Warning! Spoiler alert!!! This article contains spoilers for the current episodes of Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Many people are claiming the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale has “jumped the shark” and June’s (Elizabeth Moss) “plot armor” is “laughable,” but even though June has already escaped and survived her captors three times by the fourth season, this show hasn’t “jumped the shark.”
First, Let’s Catch Up
Season 4 picks up right where season 3 ended. The remaining escaped Handmaids have been ushered through the “Mayday” underground railroad and enjoyed a small taste of freedom dressed as Marthas and “working” on a farm owned by a disgruntled child bride named Esther Keyes (14-year-old Mckenna Grace) and her aging and slowly poisoned Commander husband.
In Canada, the truly free Handmaids and Marthas are having difficulties acclimating the children June and the Marthas helped escape in the airplane to their new lives. June is becoming a symbol of hope for all of the families who made it to the real US and Canada and were displaced by Gilead.
After she was paraded on TV by the Waterfords in an attempt to have Canada return Nichole to them, June has become an international celebrity after she was once the poster child for the Handmaids when Gilead was attempting to use them as a trade resource with other countries.
While looking for members of the underground “Mayday” organization, June is taken to another underground phenomenon, yet another Gilead owned and operated brothel, “Jezabels.”
June has a secret meeting with a woman in a greenhouse, who fills her in on the news about the children’s exodus and the resulting rebellious acts, not to mention what happened after June killed Commander Winslow with a pen.
After Esther teaches June how to make poison from the local flora, June takes a big bottle of poison to the very same brothel with the intention of killing every single commander in the building in order to free the women who are currently being forced to be sex slaves. In the meantime, June communicated the next safehouse for the Marthas and Handmaids to go to once it’s safe for them to move out of the Keyes farmhouse.
Former Handmaid and “Jezabel” Moira (Samira Wiley) tries to help one of the displaced children who June rescued by asking former Martha Rita, (Amanda Brugel) to help acclimate him to his new life by allowing him some “pleasures” of his old life in Gilead, specifically cooking him recipes from “home.”
When June returns from poisoning the men at “Jezabels.” she discovers that her crew has left and is immediately taken into custody by none other than her not-so-secret lover Nick (Max Minghella) who quietly informs her that he is trying to keep her alive.
At this point, Nick ranks super high in the Gilead government organization and he has been shown to meet with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), whom we know helped organize the release of 86 children and 9 Marthas.
June is then transported to a facility where she is forced to watch a Lieutenant credited as “Gilead Loyalist” (Reed Birney) push two Marthas, who were captured at the Keyes farm, off a tall building, each time she refuses to disclose the whereabouts of the remaining Handmaids. Nick emplores her to tell them where the Handmaids are hiding and Aunt Lydia (AnnDowd) is reunited with June so she can be “rehabilitated” after she’s literally tortured.
Canada is aware that June has been captured and is still alive.
After all else has failed in their attempts to break June into sharing the location of the other Handmaids, Commander Lawrence, who was spared by Nick, is brought in to tell June that 6 commanders were killed and 9 more hospitalized after consuming a “bad liquor” at a “Jezabels” in Pennsylvania. He then tells June that if she doesn’t tell them where the rest of the Handmaids are hiding, they will hurt Hannah.
Once June’s daughter Hannah, who no longer recognizes her own biological mother and is terrified by the sight of June, is threatened, June quickly shares the details of the new safehouse and all 6 remaining Handmaids are taken into custody.
June asks Aunt Lydia to kill her, but Lydia tells her that she is far too valuable and that she and the other Handmaids will be sent to a “Magdalene Colony”. Lydia bathes and dresses June back into her usual red and white “uniform” and June is transported to a bridge for a rendezvous with her beloved Nick, with her hands bound in cuffs.
We are shown that after everything, the two still have deep feelings for each other and Nick professes his love for her. She is then taken to a vehicle where she is reunited with the other five Handmaids as they are transported to their new breeding colony.
June can’t even look at them because she is so guilt ridden and the transport vehicle stops at a railroad crossing to wait for an approaching train. In an extreme bit of luck, the male driver steps out and informs Lydia that “nature calls” and he leaves the 6 Handmaids alone with Aunt Lydia.
The six quickly realise their window of opportunity and June overpowers Aunt Lydia and they all run as fast as they can to attempt to jump the tracks before the train crosses. Two are shot in the back like runaway slaves by the driver. June and Janine (Madeline Brewer) make it across the tracks and the last two surviving Handmaids were hit by the train as they jumped.
The final moments of the episode is a montage of how the group bonded during their Handmaid training, narrated by Elizabeth Moss as June, who directed episode three.
No, The Handmaid’s Tale Has NOT “Jumped The Shark”
So, now that you’re caught up you’re probably thinking, “this show has totally ‘jumped the shark’ and now that June has killed seven commanders, escaped three times (prior to this most recent time), freed 86 children and 9 Marthas, and countless other acts of sedition, how has she not ended up on “the wall.” or at the very least maimed like Janine, Ofglen #2, and Serena, or having her mouth stapled shut like the DC Handmaids?”
These are the reasons why June can’t be killed or maimed:
The Real World
First and foremost, in the real world, Elizabeth Moss has been riding the wave of success from this particular show. She has directed three episodes and she is an executive producer, credited as such for 36 episodes.
She has won Emmy awards and Golden Globe awards for this show. While yeah, sure, the show CAN go on without the main character, and maybe if they were to kill her off THEN the show would have “jumped the shark,” but at this time, Elizabeth Moss isn’t going anywhere.
Handmaids Are Irreplaceable
Aunt Lydia explained to June that none of the Handmaids would be killed for their acts of rebellion because their lives are NOT expendable and they are 100% necessary to repopulate Gilead, especially after they freed all those children.
June Is A Public Figure
As mentioned in the recap, June was used as a prop for international trading as a commodity and in the previous season, she appeared on TV with the Waterfords when they pleaded for the Canadian government to return Nichole to them.
Very shortly after she was taken into custody, Canada was aware and communicated that info to June’s husband (O-T Fagbenle). Gilead knows that the entire world is watching and they can not kill or maim her. Everyone knows who she is.
Gilead Does Not Want To Make A Martyr Out Of Her
As stated above, EVERYONE knows who she is. Gilead is in a very delicate place right now, as illustrated in the 4th episode. The train where Janine and June stowed away was overpowered by rebels, the two mistakenly assumed were members of “Mayday”.
As the “Jezabel” explained to June, the liberation of the 86 children and nine Marthas inspired several acts of rebellion against Gilead forces. The “country” is barely holding on by a thread and the last thing “The Eye” needs is for the death or maiming of such a highly publicized face of the revolt to really get all noncompliant residents to rise up together against their authoritarian oppressors.
We’re still not sure where Nick lands on the hierarchy scale, but he’s obviously got some significant power and influence. He was responsible for June’s first escape and he has had a hand in many of her shenanigans against Gilead, including collaborating in getting his own daughter safely out of Gilead.
If he can save the life of a man who liberated 86 children and nine Marthas, he obviously has some significant pull. We remember that when he was placed in the Waterford home, it wasn’t just to be their driver. He was a spy for “The Eye”. As long as he is in his position of power, no permanent physical damage will ever fall upon his beloved.
Why Weren’t the Handmaids Wearing Shackles?
Gilead is ruled by fear, first and foremost, and the Handmaids were being transported with their trainer and handler, Aunt Lydia, and it was assumed that the fact that they were all recaptured was enough to “break” them and they wouldn’t attempt another escape.
They DID have their hands bound cuffs, but Lydia wrongfully assumed that she would be able to maintain control of them with fear and her cattle prod.
The Handmaid’s Tale is Speculative Fiction
Some might refer to this show as “tragedy porn,” but guess what? You’re wrong if that’s what you think that. The Handmaid’s Tale is Speculative Fiction.
If The Handmaid’s Tale is “tragedy porn” what’s the nightly news “nonfiction tragedy porn”?
Margaret Atwood wrote the book in 1985 as a response to things she witnessed that were actually occurring to women around the world. She satirized the poor treatment of women at that time, speculating what COULD happen if fundamentalists became our leaders, and we’re seeing in many Republican heavy states that those very things not only CAN happen to women, they ARE happening to women, in 2021 America.
The series isn’t “tragedy porn,” it’s a cautionary tale and should be a wakeup call to women in America.
The Handmaid’s Tale releases new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.
Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.