The Handmaid's Tale Premiere Recap: Burning Down the House

The Handmaids Tale Premiere Recap Season 4 Episode 1

Only a few minutes of The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Season 3 premiere pass before June addresses anyone who quailed at her choice to remain in Gilead at the end of Season 2.

“I have reasons. There are always reasons,” she says, addressing the matter by way of a voiceover to her infant daughter, who’s cruising north in a frightened Emily’s arms. “I’m sorry, baby girl. Mom’s got work.”

Well, blessed be the fruit and all, but do Emily and little Nichole make it to the Canadian border unharmed? And what are the repercussions from June’s decision to stay inside the repressive regime? Read on for the highlights of “Night.”

Editor’s note: Hulu released three episodes Wednesday. This recap covers the first; read a recap of Episode 2 here and Episode 3 here.

A VERY LONG SHOT | We pick up where the finale left off. June is running in the dark and praying for Nichole’s safety when a car pulls up next to her, Commander Lawrence behind the wheel. “Are you insane?!” he asks, urging her to get in so they can catch up to the van driving Emily and the baby. But June’s got a different plan: Grab Hannah from Commander McKenzie’s house, then make tracks for Our Neighbor to the North. He’s hesitant to help, but she points out that he helped Emily. Then they discuss how his role in whatever happens could land him on The Wall. Strangely., that seems to tickle him: He agrees to ferry her to Hannah’s new home.

June actually gets into the McKenzie’s home and upstairs to where Hannah is sleeping in her bedroom. But before she can take any action, the guardians arrive and the mission is thwarted. “Baby, I’m here. I’m not ever gonna leave you. I love you so much, and I’m always here,” June whispers to her child, crying as she takes athread from her skirt and ties it around Hannah’s wrist. Then she kisses her a bunch of times and quietly exits to await her punishment in the hall.

Mrs. McKenzie halts the authorities as they haul June out, asking for a moment alone with the handmaid. They talk, mother to mother, in an almost friendly fashion about the things Hannah likes and dislikes, what she wants, how she’s doing. “I appreciate the home you’ve made for her,” June says through tears. Mrs. McKenzie is trying to be kind, but her parting words are like a kick in the abdomen: “Please stop. You know all of this ends with you dying on the ground in front of her. If you love her, you have to stop.”

FRED FINDS OUT | At home, Nick is still keeping Fred under armed guard, but Commander Waterford wants Serena to call 911. “We should give her more time to get away,” she says, shocking him by copping to her involvement in the “kidnapping.” He demands to know what she did. “I did what was best for my child,” she replies, leaving him alone to ponder the message June carved into the wall before she left.

When June is brought home, everyone gathers in the parlor, where Fred immediately starts screaming at her and demanding to know where the baby is. I really love that June doesn’t even look at him and instead speaks directly to June. “She’s safe, Serena,” she says. “I promise you, she is safe.”

But Mrs. Waterford, who’s seeming to regret her decision to let them go, is not even remotely grateful. “You gave her to a murderer!” she cries, asking how June could’ve done such a thing. And damn, but it’s been a long day, and June is fresh outta effs to give. “Because I have another daughter. And you chased us in the woods and you hunted us down with dogs and when you pulled her away, she screamed,” she says, furious. “My baby screamed for her mother. And I hope this feels like that.” DAMN. Then, because this whole night has been a huge ball of conflicting feelings, they both cry, and June holds Serena’s head to her shoulder and whispers that it will be OK.

Later, as June goes to her room, Nick angrily points out that lots of people risked their lives for her to have a chance at freedom, and he calls her selfish for squandering the opportunity. Oh, also? He’s sure now she’s going to die in Gilead. She lets him know she’s well aware, but thanks.

THE WATER IS WIDE | Somewhere in the very cold outdoors, drones are searching for Emily as she picks her way through the forest, trying to evade them. I know no one was super planning this trip, but I ask again: Did no one think about how babies have to eat roughly every five minutes? Or have their diapers changed every 10?

Anyway, at one point, she wades into a large river, I suppose with the purpose of crossing it? — but winds up getting pulled into the current with Nichole clasped to her chest. Somehow they both survive (side note: How did that child not swallow its weight in river water?) and wind up on the other side. A man shows up in a car and she freaks, but he’s friendly. He wraps her and the baby in a mylar blanket and asks if she needs asylum. It takes Emily a minute to realize it, but they’ve made it to Canada, and they’re safe. All Em can do is hold Nichole to her chest and sob.

SPIN, DOCTORED | The next morning, Fred’s got a cover story ready for anyone who asks: Emily lost her mind, attacked Aunt Lydia, grabbed the baby and ran. June and Serena tried to stop her, “as any mother would,” of course. Serena is looking rough and doesn’t want to be part of any of his BS. “I sent her away, Fred. It was my choice,” she protests, but he counters that he “drove you to distraction.” He keeps mentioning how he’ll fix things, and then their lives will return to normal. Good luck with that one, bud! After he leaves the bedroom, Serena seems to come to an agreement with herself, then dumps a bottle of something (peroxide?) over the bed.

In her room, June soon realizes there’s smoke coming up the stairwell. So she follows it… to where Serena has lit her bed ON FIRE. The handmaid very calmly leads her mistress out of the room — the flames have spread to the curtains, by the way — then gets everyone to safety. “Burn, motherf—ker, burn,” she voiceovers, smiling. The house is consumed while Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays” plays in the background.

Later, June sits on the curb outside the now-destroyed house, when Nick approaches. “Take care,” he tells her. She responds in kind.

WELCOME, EH? | Emily is walked into a Canadian hospital, Nichole in her arms. Everyone stares, and she looks around wildly; somewhere along the way, she lost her shoes. A kind doctor introduces herself and explains that they want to make sure she and the baby are healthy. Then everyone who’s staring starts applauding, making Emily only look more bewildered. Give the woman a moment, people!

Later, at Little America, Luke and Moira meet at the refugee center, where they receive a photo: It’s a Polaroid of Hannah in her pink outfit. “She’s so big,” he keeps repeating, starting to cry. The bittersweet moment is broken when they head a baby behind them: It’s Nichole, who’s in Emily’s arms. Em introduces herself, then announces, “Your wife saved my life.”

ON TO THE NEXT ONE | Meanwhile, June is brought to The Red Center, where she’s told that the McKenzie’s forgive her, “but God requires penance.” She’s brought to a room with some scary looking equipment in it, and thankfully we only hear — but don’t see — the corporal punishment the aunts dish out. Whatever happens to her severely messes up her feet; the next time we see her, she’s barefoot and bloody, scrubbing the floors on her hands and knees. But that’s also where she gets some good news, whispered in passing by another ‘maid: Emily and the baby are safe and made it to Canada. June tears up and smiles.

Not long after, she’s brought to her new assignment: What do you know, it’s Commander Lawrence! They size each other up, curious. “You’re not gonna be any trouble, are ya?” he wonders. She looks right at him. “No, sir,” she replies.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the Season 3 premiere? Grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments to expand upon your thoughts!

GET MORE: Polls, Premieres, Recaps