June and Serena breathe the same air for a few moments in this week’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and even though a firearm is involved, both women live to tell the tale.
But that’s not to say that Episode 4, “Dear Offred,” is a ho-hum hour of television. The way that June is grappling with her hatred of Mrs. Waterford — and her dawning realization that her anger is consuming her — this season is fascinating. And the evenhanded Luke appears to be sidling ever closer to his wife’s end of the bloodthirst spectrum, which makes me like him more than I ever have before. Plus, now Aunt Lydia is suddenly, painfully and vocally reckoning with the role she’s played in Gilead’s ritual rape? It’s must-watch!
Read on for the highlights of “Dear Offred.”
SERENA IS FREE | June is minding her own business, pushing Nichole on a swing, when a woman approaches her and starts spouting nonsense. “You’re so lucky you were in Gilead,” she coos, reaching for the little girl, which causes June to push her back. The woman calls June a slut and a whore before June gathers Nichole up, tells the stranger to eff off, and leaves. In therapy, June admits to Luke and the therapist that her reaction “went a little past protecting.”
The interlude illustrates how (rightfully) agitated June is, a state that only heightens when Mark Tuello swings by the house to update them on things. Regarding Hannah, he can only offer that she looks healthy; the scant information frustrates her parents to no end. And then he breaks the big news: Serena has been freed from the detention center. She’s turned down Canada’s offer of asylum and will be living and working at the Gilead Information Center. “You let that happen,” Luke says, angrily ordering Tuello to leave. “I warned you about her. You wouldn’t listen,” June spits. “God, you’re such a f–king disappointment.” The hangdog look on Tuello’s face makes it seem like he kinda agrees with her.
After Tuello leaves, June is eerily calm. And later that night, while Luke sleeps, she digs up the gun from her yard, drives to the Gilead Information Center and maybe? plans to shoot Serena as she stands at her window, looking down at her candle-holding supporters. But June’s gun jams, and all she does is stand and stare at a shocked Serena before getting back in her car and leaving. Inside, an unsettled Serena wonders if her bodyguard, Ezra Shaw, can do anything about June. He says no… unless she sets foot on the center’s property.
At home, June paces as she tells Luke, “All I can think about is shooting her in the f–king head, and I don’t know how to stop myself from actually doing it.” He understands, and he rationally walks her through the consequences of shooting Serena (they lose Nichole, they prob will never get Hannah back) before drawing up a plan in which they go through Toronto city council to shut down the center via administrative means — building codes, etc. June listens, then agrees to try things Luke’s way.
POKING THE BEAR | But then Serena — whom Lawrence expressly advises to avoid her former handmaid — sends June an invitation to the center’s grand opening, AND SHE ADDRESSES IT TO “OFFRED.” Game on! The card has the intended effect, causing June to declare her desire to kill everyone in Gilead, then to break a dish and storm out of the room. When she’s calmed later, even she seems a little taken aback by her earlier vehemence. “What if this is who I am now?” June worries, but Moira says she’s made progress — for instance, she can be left alone with Nichole now, which is something — and that Serena is “not worth losing your family over.”
Meanwhile, Luke visits Serena at the center, waves a lot of paperwork at her, and promises that they’re going to get the building shut down. Oh, and “my wife is going to kill you, and I’m going to let her… So you can get kicked out, or be killed. Or just help us get Hannah back.” Not only does Serena not take the bait, she uses Hannah’s Gilead name when she says Agnes is fine. And then she goads him about how June did more to try to recover their daughter. “Then again,” she adds, landing the final blow, “she did have Nick’s support.” Luke has tears in his eyes as he turns to leave, warning her to stay away from his family or he’ll murder her himself.
A UNITED FRONT | But June is one step ahead of him! She’s outside the center, the gun tucked into the waistband of her jeans, as protesters and counter protesters clash. One guy punches Moira, so June pushes him back and then pulls the gun on him. When she shoots it in the air, everything goes pear-shaped.
Ezra grabs Serena and quickly escorts her from the building. Luke finds June and tells her that they have to run before police show up. And as they’re taking off, they come face-to-face with Ezra and Serena behind the building. There’s a heavy moment where no one quite knows what to do, but then both pairs go their separate ways. In the car, Serena wonders to what secure location she’s being taken. “For those who are truly righteous, He sometimes sends a refuge,” Ezra says. Oh, PLEASE let her refuge be a public bathroom at the bus station!
Luke and June make it home without drawing the attention of law enforcement. While they’re parked in the driveway, he gets a call: Gilead’s center is getting shut down for building code violations. June tells him she can’t promise that she won’t shoot Serena in the future. “I can’t promise I won’t, either,” he says, practicing aiming the weapon, “I guess we’ll both have to trust each other.” They kiss, things progress, and pretty soon they’re inside, making love in their bedroom and taking care to kiss each other’s scars.
Oh, and that secure location of Serena’s? It’s a huge home flanked by wrought iron gates. When Serena walks into the house, she’s greeted enthusiastically by Alanis “Mrs. Ryan” Wheeler (played by New Amsterdam’s Genevieve Angelson), who kneels and looks starstruck as she quotes Scripture and puts her hands on Serena’s belly. The mother-to-be looks less than pleased.
‘I SEE YOU’ | Over at the hospital, Janine is limping around with a walker, and she’s mightily pissed at Aunt Lydia. Esther, who still hasn’t woken up yet, was a child who was abused — and Lydia did nothing to help her. “I gave you the education you needed to lead a safe and meaningful life!” the older woman cries, but you get the sense that even she doesn’t quite believe it 100 percent anymore. “I see you,” Janine hurls back. “I see who you really are. I’ve still got one good eye, remember? You gonna take that one, too?”
Janine’s criticisms, and likely Lydia’s own guilty conscience, prompt her to suggest that Lawrence reform the handmaid system in order to prevent incidents like Esther’s poisoning. She wants the handmaids to stay under her care at the Red Center, with the commanders and wives visiting for the ceremony each month. Lawrence laughs at the idea of a “handmaids hotel,” then shuts her down, saying the commanders will never agree. “They want those girls in their homes, accessible,” he says. “These are pious men. They need a little kink.” She’s outraged. He doesn’t care. “Get a grip on your girls,” he says by way of dismissal.
When Janine is released from the hospital, Lydia admits that she should have listened to her warnings about Esther. She asks for help with the other girls, mainly to let Lydia know when they’re struggling. “If I do, you’ll just do something horrible,” Janine says, but Lydia promises that she wants to do things differently, “address any problem early, with more compassion.” Back at the Red Center, the other handmaids are very reserved until Aunt Lydia leaves the room. Then they circle around Janine and whisper their happiness to see her back, and even in this messed-up world, it’s very sweet.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!