What an episode.
It feels repetitive to keep saying this, but the show we all love keeps getting better and better.
After a relatively slow and monotonous start to the season, The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7 further proved why we keep coming back to the Hulu drama because even when it falls flat, it’ll find a way to bounce back.
Most of the installment focused on June’s adjustment to life in Canada, and the series handled the plot with such elegance and grace.
Canada could not be more different than the oppressive regime of Gilead, and the crew took full advantage of the change in scenary, from the colorful assortment and varying types of clothing to the way people moved around with a freedom in the country, unafraid of holding their girlfriend’s hand or practicing a religion other than Christianity.
Mark: What motivated you to risk your life? To do such a thing?
June: It was the only thing I could do.
Mark: What do you mean?
June: I made a promise that they would hurt the way we hurt.
June: The kidnappers, the Serenas. I thought about what she would deserve, what they deserved. They take everything from you, you know? They really do.
There was beauty in the utter simplicity of walking through a hotel lobby or going to the grocery store for the first time.
Every moment was a revelation, as it was us, too, who were experiencing June’s newfound freedom, having finally escaped the tyrannical grasp of Gilead.
But the scars and trauma of the past seven years have left their mark far deeper than the bruises on June’s back.
Everywhere she goes, she’s haunted by her past, all the humiliation and abuse and torture on constant loop in the back of her mind.
June’s trying to put on a brave face and wants nothing more than to get back to some semblance of normal, but she’s not going to be able to outrun her past.
Even if the Waterfords’ upcoming trial weren’t going on, June wouldn’t be able to repress her trauma and pretend that Gilead doesn’t have a stranglehold on her, no matter how much she wishes that were true.
There’s a lot of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse to unpack there, and plotting her revenge on Serena and Fred isn’t going to cut it.
June needs to be in intensive therapy, and while chatting with Moira, Emily, and Rita about her feelings is a step in the right direction, she needs professional help.
June: Do you guys ever wonder if you deserve this? If you deserve to be here?
Emily: Sometimes I think about what I did when I was there.
Moira: We did what we had to do to survive, to get out, but we’re here, ladies. We won. They tried to fucking destroy us, and we won.
However, revisiting her past and doing the work will be excruciating, not to mention taking years, whereas redirecting her rage toward and inflicting pain upon the Waterfords, especially Serena, is much easier and doable.
June’s desire for revenge is understandable, particularly now that Serena is pregnant.
June was raped, beaten, and abused at the hands of the Waterfords for months, had her baby ripped from her arms by these monsters, so that they could have a child to call their own.
Except it turned out the Waterfords were capable of having a biological child of their own this entire time, so everything they put June through, the cruel and unjust way she suffered, was for naught.
It’s enough to make my blood boil just thinking about it, so it must be a hundredfold for June.
She couldn’t ignore the news, even if she wanted to, as everything the Waterfords put her through for the sake of a child flashed before her eyes as she tried to sleep.
Confronting Serena was cathartic and freeing for June, as the handmaid had the upper hand for the first time in their twisted relationship.
June was able to speak her mind and say all the things she had been longing to say for years but had to bite her tongue for fear of it being cut out.
Serena: I prayed for this chance, and I humbly thank the lord for your visit.
June: You would. You never did give me credit for anything.
Serena: I believe that the lord brought you here so that I could make amends.
June: I brought myself here so I could tell you how much I hate you. You don’t deserve to make amends to anyone. The only thing you deserve is a life full of suffering and shame. You have destroyed my life, my family, my friends, my country, and my child. There is no one less worthy of redemption than you.
Serena: I’m sorry. I am begging for your forgiveness. I’m begging for the lord’s mercy, and for his understanding.
June: Do you know why god made you pregnant? So that when he kills that baby inside your womb, you will feel a fraction of the pain that you caused us when you tore our children from our arms. Do you understand me? Do you understand me?
It was a powerful scene, and Elisabeth Moss was absolute perfection as she lay into Serena, giving voice to her hatred and anguish and hurt.
It was satisfying to see June have all the power and Serena be reduced to almost nothing, the way June has felt so many times.
The problem is that instead of getting her anger out and letting it go, June is holding onto it, letting it drive her as she makes her decisions.
June has always had a very one-track mind and has operated from a singular place.
Her decisions have left a wake of bodies in their tracks, and that was before June had sought asylum in Canada.
Now, she’s at a place where she could go full scorched-earth, unfettered by the confines and restrictions of Gilead.
This is a woman who managed to get 86 kids and nine marthas out of Gilead on her own; imagine the chaos and destruction she’d been capable of with the backing of Canada and what’s left of the United States.
What little her fury was being tempered by in Gilead out of fear for the safety of her loved ones — Hannah and the other handmaids — is gone.
June: She’s pathological. She’s a sociopath. She’s toxic and abusive. She’s a monster. And by the way a consummate actress.
Mark: What do you think drives her?
June: Hatred and rage and underneath all of that there’s nothing but pure misery. And she’ll do anything not to feel that way, anything to feel OK even just for a second. She’ll do anything to get what she wants. Lie to you. Hurt you. Rape you. So if you feel yourself getting sucked in by her, run. Run for your life.
She’s a fully uncocked June, and Gilead should be scared, but it might end up being her friends and family who are in the line of fire.
No one is particularly eager to call June out for her actions or force her to deal with her trauma.
They’re walking on eggshells around her, scared that if they say or do the wrong thing, it’ll set her off.
Yes, there is some pushback from Luke and Moira, but they relent if June’s insistent enough.
They so desperately want June to be OK and are so grateful that she’s back in their lives that they’re willing to overlook some of the obvious red flags.
Take June and Luke having sex, for instance.
On some level, Luke knew June wasn’t ready to be intimate with him just yet, not after years of being repeatedly raped under the guise of religion, and yet, he still let it happen.
He wanted things to be like they were, and it was easier to follow June’s lead rather than voicing his concerns and risk setting her off.
There’s no telling how June would react, and Luke isn’t going to risk losing his wife, not when he just got her back.
Luke: What, you have nothing to be sorry about, don’t you realize. Ever since the boat, when you were apologizing, that’s crazy, like I should be the one apologizing. June, I tried to get you out. I did. I tried to find Hannah, and I tried every day, and I failed, and I’m sorry.
Luke: I’m sorry, look, I’m sorry.
June: Please don’t.
Luke: I don’t blame you if you can’t forgive me because I can’t forgive me, so…
June: Luke, Hannah knows how much we love her.
Luke: It’s been too long.
June: No, she remembers us, and she knows how hard we tried to find her.
Luke: How could she?
June: ‘Cause I told her.
Luke: What? How?
June: It was at this lake house. They let me see her for about 10 minutes.
Luke: How is she?
June: She’s really big. She’s beautiful. And she was mad.
Luke: She was mad?
June: Yeah, she asked if I tried to find her, and I said, ‘Of course I did. That I had tried so hard, and so had her daddy.’ Then she asked why didn’t I try harder.
Luke: That sounds like her.
June: Yeah, she was our Hannah, OK.
Luke: And so what did you say?
June: I said it was OK to be mad at me, and I wished that I could have been with her to protect her, and that I was so sorry that I couldn’t, but I would always be her mommy, and that her daddy and I would always love her, and we would never stop.
It’s a dangerous game the marrieds are playing, pretending everything is fine and glossing over the more traumatic events of the last seven years.
The most open and honest conversation they had was near the start of the hour when Luke expressed his guilt over failing to rescue June and Hannah, and June recounted her brief meeting with Hannah to her husband.
It was just a sliver of the work that needs to be done, but sometimes it’s easier to play-act and ignore the more obvious problems. But if June and Luke don’t address them, their marriage won’t survive.
Elsewhere, June was right to reject Serena’s pathetic attempts to apologize, but in doing so, inadvertently made things worse for herself and everyone else.
With her back against the wall and feeling like she was out of options, Serena made the self-serving decision to align herself and her interests with Fred.
Until now, Serena had made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with Fred, even if he was the father of their unborn child.
She was finally coming to terms with accepting the abuse he put her through during their marriage and was trying — emphasis on trying — to make amends for her past mistakes.
Serena had the chance, maybe not to redeem herself, but to start a new chapter, one where she could do and be better for her son.
Unfortunately, all that possibility and potential went out the window as June eviscerated a repentant Serena.
Mark: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.
Serena: Of course you did. Did you hear everything?
Mark: I heard a lot.
Serena: Does it satisfy you to hear someone from Gilead express misgivings?
Mark: Does it satisfy you to express them?
Nothing Serena said could ever make what she and Fred did to June all right, but if June had restrained herself slightly or even accepted Serena’s apology, Serena probably wouldn’t have gone crawling back to Fred.
Serena’s decision wasn’t one of love or forgiveness for her estranged husband but rather calculating and reactionary.
Once she realized there would be no absolution from June, she knew what had to be done, understanding that she couldn’t be fighting a war on all fronts.
If she wanted to avoid jail time and be there to raise her son, she would have to reconcile with Fred.
Even though she would have preferred to have found another way, the time for that has since passed.
Right now, it’s about surviving, and Serena will do whatever it takes to stay alive.
Some stray thoughts:
It turns out Moira didn’t destroy her chances with Oona, who ended up being a lot more forgiving than some of us would have been. There’s still a lot of work to be done, as Moira almost got Oona’s NGO shut down, but the door hasn’t closed on their relationship just yet.
June’s reunion with Nichole was heartwarming. Ar that moment, all the pain and suffering disappeared as June was reunited with her younger daughter. It didn’t make her feel any less guilty about leaving Hannah behind, but it was a reminder of what she has been fighting for.
What is Mark’s endgame? Does he want to see both Waterfords behind bars? Just Fred? Is he simply willing to align himself with whoever has the better chance of making that happen?
So what did you think, Handmaid’s Tale Fanatics?
What will June do now that she’s in Canada?
Will her and Luke’s marriage survive?
Is Serena beyond redemption?
Don’t forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the latest episode, remember you can watch The Handmaid’s Tale online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.