The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8 provided some much-needed moments of righteous anger and justice, while the future still hangs in the balance. The episode tackled some tough topics about the damage that Gilead is leaving behind, while painting a disturbing picture about the potential Gilead still holds to continue inflicting pain on more people in the future.
This is a review of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8, “Testimony.” There will be spoilers below.
Anger Is a Powerful Motivator
In this episode, June challenged Moira’s belief that anger is something that needs to be faced and then moved on from — that it’s a stage to pass through in order to reach healing. She countered, insisting that considering everything that’s happened to them, the goal doesn’t have to just be healing. Rather, it’s OK — maybe even good — to be angry too, since what happened to them was so very horrific.
Considering that Gilead still holds so much power and is still hurting so many people, I think June has a good point. Facing Gilead, facing the Waterfords and insisting that they be held accountable, saving more people — all of that requires holding on to a certain level of anger, knowing that the cost to bring justice is worth paying so more aren’t hurt in the future.
The episode also did a great job of presenting how healing is different for different people. June needs to be angry as part of her healing. She needs to seek justice. Moira needs to move on from her anger and find peace in order to heal. She needs to help people in a different way. Emily is still determining the best way for her to heal. Her journey is slower, but no less important. Every woman will need to take a different approach to healing and moving forward after what happened to them. I do, however, think that both June and Moira are making the mistake of thinking their approach is the ideal one. Of course, that’s a natural and human response. It’s much easier to find a one-size-fits-all solution rather than realizing that these things can be messy and each person’s journey is unique and different.
On a Reddit discussion about The Handmaid’s Tale, one person talked about how anger is a motivator for them personally. They wrote, in part: “For me personally, (and for June, it seems), anger is a hell of a motivator. My anger helps keeps me safe. Anger has given me the confidence to fight back and not take shit anymore, or feel the need to be polite to scumbags. … Obviously it’s not healthy to let anger consume you and dwell on it, but it’s okay to have some reserved for when the occasion calls for it. It’s a normal human emotion, and it’s entirely possible to channel that anger into positive ways.”
Another person shared in a standalone post that anger can play a positive role in redirecting shame and guilt from the victim, so they can place the blame back on the abuser where it belongs. I provided an embed of that post below in case you want to read it. The link is here if the embed below doesn’t work.
Alexis Bledel Was Outstanding as Emily
In this episode, Alexis Bledel’s role as Emily was outstanding. I first got to know Bledel when she played Rory on Gilmore Girls. But I no longer see her as Rory when I see her on The Handmaid’s Tale. I was thinking about that during the episode. Her character is so different, and her ability to capture the nuances of Emily’s personality is so impressive. Emily has suffered immensely at the hands of Gilead and has seen two people hanged because of hate. Seeing the Aunt who caused her so much pain falter under the weight of what she did and ultimately hang herself gave Emily a feeling of freedom and justice. And who can blame her? They were powerless for so long and saw evil succeed in so many ways. It’s understandable that seeing people not be able to live under the weight of what they had done could feel satisfying to them.
Aunt Lydia’s Future Is Unclear, But Janine’s Capture Is Heartbreaking
Aunt Lydia’s future is unclear to me. Commander Lawrence handed Janine over to her and gave Aunt Lydia the freedom to do whatever she wants with Janine, even if it means torture. He doesn’t want Aunt Lydia torturing the people connected to him, but he’s not concerned about what she does to Janine. Aunt Lydia, meanwhile, has a perverse love for the woman that she tortured and broke. Lydia’s a dark person, and I can’t really imagine feeling sympathy for her in the future. The episode basically acknowledged that she’s sadistic and gets enjoyment out of torturing others. How can a character come back from that?
I’m worried about Janine, however. Seeing her captured after she gained confidence and was coming into her own is just heartbreaking. Some viewers are wondering if she will be turned into an Aunt rather than a Handmaid, even though she’s likely still fertile. I found myself briefly wondering if they might make her a wife, but I can’t recall what is required for someone to reach that status.
I’m also still of the belief that Lawrence is planning to take down Gilead from the inside as a final act of revenge for what happened to Eleanor. He has so much dirt on the other members of the council that no one will do anything even after June spilled the beans about Eleanor and Lawerence in her testimony. In his talk with Aunt Lydia, he mentioned briefly that he has a plan for Gilead’s future. I can’t help but think that his plan is far different from what Aunt Lydia thinks it is.
Serena Is Trying to Claw Her Way Back Into Having Power Again
June’s testimony against Fred and Serena was powerful, and a chilling reminder of everything that she went through. I thought the choice of focusing the camera on her the entire time, and never once breaking to show Serena and Fred’s reactions, was an interesting decision. In that moment, it was June who mattered — not the Waterfords.
Luke disregarded June’s request that he stay home, and decided to show up to listen to her testimony anyway. He wanted to better understand what she went through, so he could be a better husband to her and perhaps help her move forward. June did the same thing to Emily, forcing her to face a woman that Emily said she had no interest in seeing, with the hope that it would help Emily move forward. It’s interesting to see Luke and June’s choices in parallel. They both disregarded the request of another, in the hope that doing so would bring about a greater good.
In the end, June decided to be honest with Luke about her last encounter with Hannah, and I think this will serve to bring the two closer together.
Serena, meanwhile, is clinging to power any way she can, even if it means reuniting with Fred. When she saw all the protesters outside supporting them, she took his hand and resumed the role of dutiful wife (and the leader of the Gilead philosophy.) First, her expression appeared to show disbelief in what the people were cheering for, perhaps even a shade of disgust at the idea of subjugating herself to Fred again in some form. But then she realized it was her only way out and her only way to regain power, so she took his hand and drank in all the attention. Yvonne Strahovski played that moment perfectly, as you could see all those subtle thoughts and feelings play across her face in just the span of a few seconds.
And is it surprising that people were cheering for them? Before 2020 I might have thought so, but I really don’t anymore. They listened to Fred’s speech about the birth rate in Gilead, and since they aren’t subjugated to that treatment themselves, they are cheering for the Waterfords. It’s actually pretty realistic (in a heartbreaking way) that even people as dark and hateful as the leaders of Gilead would have fans and a cheering section.
But all of this is not without its irony. The Waterfords are represented by a female lawyer. (A lawyer who, by the way, made my skin crawl with the way she was acting like June chose to be a Handmaid.) But still, the lawyer is a woman, and in Gilead she would be tortured for the simple act of reading. Fred would never let a female in Gilead be a lawyer. But now she’s his only chance at freedom. My how the tables have turned.