For those unfamiliar, the “Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, is set in a dystopian version of the United States called Gilead that formed after a civil war. Here, women are characterized in sections, “handmaids,” which fertile women are forced to conceive, bear and serve wealthy couples, commanders and their wives, “Martha’s,” otherwise known as housekeepers, and “Aunts,” who are guardians of handmaids. The series revolves around June (Elisabeth Moss), a defiant handmaid that rebelled against the current status of this new world.
Picking up where season three left off, June is stuck in Gilead after completing a “may-day mission” that sends a plane of 86 children and women to Canada, including Martha, Rita (Amanda Brugel). June and her fellow handmaids have escaped to a farmhouse for safety owned by the Keyes, a sick-looking commander. His teenage bride, Esther ( McKenna Grace) June, who has been previously shot, is treated by Janine (Madeline Brewer) and Alma (Nina Kiri) (fellow handmaids) so that they’re able to steady her to make it to the Keyes’ for safety.
Upon meeting Esther, we learn of her anticipation of meeting June and how she yearned to kill people fighting beside her; however, to Esther’s dismay, June tells her she wants to lay low for a while. This is understandable as she is recovering from a bullet wound, and she does not want to get caught. Nevertheless, in true teenage nature, Esther gets annoyed and protests that the point of mayday is supposed to be about the fighting.
Flash forward to Canada, and the plane has just landed safely. The children and women are being reunited with their families. Unfortunately, the Waterfords, Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), June’s initial host family, are in search of immunity for their crimes of rape, torture, etc. When they hear the news of the landing from their lawyer, Serena expresses her sympathy for their families, and Fred raises an eyebrow and states, “That will start a war.” The lawyer shuts them up by saying that they will indeed be reunited with their families (real, not ones that stole them) and that it was led by none other than June. That shut them up real quick, as they didn’t see that one coming.
Back at the Keyes’, we start to see a bond form between Esther and June. Almost providing a mother-daughter relationship in the making; however, there are some low points. There’s a scene where all the handmaids are eating pigs. Janine doesn’t as she had formed a bond with it; Esther throws a fit and forces her to eat a slice so she doesn’t waste food. This sparks a negative response from June. June snaps at her and tells her of all of the horrors they have withstood as handmaids and to lay off.
Later that night, Esther expresses all the gruesome acts the commander and his friends have performed on her. “I want to hurt them so badly,” Esther confides to June. Nonetheless, June does get revenge on Esther’s behalf, a.k.a, killing a trespassing guardian that took part in said gruesome acts. June, giving off a speech that signals all the fellow handmaids to attack for raping a child. Last in line was Esther, and as she releases all that pain, she looks at June, who instructs her to “make her proud.”
In the next episode, June is determined to vacate everyone to the next safe house. However, it wouldn’t be in true “Handmaid’s Tale” fashion if there wasn’t a vital conflict that stood in the way. Right when we start to believe things might be looking up, June gets captured again. In my opinion, although brilliant on her part, the extra night at Keyes wasn’t brilliant, but the act of poisoning commanders at a brothel, solid. It was just another distraction so that June could be captured again, and surprise surprise, this time it was by Nick (Max Minghella), the Waterford’s former driver and June’s love interest. It’s bad enough it had to be him, but the fact that he whispers in her ear that he wouldn’t let her die, yikes. Nothing says I love you like taking you back to a place to be tortured, though, am I right?
Switching back to the Waterfords, Fred and Serena are turning against each other. Fred is accusing Serena of the same crimes he did. He even went as far as saying she’ll never see Nichole (June’s biological daughter) that she had sent to safety with Luke (O.T Fagbenle), June’s husband living in Canada, again. Fred is vicious, and Serena isn’t taking no for an answer, yet for some odd reason, she still defends him? During a routine checkup, they notice her missing finger, and she claims it was a deserved punishment. ( clearly, she didn’t pay mind to the look the nurse gave her.) Her lawyer explains that it’s abuse, and she can make a case against Fred, but she pushes it off because she knew him before Gilead. As if that is a valid reason to let him off the hook.
As one could expect, this season is off to an intense start, and rightfully so, after a two-year hiatus. My prediction is that we will finally get answers to all the unsolved questions, but with a sprinkle of Gilead torture and conflict. Elisabeth Moss even hinted at this, which gives us hope for the rest of the season. In a perfect world, Jube will be reunited with her daughter, Hannah, and flee to Canada to reunite with Luke, but we know it will never be that easy. The introduction and mini conflicts of different characters add a hint of spice viewers have been yearning for. There is always so much to unpack, so you can’t look away.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is available to stream on Hulu with new episodes airing on Wednesdays.