The Handmaid’s Tale kicked off its fourth season with some of the most violent and graphic episodes the already extremely upsetting show has ever put forward.
Whether or not you enjoyed this brutal push into the new season — specifically the third episode — or found it hard to stomach, it’s clear that the series is upping the ante. But even these first few Season 4 episodes reminded us of just how repetitive the narrative so far has been: June manages to escape her post as a Handmaid, enacts an elaborate plan to flee Gilead, and is just about to set it in motion when she gets caught, is punished, and eventually goes back to her signature red frock.
Will the show ever free June from this cycle? And would that even mean true freedom?
Gilead is within you
Outside Gilead, people are starting to get more and more familiar with June’s name. She is being praised as the heroine behind what is now being dubbed “Angels Flight,” named after the plane she arranged for 86 children and a handful of Martha’s to cross into Canada.
In the words of June’s friend Rita (the Waterford’s Martha who made it on the charter flight), “Gilead has a way of bringing out the worst in people. But in June it brought out the best.” Or at least that’s how she chooses to remember and portray her – whether consciously or not – to a crowd of people willing to open up their wallets in her name, despite never having met her or even seen her in real life.
But we the viewer know that is far from the truth. While yes, June has done much good in the large scale of things, she isn’t the freedom-fighter she is being made out to be. Her motives are hardly that noble since much of her actions have been fuelled by spite and a desire for personal revenge.
We have already started to see how the Canadian government is treating Serena and her rape charge. Would June be treated any differently? Surely, like for Serena, not everything she did in Gilead can be dismissed under the fact that she was under an oppressive regime or redeemable by the lives of the children she managed to free. And as we see in the trailer she does go through a trial.
“Miss Osbourne. If you were returned to Gilead, would you be subject to danger of torture, risk to your life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment?” asks a male voice at the very beginning of the season four trailer. We also later hear Moira calling for June in the rubble and the two running together. “She is public enemy number one in Gilead. She is not gonna last another week here,” Moira tells someone behind the camera.
It’s safe to assume then that at some point in this season, June will cross the border, potentially be arrested, and stand trial. “I ask for justice,” she says in the last clip of the trailer. But with her public image at the moment being the complete opposite of what her list of crimes would depict, Canada might not be the best place for her..
In Season 4’s third episode, Luke for the first time brings about a new point: does June even want to leave? “Did she choose this?” he asks Moira. “Because she chose to stay in Gilead, right. And she knew she’d probably get caught.”
Indeed, June has had plenty of opportunities to leave the country throughout the show so far but always decided to stay. Mainly because of her daughter Hannah or because she felt like she had unfinished business to attend to in Gilead.
“She knew she’d probably never see me again. She knew she’d probably never see either of us again,” Luke continues, talking about himself and June’s daughter Nichole, who she had with Nick while at the Waterfords. “And that’s a choice that she made. And I gotta respect it, I gotta respect her. I can’t ask God for something that she didn’t want.”
After the third episode though, June’s motives might see a drastic shift. Hannah might not be her reason to stay anymore. That relation might have been severed forever after the harsh reaction the poor girl had to seeing her mother while being held captive in a cage by men with rifles.
“She was scared of me,” June cries. “She wasn’t scared of them. She was scared of me. My baby was scared of me. She didn’t know me.”
With more and more talk about an upcoming war and moves being planned in Chicago, we might see June deciding to stay in Gilead and see it all through. Again in the trailer, while talking to Janine, she says: “We came here to fight.” But her companion disagreed: “No, you came here to fight.”
A teaser of June’s new motivations might have come from Commander Lawrence after his revelation that Gilead would target June’s child to get to her leaves her in shock: “Gilead doesn’t care about children. They care about power. Faithfulness, old-time values, homemade bread, it’s just the means to the end. It’s a distraction, window dressing. I thought you would have figured that out by now.”
“Gilead is within you,” they say. Is it too deep within June for her to ever be free?