Episode 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 begins right off the back of the emotional conclusion to 2019’s finale. A blood spattered and exhausted June is bleeding out. Janine and the other Handmaids work together to try and get June to the Martha network. In order to quell the pain, they cauterize the wound.
Stowed away in the back of a truck, June and the other Handmaids breathe a sigh of relief after a routine search doesn’t expose them. They’re hidden away and eventually make it to a farm. This happens to be their rest stop, and June soon collapses when she finds out she’s safe.
When June awakens, she learns she was suffering from sepsis and actually almost died. Thankfully she’s still going and over time manages to recover from her wounds.
Getting dressed, June joins the other handmaids as they all start working on the farm. June takes on the look-out duties, with a 5 mile range to check the edge of the perimeter to make sure they’re alone.
Meanwhile, Fred and Serena wind up facing each other in Canada. Serena is obviously not happy and Fred joins her mod when the pair learn about Angel’s Flight.
The plane arrived in Canada with 86 children. Fred is seething with anger, telling Mark that war will break out if the children aren’t returned to Gilead. Well, Mark drops another bombshell reveal, confirming that June was the one involved in the break out. This immediately prompts Fred to direct his rage toward his former Handmaid, determined to see the girl die.
It’s been 19 days since Aunt Lydia has been interviewed by The Eyes. She sports bruises over her face and is allowed to be let free for now. She’s not off the hook though – given the girls were in her jurisdiction at the time.
Just before she goes, the board curse the Handmaids. This prompts Lydia to kick the hornet’s nest, telling them June is still on the loose. If they should find her, she wants to confront the girl herself.
Elsewhere, Nick meets Lawrence where the pair disagree over the best way of moving Gilead forward. Lawrence believes letting the children stay in Canada could well be a great deal when it comes to negotiation with the UN. If not then it could lead to war and no chance for peace.
The other part of this is that it’s June’s legacy of course, something that Nick shuns and simply sticks by the Gilead mantra of thanking him for his service.
In the morning, Lawrence is forced to leave with two guards. Expecting the worst, he’s faced with a single chair and Nick overseeing things. In fact, Nick has managed to convince the council to bring Lawrence in as a consultant, saving him from certain death. This chair is clever, it’s not an electric chair but instead being used to cut his hair.
Back on the farm, June meets Commander Rob Keyes, the man whose farm this belongs to. His 14 year old wife, Mrs Keyes, oversees proceedings but it’s clear she’s not happy with them.
At dinner she outright antagonizes them all, reminding the girls that she had to kill a pig for them all. She forces Janine to eat the pork until June manages to intervene. She takes Keyes aside and confronts the girl.
Now it becomes clear that Keyes has been through some pretty awful trauma too. Her story is harrowing, detailing how she was passed around a group of men. Given her age, June sits with her and tells the girl that none of this is her fault. She promises that God will exact his revenge on those who have wronged her.
Blinded by rage, June reminds Alma that they’re not free and sternly questions why they’ve been left in the hands of an unhinged 14 year old. As June steps into the barn, she sees all the former handmaids together, up dancing and acting like everything is back to normal.
June knows better though and she goes searching for Mrs Keyes. Instead, she finds the Commander. He mentions Esther and calls her a pretty girl, prompting the bubbling rage in June to simmer up.
Barking dogs outside break the mood (and stops June grabbing a knife), as June steps out and finds Mrs Keyes. A trespasser is bundled to the floor; a Guardian by the name of Johnny Pogue. He also happens to be one of the men who abused her.
June forces the man into the barn where she decides that revenge is a dish best served cold. She hands a knife to Mrs Keyes and allows her to kill the guard.
The Episode Review
There is a lot going on in this episode and The Handmaid’s Tale wastes little time getting right to the heart of the drama. June has obviously managed to make it to a safe refuge and the ending scene is a nice touch; an homage way back to the early seasons where the camera zoomed in on her face.
The various other characters all get a good amount of screen-time too, including Serena and Fred who both find out June was the one involved in the break-out to Canada.
The symbolic ending with Mrs Keyes is a nice touch and one that sees June clearly seeing parts of her daughter in this young girl.
The whole “banana” comment right at the very end is touching, and one that reinforces that June sees parts of her daughter in this girl. It’s a horrible story too, and one that sees the horrifying truth of Gilead for all to see.
The ending certainly leaves things open for more though, with this first episode leaving things hanging on a knife edge.