The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: June returns with a vengeance

The Handmaid's Tale -- "Unfit" - Episode 308 -- June and the rest of the Handmaids shun Ofmatthew, and both are pushed to their limit at the hands of Aunt Lydia. Aunt Lydia reflects on her life and relationships before the rise of Gilead. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: Jasper Savage/Hulu)
The Handmaid's Tale -- "Unfit" - Episode 308 -- June and the rest of the Handmaids shun Ofmatthew, and both are pushed to their limit at the hands of Aunt Lydia. Aunt Lydia reflects on her life and relationships before the rise of Gilead. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: Jasper Savage/Hulu) /

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 is finally back after nearly two years of being away! The three-episode premiere dropped early and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest bit. We essentially pick up right where we left off with June (Elisabeth Moss) and the other Handmaids on the run.

You may or may not recall, but the Season 3 premiere ended with June staying back in Gilead while sending off all the children to Canada. Working with the rebel network Mayday, June, and the others managed to get a total of 86 kids and nine Marthas out of the totalitarian hell of Gilead.

Hoping to rescue her daughter Hannah, June was adamant about staying behind. Unfortunately, she’s shot during the mission, but her fellow entourage of Handmaids is there to save her. And then we have Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) who have really had a stable marriage. This is why it came as no surprise when June was able to pull them apart from one another. And that distance results in the couple turning on one another in order to score immunity deals as they find themselves stuck in Canada.

We catch up with all the pivotal characters in the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, and how June’s rebellion has impacted each of them. So, without further ado, let’s break down “Pigs”, “Nightshade”, and “The Crossing”, the first three episodes of Season 4!

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: Mrs. Keyes and the Handmaids

June’s gunshot wound is taken care of by Alma (Nina Kiri) and Janine (Madeline Brewer), who are shockingly leading all the Handmaids. Who would have thought, right? After cauterizing the wound, the group heads off to a Mayday safe house where the plan is to be undercover as Marthas.

As June slowly and painfully recovers, we meet Commander Keyes (Bill MacDonald) and his 14-year-old bride, Esther Keyes (McKenna Grace), to who the farm belongs. Esther is as weird as they come and harbors thoughts of murdering people alongside June. Despite that, Esther seems sympathetic towards June but is turned off by her when June implies she just wants to lay low.

Esther attempts to remind her that Mayday is their mission and that she is utterly disappointed with June’s reluctance to engage. With this sudden rage inside of her, Esther’s mood dramatically changes and is too reminiscent of why these Handmaids left Gilead in the first place. Out of spite, she even forces Janine to eat the pig that she had formed a friendship with. Talk about a major jerk.

June doesn’t let the whole thing go so easily and confronts Esther over her attitude change. It is then we and June learn that Esther was raped by other Gilead men because Commander Keyes was impotent. He didn’t care what it did to Esther, just as long as she got pregnant. It’s a defining moment for Esther, who is just a kid forced into horrendous circumstances. But it’s also a huge moment for June and Esther who bond over their mutual trauma.

For better or worse, the Handmaids find a new life on the farm, until an inebriated Guardian struts onto the property. This could spell trouble for them if this Guardian realizes who the Handmaids are and gives up their location. The decision to get rid him of isn’t that difficult because Esther reveals that he is one of the many men that raped her. June instructs her to kill the man, and while we don’t get to see it happen, seeing Esther after the fact gives us all we need to know.

Although they kill the Guardian, the Handmaids know that they are no longer safe at this farm. They’ll need to find another safe house and so June is taken to a Mayday contact that is slaving away at a brothel. It’s clear this woman is a fan of June after everything she did for the children and the Marthas and gives her instructions on how to get to the next safe house. The only caveat is that they will have to wait one night before heading there, which may not bode well since there are now lurking suspicions.

After meeting the woman, June is eager to find a way to get her out. All the while, June also learns that Esther has been poisoning Commander Keyes with nightshade, a poisonous plant. She gives him enough to keep him out of it, but not enough to actually kill him.

With this new information, June takes the nightshade and heads back to the brother so she and the woman can poison and kill all the Commanders. It might have been a temporary win, but when June returns to the safe house she realizes there is something wrong. The Handmaids are all gone and lasers suddenly appear all over her body.

She’s caught, and to confirm the horror of it all, Nick (Max Minghella) steps out of the shadows to watch her surrender.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: The Waterfords

While Serena and Fred fight for immunity, they learn about the plane that has landed in Canada filled with children and Marthas from Gilead. Fred is quick to say that all the refugees should be sent back to Gilead, while Serena mourns for the Gilead families who lost “their children”.

The Canadian diplomat, Mark (Sam Jaeger), reveals that June was behind the whole thing, but has been missing since then. They have a strange reaction to this revelation, but these are the Waterfords we’re talking about, did we expect anything else?

A bit later on, Serena has a routine physical during which the doctor asks her some personal questions about her relationship with Fred. Seeing Serena’s hand injury, the doctor promptly asks Serena if she was ever assaulted in any way. Her response? That her punishment was “appropriate”. It doesn’t get more Gilead than that, does it?

The results of the physical, according to Serena’s lawyer, could be useful in the fight for immunity. If they can make Fred look bad and come off as an abusive husband, it could work in her favor. Despite everything, Serena isn’t ready to betray Fred like that and shrugs off the whole idea.

She does attempt to have a one-on-one conversation with Fred but that turns sour really quick. Fred knows that Serena just wants to be free of him and of the crimes against her, and he isn’t going to fall into her trap. It’s quite a volatile and frightening scene between the couple, and it shows just how far gone they are at this point, especially Fred.

It’s unclear what is in store for these two in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, but one thing might throw a wrench in all this immunity talk–the fact that Serena has learned she is pregnant.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: Back in Canada

With the arrival of all the Gilead refugees, Moira (Samira Wiley) and Emily (Alexis Bledel) are busy trying to organize them into new homes. It’s easier said than done, but everyone is more than appreciative of June’s efforts to help save whomever she could.

There is a strange occurrence during this part of the premiere, however, when a young boy named Asher (Luxton Handspiker) yearns for his life back in Gilead. He’s not used to whatever is going on now, which feels rather strange looking from the outside in. But we do have to remember that these kids were more or less protected back in Gilead, and they didn’t endure what everyone else did.

One aspect of the premiere I did appreciate, and that I feel is often looked over, is how all this impacts those who came from Gilead. Specifically, Moira and Emily. They feel guilty for having gotten out while June is still there, and haven’t been able to process the trauma of Gilead because of it.

And then there’s Luke (O-T Fagbenle) who is all sorts of conflicted throughout the premiere. At first, he’s optimistic about June’s eventual return. But then, when he finds out June was captured, he begins to get frustrated that June stayed back twice now. He’s not sure she wants to be saved and feels it reflects on how she feels about him.

He may have a point there, but regardless of how he feels, there is still a glimmer of hope within him when it comes to her.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: Blessed be, Aunt Lydia

Oh, Aunt Lydia. She is so brilliantly played by the incomparable Ann Dowd, and the essence of fear and intimidation she commands is the heart of all that is evil in this series. Following the rebellion of Mayday, Aunt Lydia is under intense scrutiny by those in charge of Gilead. She’s questioned for nearly 19 days, and isn’t even exonerated.

Naturally, this angers her and it is increased ten-fold when the council calls the Handmaids “sinful whores”. While she can treat them like crap, she doesn’t dare allow anyone else to do the same. She’s quick to point out that June is to blame for all of this, and that the other Handmaids just followed her instructions.

And justice will not be served until June is hanging for her crimes.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: Commander Lawrence steps in

Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) has been punished for taking part in the Mayday rebellion, and we find him locked up when we finally catch up with him in the premiere. When Nick pays him a visit, the Commander suggests that if Gilead lets the children go, then they can use it as leverage with other countries.

It didn’t seem like Nick was much for the idea at all. However, the Commander learns that Nick is offering him a job as a consultant. He can guide them through the Canada situation and obtain his “freedom” along the way.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: June gets tortured

After being caught for what feels like the hundredth time, June is tortured over and over again. She gets waterboarded, her fingernails cut off, and even locked inside a box until she reveals where the Handmaids are.

She’s not eager to share a tidbit of information until Nick decides to take matters into his own hands. He may be working as a Commander now, but he loves June and wants her to stay alive, even if it means she’s miserable.

He recruits Commander Lawrence to try and convince June, but it doesn’t work either. They then use the only other thing they have over her–Hannah. June is taken into another room where Hannah is locked up inside a large glass box. It’s painful to see that Hannah is scared of her own mother, but again, it’s no surprise. There hasn’t been enough interaction between them for her to feel anything else.

Just as expected, June breaks and reveals the actual location of the Handmaids, despite giving the wrong one earlier. This time around all the remaining Handmaids are captured and are sent on their way to a new colony–a breeding colony. They will live out their days working in the fields and getting impregnated by the Commanders.

And that is where June is headed as well, as Aunt Lydia so proudly informs her.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 premiere recap: Yet another escape

June is taken to meet up with the other Handmaids and Aunt Lydia but gets to say goodbye to Nick before doing so. He made sure they would be able to say goodbye and confess their love for one another, and I must admit, it’s a bittersweet moment. I know June loves him and all, but I can’t get comfortable with the idea that Nick is getting off so easy.

Before we know it, June reunites with the Handmaids and they are off to the breeding colony. For anyone that felt the third episode would end with yet another capture and the same ‘ol story–you were wrong. When the driver stops to take a bathroom break, June and the Handmaids take advantage of it and attack Lydia and run out of the car.

They are right next to the train tracks and luckily for them, a train is about to pass by. All the women make a run for it, hoping to put distance between them and the driver and Aunt Lydia. Unfortunately, not all of them make it. A handful of them are shot by the driver, while Alma and Brianna are hit by the train.

On the other side of the tracks, June and Janice look at the scene with horror in their eyes. But there is no time to waste, they have to keep running if they want to get as far away as possible and to safety. How far will they make it? Will they even manage to keep away for long?

Who is to say, but all we do know is that June lives to see yet another day, and that means the rebellion continues!

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June isn’t messing around anymore.

What did you think of the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4? Tell us in the comments below!