Episode 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 is one of the weakest episodes of the four season run, coming off the back of an emotionally draining climax last time. Here though, we catch up with Janine and June on the train tracks, running away from their captors.
There’s no time to mourn their fallen sisters though, as the pair continue to run without Lydia or the guards following. They’re not going to Boston though, but instead stowaway on a train heading West. Specifically, Chicago. The city hasn’t fallen to Gilead rule yet and the pair intend to be on the first train there.
Charging across tracks next to a heavily guarded train station, the pair hide out in a milk float. Cue big flashbacks to that episode last season where June spent the entire chapter on her knees. This time, our characters are knee-deep in milk.
With the milk chugging about, the pair eventually find the plug and drain the carriage, allowing them to at least sit down and bide themselves some time before arriving in Chicago. It’s not completely empty though, but the freezing cold conditions mean they both need to stay awake.
Janine confronts June about her deception, prompting the latter to admit Gilead used Hannah as a weapon against her. June thought Hannah was going to be hurt so she gave up their location. Janine blames her for the other girls dying, claiming she would have made a different choice. June is annoyed and upset, eventually telling Janine she should have left her a long time ago.
In Canada, Rita tries to adjust to normal life. She bakes some fresh bread for Moira as she learns there’s no record of her sister in the files. However, Serena wants to see her. Eventually the former maid agrees to visit. When she does, Serena shows the scan photo to her, confirming her pregnancy.
Rita returns home after this instance and receives a visit from Mark, who drops off interview prep material for her. Basically, Serena wants Rita on her side to incriminate and blame the Commander for what’s happened. Given Rita was regarded as “property” of the Waterford family, she decides to visit Fred personally.
In fact, Rita marches right up to him and hands over an envelope with the baby scan photo inside. She tells Fred to deal with her own family matters, refusing to be manipulated by Serena and the others anymore. As she leaves, Fred looks at the picture in shock.
Back on the train, the carriages are suddenly stopped by the sound of gunfire raining down outside. Soldiers are killed by rebels, while their supplies are taken.
The pair manage to break out of the milk float and find themselves alongside a number of bandits. June speaks for them and asks for help from their leader. They want to go to Chicago and promise to do anything they say. Eventually they agree to let them join.
As they drive into town, they see that the place is a warzone. Smashed in windows, thick black smoke curling into the sky and deserted streets lie before them.
The pair are eventually brought in to the HQ for this group, which happens to be a bustling community full of people in normal clothes. June and Janine stick out like a sore thumb in their handmaid garbs. Despite realizing this place has nothing to do with Mayday, June and Janine manage to stay for the time being. After changing into normal clothes, June whispers an apology to Janine.
The Episode Review
Off the back of last week’s intense and dramatic episode, The Handmaid’s Tale slams on the brakes to deliver a slow and pretty lethargic chapter. Although we do see some of Chicago and the ongoing fight to keep America as it once was, there really isn’t a whole lot else worth getting excited about.
Serena tries to recruit Rita to her cause but she pulls away. Commander Waterford now knows about Serena’s pregnancy too while Rita finally gets a chance to be her own person and not property to the Waterford’s as she was in Gilead. And that’s about it, stretched across the run-time.
Away from that, a good 25 minutes are dedicated to June and Janine in the milk carriage.
The Handmaid’s Tale continues its turbulent ride in this episode, now see-sawing back to the slow, methodical pace that typified season 3. Hopefully this episode is just a detour and more exciting chapters lay ahead. We shall see.