The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 3 Episode 13 (The Finale) Recap & Review

Getting The Kids Out

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite shows on TV but there’s no denying its third season has been a bit of a topsy turvy affair. From one of the worst episodes of its 3 season run to a breathless finale, The Handmaid’s Tale is as unpredictable as it is sporadic when it comes to quality and narrative pacing. If there’s one thing this show knows how to do better than most though it’s building tension and Season 3 is no exception, as The Handmaid’s Tale bows out this year with an incredibly tense and dramatic finale.

With a series of overhead shots, June prepares for the mission at hand while everyone around her nervously waits for night to descend upon them. A red gown is put over the bird cage in an upstairs window, prompting the first martha to arrive with her child. Patching the girl up, June speaks to her about life outside Gilead and it’s here we see how deeply this society has broken these children. Unfortunately the Martha gets cold feet and threatens to leave, prompting June to grab a gun and hold it up to her face. Through gritted teeth, she tells her if she tries to run she will shoot. This operation is too important but although she leaves the child behind, the Martha escapes into the forest.

Thanks to the reckless move during daylight, Lawrence calls the plug on the operation as they learn roadblocks and tightened security have been issued to try and find the missing child. Sensing it’s only a matter of time before they find them, Lawrence asks June to return the girl back to her family. She vehemently declines, instead telling him she’s in charge and the operation will go ahead like normal.

With the threat looming ever-nearer, June discusses the next steps with the Marthas. They decide to walk the 5 miles to the airport while more kids arrive at the house.

In the meantime, Commander Waterford is interrogated, with the events filmed and broadcast. As the Canadian authorities talk to him, he tells them about Nick and June’s relationship, spinning it into a rape case which, under the current Canadian laws, would not constitute as forced behaviour in Gilead and as such, Serena is arrested.

Darkness descends in Gilead as we see the calm before the storm; Commander Lawrence reads to the children as they huddle around a solitary candle. The operation comes unstuck immediately as Janine tells the others that the authorities are going door to door. June makes the decision to leave before they arrive at the house. She asks Lawrence to come with her but he refuses, telling her he’s never been fond of flying and he needs to clear up his own mess. It’s a fitting end to his character and hopefully not the last we see of him.

Deep in the woods, the marthas, children and handmaids make it to the airstrip after a tense few minutes but there’s a problem – the authorities have got there first, leaving June and the others stranded in the woods nearby. Desperate to get the kids out, she decides to sacrifice herself for the others to escape. However, her friends circle around her as she’s about to hit the guards with rocks and help act as a distraction while the kids bundle onto the plane with Rita.

June shows herself to the guards before running into the forest – an intentional ploy to get their attention and let the others escape. Bullets fly as June runs, eventually seeing her hit in the back. She topples to the ground before turning and shooting the guard. With a gun to his head, June makes him radio through to the others informing it’s all clear before shooting him in the head. As June lies on the ground helplessly, the handmaids left behind surround her before carrying her away.

We then cut back to Canada for the remaining part of the episode where we see the plane successfully make it across the border with all the kids huddled together inside. It’s here emotions fly as Rebecca, the girl June stubbornly refused to give back, is reunited with her biological Father and Rita makes it out of Gilead. It’s incredibly emotional and this entire segment hammers home just how monumental this could be to Gilead’s downfall. With a large, gaping hole in Gilead’s infastructure there’s sure to be hell to pay from here but quite what repercussions are in store for June’s actions remain to be seen.

The Handmaid’s Tale has had quite the tumultuous ride this year and at times the lackadaiscal pacing and narrative structure has really hurt the integrity of the show. It’s particularly frustrating because when compared to episodes like this, that manage to capture the urgency and essence of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s frightening dystopia really shines. Too many times though the story has felt padded out, with inconsequential subplots and character beats that do little to further the narrative.

With more Handmaid’s Tale on the horizon in the near future, the finale leaves things wide open going forward. Given June’s inability to stand on her own, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out she’s broken her back either which would certainly offer an interesting dynamic going forward. Regardless of what happens though, I can’t imagine things are going to be particularly pleasant for her, especially with another Commander lurking in the shadows for June’s future.

Still, we’ll have to wait and see what happens but in the meantime, Handmaid’s Tale delivers an impressive finale, one with enough tension and emotionally charged drama to act as a reminder of how good this show can be when it knuckles down and focuses on its narrative. Whether the fourth season will get things back on a consistent path remains to be seen but the finale at least ends things on a much-needed high.


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