The Handmaid’s Tale just dropped Episodes 1 through 3 of Season 4, and immediately plunged us back into a perfectly portrayed dark, despairing dystopia. It’s tough to say that I love this show, since it’s so dark and just horrific at times. But the quality of the series is so impeccable, and the storyline so compelling, that I am drawn back again and again. The first three episodes of the new season were no exception. Although at times the pace felt slow, the horrors of Gilead were brought back to life in painstaking detail and with a conclusion that will haunt viewers for the rest of the season.
This is a review for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episodes 1 through 3, so there will be spoilers.
The Deaths in Episode 3 Were Gut-Wrenching
— Beth (@Beth_Tebbott) May 24, 2018
Let’s not waste any time, and go ahead and jump immediately to the most horrific parts of the first three episodes: June’s capture and the people who died trying to escape the jaws of Gilead. June’s capture has become almost a trope in the series. She’s often caught after barely escaping, then manages to escape again. So I wasn’t worried about June’s safety, although it NEVER gets easy to see those torture scenes, no matter how many times the storyline plays out.
I am tempted to believe that this time, June will escape permanently. That perhaps her donning of the handmaid’s red dress was a final goodbye — the last time we will have to watch her bear such indignities. I don’t know if that will be true, but it’s my hope.
However, a lot of people died in the process of June escaping again. She held strong for a long time in not revealing the handmaids’ location, even through the heartbreaking deaths of two other handmaids. But when her own daughter’s life was threatened, she caved. And really, that was understandable. I was surprised the handmaids were still staying at the same farm, knowing there was a chance June might be compromised. But when they were caught, they stood tall, ready to stand up against the horrors of Gilead once again.
But that last scene — that one was the toughest to bear. June and Janine escaped, but two handmaids were shot following them, and two were hit by the train. What’s hardest is known that those two might have survived if June hadn’t hesitated about killing Aunt Lydia. Instead, she let her live, which was a terrible choice. I know that Aunt Lydia’s living is an artistic choice for the purpose of storytelling, but I can’t help but wonder… In a “real life” situation, I doubt June would have hesitated over killing her. She just killed a whole houseful of commanders with no hesitation. I have a tough time buying that June would actually hesitate in this situation over killing Aunt Lydia.
Some fans believe that it was better that Aunt Lydia lived. They’re noting that she did cry out “no!” as the guardian shot at them, and perhaps will struggle over her decision to side with Gilead over the girls, even when no one would have known. (And did anyone else think the guardian was helping the girls at first and part of Mayday? I was surprised when he shot them.)
But either way, June’s hesitation cost the lives of two handmaids and friends. 🥺
— syd ✨ (@sydneyynewelll) April 29, 2021
Now fans are mourning the loss of Alma, who has been with us since Season 1. She was hit by that train, and no matter how much we might wish she could survive that, it’s just not possible. I wasn’t sure they’d actually have her hit, and had a hard time believing it myself at first.
Brianna is also gone, hit by the train as she ran for freedom right next to Alma. 🥺
— mimi | tht spoilers (@hauntedamie) April 29, 2021
We also saw two handmaids who were shot on the ground as the episode ended. It’s not clear what their fates will be.
And let’s not forget the heartbreaking rooftop scene with Beth and Sienna. Remember when we were wondering this in 2019?
They were likely kept alive all this time just to be leverage if June or someone else was caught (and to try to get information out of them.) Their deaths were so needless and so gut-wrenching.
Many Scenes Stood Out in Episodes 1-3
So much happened in the first three episodes, I’m sure I’ll miss a few points. But here are some things that really stood out to me.
We learned that there are breeding CAMPS now in Gilead, which is so disturbing that I don’t even want to think about it for too long.
— gillian THT SPOILERS (@serenasjoy) April 28, 2021
McKenna Grace was phenomenal.
Serena’s pregnancy was an unexpected twist. It’s going to be interesting watching Fred and Serena slowly try to tear each other to pieces.
Rita’s return to Canada as a free woman saved this episode from falling too deeply into despair. She doesn’t have to take any bull**** from Fred or Serena anymore. Instead, she can focus on helping the children who will need to adjust to life in Canada after knowing nothing but Gilead for so long.
Moira and Emily lamenting how June doesn’t think through the consequences of her actions was an authentic moment, even if it was one that I still have trouble grasping truly came from these characters. I think we all agree those children had to be rescued, no matter how painful the transition will be. Gilead would torture them as adults; they couldn’t be left there. But no one had thought about how much counseling they’re going to need, adjusting back to a world of freedom.
Luke, meanwhile, is wracked with survivor’s guilt and despair over June choosing to stay in Gilead rather than return to him. This man has suffered a lot, and I don’t blame him for having such conflicting feelings.
I think one of the only points that didn’t make much sense to me was the scene where Nick and June had a passionate kiss, while other guards could see them. My only guess to make this fit plotwise is that Nick is far more powerful than assumed, and no one would dare turn him in.
And then there’s Hannah. I believe it was Commander Lawrence, not Nick, who arranged her as the key manipulation for getting June to comply. But Hannah’s terrified of June now, which was a twist I really hadn’t seen coming.
It seems the table has been set for what ultimately could be a confrontation between June and Serena and Fred in Canada. If June truly does escape this time, it may happen sooner than we expect.