I have SO MANY mixed feelings after watching The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7. This was an intense episode that was really well written. It looked straight into some tough issues that June is facing after surviving harrowing abuse and torture at the hands of Gilead. I’m hoping the show doesn’t go “Breaking Bad” with June, but they certainly hinted that they might by the time the episode ended.
This is a review of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7, and will have major spoilers for the episode.
The Luke-June Scene at the End Was Rough (And That’s an Understatement)
This was a ROUGH episode. I might as well start out by addressing the huge elephant in the room: one of the last scenes when it looked like June might have raped Luke. If you follow The Handmaid’s Tale subreddit, you’ll find some in-depth discussions about that scene. Some people in that discussion say that we can’t know for sure if it was rape, based on not knowing June and Luke’s previous sex life and what they are and are not comfortable with. Others say that Luke could have overpowered June. And others think it was 100% rape.
I think the show was purposefully trying to portray that scene as rape. The writers have been trying to portray June as more of a grey-area protagonist for some time now: one that we can’t 100% root for because some of her decisions have led to other good characters’ deaths. I believe this scene was in line with that: trying to show us just how much Gilead has changed and harmed June. When Luke told her several times to “wait,” she pinned down his arm and covered his mouth, and then did what she wanted anyway without talking to him about it. I think the show wanted to portray this as sexual assault. June was trying to get back her power, but at Luke’s expense. They make it pretty clear what they were trying to do just a few minutes later, during June’s monologue. She talks about how Serena will “rape you” and the camera focuses on Luke, while showing him watching June with worry and fear. So whether Luke allowed it to happen or not, that closing scene wants us to know that he wasn’t comfortable with it.
A lot of viewers have commented that they felt unsettled or disturbed by that scene, which I think was the point. But was this the right move for the show to take? They could have portrayed June’s suffering in a clear way that wouldn’t cross the line so far that some viewers won’t be able to forgive her. It was a daring move, but I’m not sure if it was the *best* choice from a storytelling viewpoint. It seems they might be going the Breaking Bad route with her, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that.
Putting aside the plot for a moment though, I do want to point out how amazing Elisabeth Moss was in this episode. The disturbing scene with Luke, her scene with Serena, the moment she met Nichole, and when she was telling Luke about Hannah… Moss beautifully portrayed different sides of the same person with an authentic touch.
Viewers Are Debating that Ending Monologue
The ending monologue is another point of contention among viewers. June is describing how awful Serena is, but her speech is interwoven with scenes of her and Luke playing with baby Nichole. It’s almost like the show is wanting us to think that June is becoming Serena or, at the very least, June thinks she’s turning into Serena.
However, I think this simplifies things far too much. June isn’t a sociopath. June isn’t as bad as Serena. We saw how heartbroken she was about leaving Hannah, and how she purposefully didn’t tell Luke some details about Hannah so he wouldn’t feel as bad as her. I think it’s tough to argue that the monologue indicates June is as bad as Serena.
Quite a few people on Reddit believe that June’s nowhere near Serena’s level, and some aren’t sure how to interpret that closing monologue.
In order to survive in Gilead, June had to tap into a level of darkness that won’t be easy to leave behind. She had to become a different person, just to live under the constant abuse and torture.
June’s Scene with Serena Was a Perfect Callback to Season 1
June’s scene with Serena was a perfect callback to Season 1 Episode 3. June intensely screamed at Serena using the same words that Serena used on her, forcing her to fall to her knees just like Serena did to her. Serena is not a character to be pitied. She will grasp for power and now try to regain it by aligning herself with Fred again. There was something very satisfying in watching June get her power back in that scene and have Serena on her knees. (I only wish it hadn’t been followed by that Luke scene.)
Beyond these major scenes, there were other points that really stood out to me. The breakdown she had in the grocery store, as she remembered Alma’s and the other Handmaids’ deaths, was gut-wrenching. Her pain was portrayed in so many different ways. Her need to reconnect quickly with her old friends and the way she nearly broke down when seeing Emily and Rita face-to-face. The way she avoided Luke at first. How she reacted when she found out Serena was pregnant. Is there concern that Fred might be Nichole’s father rather than Nick? Or just a realization that everything they did to June was SO pointless since Serena could get pregnant anyway? A proverbial rubbing of salt in the wound.
There were other things that didn’t make sense. Since June is a high-profile figure, I would think she’d be a kidnapping target and always have guards around her. I was surprised she wasn’t assigned a security guard right away.
Then there’s also the way the prisons work. Serena and Fred are being kept in beautiful rooms. They can request any visitors they want. I imagine this is part of a long-con plan on Tuello’s part, but it’s still disturbing to know they are war criminals and still getting such a posh treatment.
And there were little touches that were quite symbolic. The red robe that June wore in the beginning of the episode. The green she was wearing later.
All in all, it was a well-made episode with many dark, deep layers. While there were some scenes I may not have agreed with and didn’t think were ideal for the purpose of the story, I feel the show knocked it out of the park when it came to portraying June’s response to abuse and the beginning of her long journey toward reclaiming her life and her freedom again.