June returns in the disturbing series premiere – .

June returns in the disturbing series premiere – .

Jan Osborne is officially back. After being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic – like virtually every movie and TV series under the sun – The Handmaid’s Tale is finally back for a fourth season. What an agonizing wait it has been! Almost two years have passed since June won her most spectacular victory over Gilead, freeing 86 children from authoritarian rule. June herself was shot in the shuffle and – in what is becoming typical Servant fashion – has not escaped.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Serena has been taken into custody after initially enjoying some freedom, after her husband Fred turned on her (not that Serena doesn’t deserve it, but seriously, what a guy). Now the two Waterfords are probably going to have to answer for the many, many crimes they committed in Gilead, but who knows with these two? It wouldn’t be amazing for them to find a way out of trouble one way or another.

What else? Ah, yes, Commander Lawrence – given his role in June’s tour de force, we can expect him to be in quite a bit of trouble. Again, who knows? He’s a commander in Gilead. He survived years on the fringes of the regime he helped set up, not living by the rules he made up for everyone. If anyone is familiar with special treatment, it’s Commander Lawrence.

Here we go again

All along Servant, June found herself, at times, in states of virtual freedom. This was the case in season two, when she gave birth to her daughter Nichole on her own in an empty house. This also happened earlier in season two, when she stayed in a series of safe houses, including the deserted offices of The Boston Globe (remember? They were scary). Each time, the message was clear: just because June escapes the immediate vigilance of her captors that she is free. She has to leave Gilead for good.

The problem, of course, is that Gilead has a knack for pushing June to her limits. This is the case of “Pigs”, the first episode with the disturbing title of this fourth season. After her fellow Servants cauterize her wound (in a sequence that’s just painful to watch), June finds herself on a farm. Mrs. Keyes, the very young owner of the property (seriously, what’s she 14? Sometimes Gilead manages to get past Gilead himself), seems very… impatient, shall we say.

“You are the one I expected,” she said to June. “You brought these kids out, darling. He sent me dreams of you. We were killing people together. It was the most wonderful dream.

Even the other maids, who saw things, can’t help but exchange stunned glances. All of this leads Ms. Keyes to developing a solid character throughout the episode: at first, we blame her for being so horrible to Janine (she forces him to eat meat from her favorite pig, for having shouted out loud), but then we find out that Mrs. Keyes also suffered severe abuse from her own husband. “Women have bad things too,” she told June.

This is Servant, so this revelation doesn’t get everyone kissing and roasting marshmallows around a campfire. Instead, things turn sour even more, when June allows Ms. Keyes to blurt out some of her angst at a guardian who has strayed onto her property. This is how it is in Gilead. Oppression gives rise to cruelty. When Ms. Keyes finally gives a knife to the man, who turns out to have been one of her attackers, we don’t exactly feel his emancipation. We understand it, but the scene is not that of liberation. It’s just dark. Damn it. This is Servant.

What’s next for June?

Once she recovers from her injuries, June has a few choices to make. Or is she? It’s not like she has a plethora of options for figuring out her next steps. Her inner conflict is revealed during an exchange with Alma, another maid who escaped with her and also ended up at Keyes Farm.

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“Alma,” June reminds him. “We are not free. But Alma wasn’t so sure. “Maybe it’s as free as we’re going to get it,” she said to June. “Maybe we should make the most of it. “

What Alma said is far from stupid. Life in Gilead is all about hedging your bets. Any act of resistance comes with a serious risk of being recaptured, tortured, or even killed. Why would not is anyone content with a state of day parole, especially after having undergone the worst treatment the regime can offer? It is not hard to imagine why Alma would find peace within herself with life on Keyes Farm.

June, however, is of a different frame of mind. We know she won’t settle down. She wants Gilead to fall apart. She wants to free Hannah, her firstborn, from whom she was forcibly separated. She wants the whole package, and she will keep fighting for it.

Sing Me, Servant

Can we take a few moments to acknowledge the show’s consistently impressive use of music? The season three episode “Heroic” always pops into my head whenever I hear “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle.

This time, “Pigs” gave Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” the same treatment, and later “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” It’s beautiful, it’s ironic, and it must have cost a ton of license fees. Worth it!


Commander Lawrence, seated in a cell, is led away by a group of guards. It seems certain that he is about to be executed. Except, rebound! “I think there is still more you can do for your country,” Nick told him. Lawrence seems rightly surprised when Nick then announces that he has convinced Gilead’s bigwigs to hire him as a consultant. No death and a new job? Look who’s thriving.

As for Fred and Serena, they are as disgusted as expected to learn that June has freed 86 children from Gilead. The look on their faces when they find out that she was the mastermind behind this surgery is pretty priceless – although, of course, they immediately recover from the shock and go into ‘she will pay for her actions’ mode. Classic Waterfords. Except now that they’re both in custody in Canada, there’s not much they can do, can they?


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