The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 3 Episode 4 Recap & Review


From Canada, With Love

After last week’s triple bill of episodes, The Handmaid’s Tale returns to its familiar run of one episode a week. With the glimmers of rebellion still hanging faintly in the air, we begin this week’s episode with June trying to figure out how to recruit more people while everyone convenes at the church for a birthing ceremony.

As they take their seats, June attempts to coerce another handmaid, Ofmatthew, into subtly joining the cause. After receiving a stock reply, the girls are invited to the reception where she joins up with Serena again. Convincing her she has influence in this world, Waterford shows up before June can really get through to her. Serena, meanwhile, brushes past her husband and heads over to the other girls.

After a trying few episodes, Aunt Lydia has a moment to herself in the corridor which is interrupted by Janine, who tells her she prayed for her. After scoffing at the idea, Janine continues to pry before we cut to the other Handmaids who are also discussing Aunt Lydia. While most agree she deserves to feel isolated, Ofmathew has well and truly been brainwashed as she confidently proclaims that Lydia has done no wrong.

However, before June can share her disgust at the whole situation, Waterford appears and clears the room, using this time to ask June about Serena. June convinces him to let her have a voice and after pondering her words, he decides to think about it. Taking advantage of this opportune time, June then feeds this information back to Serena herself who decides to play along, offering the handmaid a cigarette after June suggests she move the goalposts and exert her influence over the Commander.

Back in the lounge ,Janine steps forward and asks to hold her baby. Despite crossing the line, she’s allowed to hold her daughter momentarily before handing her back. All seems well until she pleads with them to let her become their Handmaid again. At this point, Aunt Lydia snaps, stepping forward and smacking Janine with her cane repeatedly. As everyone watches on in horrified shock, Lydia realizes what shes done, leaving the room with her head held high before sitting down by herself and crying.

handmaids tale episode 4

Meanwhile, up in Canada Emily has an emotional reunion with her Son. After all these years, it turns out he knows who she is, having kept pictures of her in his room and a framed drawing he made of her fighting her way back home. It’s a pretty emotional segment too and as Emily struggles to hold it together, her Son snuggles up to her while they read a book, proving to be the tipping point as the tears begin running down her cheeks.

Back in Gilead, everyone returns home after the party, leaving Serena alone with June where she whispers information about where to find Hannah. As she slips away, June looks set to leave until she overhears video footage of a protest in Chicago prompting her to go and investigate. She recognizes Luke and identifies him to Waterford and Serena before leaving the room and crying tears of happiness. How short-lived this proves to be is anyone’s guess but given the ominous musical score hanging over this segment, it may not have been the wisest move to tell the truth here. The episode then ends with a literal baptism as baby Nicole is baptized in Canada.

While the plot itself doesn’t really advance much in this episode, the mystery and intriguing notion of who can and cannot be swayed to join the cause is ultimately what keeps this one going. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aunt Lydia is convinced to hang up the coat and join the revolution either, with her actions almost certainly leading to her shunned by the other midwifes. In a way, this episode feels like an important one; we now know Serena and June are on the same page. This, coupled with Ofmatthew looking like a hindrance to their plans, keeps things interesting, even with the absence of Commander Lawrence this week.

Stylistically, the episode features some neat compositional tricks too. Seeing the neatly arranged hats aligned on the table or the perfectly complementary lines of Gilead residents marching to the church are great examples of this aesthetically pleasing style. Despite the series being a little more lapse this year with the iconology and slick camera work, there’s enough here to keep the core structure of the visual design and its hidden meanings intact. 

To me, I think the episode is deliberately stationary, designed to portray these familiar situations and characters we’ve seen so often in a new light as we try and work out who can and cannot be trusted in the upcoming rebellion. If you go into this one questioning the various characters and wondering whether they’ll be joining the cause then this one is a lot more powerful on a subconscious level, and I do feel like that’s the message being told here. I’ve said it before that Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite shows and while the episodes themselves don’t necessarily stand out, as a cohesive whole The Handmaid’s Tale is a beautifully realized show. Another good episode this one, and the changing state of affairs is proving to be a very interesting notion going forward.

 

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