The thrilling, stressful, and dramatic series of an alternate America where a large part of the population is treated as slaves finally returned to television after a 2-year hiatus. Since Season 3 ended in the summer of 2019, a lot has happened in our country that seemed headed toward a Gilead-style rule back then.
On a more personal scale, I recently listened to the audiobooks for both THE HANDMAID’S TALE and its sequel THE TESTAMENTS. I’ve also paid more attention to what others have been saying about the books and series on social media. For example, several months ago when news broke that Season 4 would be premiering in April, I read posts from women descended from slaves about how they don’t watch the show because sexual slavery was a real thing for their ancestors in the not-so-distant past. This got me thinking about how this series may cater to fear from white women, like myself, most of whom haven’t had ancestors who were raped and forced to bear children that were ripped away from them shortly after birth. I give you this backstory as I started SEASON 4 with all of this running around my mind.
EPISODE 1 PIGS did a fantastic job of bringing the audience along for June’s journey and making us feel like we’re along for the ride. As you may recall, the Waterfords, Nick, Commander Lawrence, Aunt Lydia, Rita, and the Handmaids aren’t all together after the events of Season 3. In between all the catching up this episode did is a moving plot that juxtaposes the Handmaids and the very young wife of an elderly Commander, played by the fantastic Mckenna Grace. Almost all of the women in Gilead are suffering, not just those forced to wear red.
After a thrilling start, SEASON 4 settles back into some familiar territory that disappointed me. June, while clearly the heroine of the series, is now much more than just another Handmaid after the events of last season. All eyes, including THE EYES, are on her, searching for her, watching her. She’s famous in Canada and infamous in Gilead and what’s left of America. But she still makes some really terrible choices, and now more than ever she can’t afford to. I know vengeance is on her mind, and I can’t begin to put myself in her shoes after all she’s gone through. Yet there are multiple moments in Season 4 where she could just keep going, to save herself, save the other Handmaids, save Hannah, and instead, she chooses a more risque path in attempts to do more damage to Gilead and those who have wronged her. Unfortunately, her actions have some really negative consequences. And while Commander Lawrence and Nick seem like they might have her best interest at heart, they’re also still very much a part of Gilead, protecting it and keeping it going. EPISODES 3 & 5, especially, had me yelling at the screen things like ‘STOP JUNE!’ or ‘NO, NOT THAT!’
The same can be said of those that are still a part of the Gilead machine. It seems if it were any other Handmaid, they’d have been strung up on the wall already, but June seems to too-easily escape this punishment any time she has a close run-in with someone from her past. I’m still rooting for her, but at times it feels there are just far too many coincidences.
And although I doth protest at some of the decisions the writers make for June, I still tune in as soon as I can every Wednesday morning, usually waking up early to watch. The one thing SEASON 4 has, more than any other season so far is hope. In earlier seasons when things were dark, that’s all they were usually. Terrible and cruel with no light at the end of the tunnel. But this season is brimming with hope. It’s there with each breath June takes, with every good or bad decision she makes. It’s that hope that keeps us on the edge of our seats and coming back.
As SEASON 4 shifts into the last half (EPISODE 6 of 10 dropped MAY 19TH), I can begin to see where they’re taking us. I want to be wrong about this, but I have a major prediction on where the show will let off and pick up for the fifth and final season. EPISODE 6 VOWS, is one of the strongest of the season too, but I just can’t get this little voice out of my head telling me that this is predictable. Surprise me, creators! You’ve done it in the past, and I respect that you’ve chosen to end the show after 5 seasons.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE SEASON 4 EPISODES 1-6 are now streaming on Hulu. A new episode drops every Wednesday.
EPISODE 1 PIGS 🤩
EPISODE 2 NIGHTSHADE 😊
EPISODE 3 THE CROSSING 🤩
EPISODE 4 MILK 😊
EPISODE 5 CHICAGO 😊
EPISODE 6 VOWS 🤩