more pain to ooze out from the gaping wound Gilead made. Reclaiming her agency leads us into an uncomfortable, disturbing bedroom scene with Luke, one that compromises our feelings towards June. Until now June has been the victim, but this scene shows how truly troubled and traumatised she is. The happy family visits to the park are a veneer. Just because June’s in Canada, doesn’t mean she’s okay.
The episode ends with June telling Tuello how dangerous Serena is, but she could also be describing the woman she has become. “She’ll do anything to get what she wants,” June tells him. “Lie to you. Hurt you. Rape you. So if you feel yourself getting sucked in by her, run. Run for your life.” I’m too dehydrated to run, June. I’ll just sit here, and wait for pancakes.
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