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Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 below.
It’s been nearly two years since season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale ended, leaving viewers in limbo wondering about the fate of series lead June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss). In case you forgot, the last we saw, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) were both under arrest in Canada, and June had just been shot by a Guardian after successfully getting dozens of children onto a plane and out of Gilead.
Now, with season 4 starting up, there are sure to be even more shocking plot twists ahead, and we’ll be compiling all the most important moments right here. Read on—or turn back now, if you don’t want spoilers for episodes 1-5.
Episode 1: “Pigs”
First things first: June is alive. Though she’s received some subpar medical care from the other Handmaids, June is now recovering at a safe house, a farm run by Mr. Keyes and his teenage wife, Esther (Mckenna Grace). One day, after June calls out Esther for being cruel to Janine (Madeline Brewer), we learn the awful truth behind Esther’s life at the house: Her husband isn’t able to procreate but still wants a baby, so he brings in other men—including Guardians, Commanders, and Eyes—to routinely rape her. When a drunk Guardian is then found trespassing on the farm, Esther reveals he’s one of the men who assaulted her. June instructs Esther to kill him in the barn, and she does.
Episode 2: “Nightshade”
Perhaps the most shocking moment of the episode occurs in Canada, where we learn that Serena is pregnant. But back in Gilead, Guards have shown up at the farm asking questions, and June knows she and the other Handmaids must leave at risk of being caught. She goes to speak with a worker at a nearby Jezebels who’s also part of the resistance group Mayday, and learns about a new safe house for the women. While there, June also discovers that members of the Gilead military will soon be at the Jezebels house for one last party before heading to fight in Chicago. When June discovers Esther has been poisoning her husband, she asks Esther to teach her to make more in order to sneak in and help the Jezebels poison the military men. She ventures to the Jezebel house and plans to come back by nightfall to escape with the Handmaids, but when she returns, she discovers she’s too late. While the Handmaids have escaped, Gilead forces—including Nick (Max Minghella)—have infiltrated the farm. They capture June.
Episode 3: “The Crossing”
June is now back in Gilead custody, where she’s being tortured into revealing where the other Handmaids are hiding. She refuses to do so, even as she’s waterboarded and forced to sleep in a steel cage. At one point, June gives a fake location and, as punishment, is made to watch as two other Handmaids are pushed off the side of a building to their deaths.
Nick, who wants to keep June alive at all costs, then threatens Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) into helping manipulate June. Lawrence does so by telling June that Gilead will hurt her daughter Hannah if she doesn’t cooperate. June still refuses, until she’s brought face-to-face with Hannah, who doesn’t recognize her—and, in fact, fears her. Horrified, June relents and gives up the Handmaids’ secret location. The Handmaids are captured and, along with June, are sent off to a Magdalene Colony, where they will work during the day and be delivered to Commanders to be raped at night. But on the way, all hell breaks loose: First, June somehow reunites with Nick on a bridge, and they kiss a lot. Second, while the driver steps out to use the bathroom at a train stop, June and the other handmaids overtake Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and attempt to run away. In their escape, two are shot, and Alma (Nina Kiri) and Brianna (Bahia Watson) get hit by the train. Only June and Janine make it out alive.
Episode 4: “Milk”
After escaping from Aunt Lydia, June and Janine find a train heading to Chicago, where Gilead soldiers are still fighting and June hopes to connect with members of Mayday. The fugitives conveniently find an open train car (filled with milk, which they also, conveniently, drain), and while traveling across the country, June reveals to Janine that she told the Eyes where to find the Handmaids. The train is then overtaken by Chicago rebels, and June convinces them to take in her and Janine. The Handmaids go with the rebels to their hideout—located in an old rock climbing gym—and talk with the group’s leader, Steven, who offers to let them stay in exchange for sex. June relents but ultimately can’t go through with it, and it’s Janine who steps in. The two women stay.
In a flashback, we learn that after Janine had her son Caleb, she got pregnant again and visited a crisis pregnancy center, where a worker tried to manipulate her into keeping the baby. Ultimately, Janine finds a legitimate clinic to help her obtain the abortion.
Back in Canada, Rita (Amanda Brugel) finds out that Serena wants to see her. When Rita goes to visit, Serena shares that she’s pregnant with a son and won’t be telling Fred. The two have a genuine moment together, but afterwards, Rita discovers that Serena now wants Rita to defend her in court. In response, Rita goes to see Fred and tells him about the baby.
Episode 5: “Chicago”
As the title would suggest, much of this week’s episode takes place in Chicago, where Janine is continuing her relationship with Steven, and June is itching to fight back against the Gilead soldiers. Eventually, June decides to leave the camp to try and find the Nighthawks, another rebel group that's been confronting Gilead forces. At first Janine chooses to stay behind, but then catches up to June, telling her, “I feel safer when we’re together.”
In Gilead, Aunt Lydia is being forced into retirement and, naturally, isn’t taking it well. She goes to see Commander Lawrence to make a deal. Lawrence agrees to arrange for Aunt Lydia’s reinstatement, if she’ll give him dirt on the other Commanders so Lawrence can get his seat back on the board.
Meanwhile, Lawrence is trying to convince the other Commanders to impose a ceasefire in Chicago to allow in international aid, all under the guise of trying to improve Gilead’s economy. (In reality, Lawrence tells Nick a ceasefire could help June escape.) The Commanders agree, with a catch—they instruct Nick to coordinate a bombing right before the ceasefire deadline.
In Chicago, June and Janine are in the streets when the bombing begins. When June wakes up, she can’t find Janine. Instead, Moira (Samira Wiley), who’s there with a Canadian NGO, finds June.
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