The first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 have dropped (praise be!), and oh my GOD is there a lot to unpack in just those first few hours. Just when you think the show can’t throw you any more curveballs, IT CAN.
Season 3 left us on a major cliff-hanger with June getting shot after she managed to get a plane full of 80-something children and a few Marthas out of Gilead, so the newest season really started off with a bang. Whether you’ve seen the new episodes and want a review of everything you just witnessed or you haven’t seen them yet and are just in search of spoilers (hey, no judgment here), here’s every key moment from the first three episodes of the new season.
Season 4, Episode 1: “Pigs”
June and the Handmaids hide out at a farm.
Post airplane full of kids and June getting shot, she and the other Handmaids are trying to hide out safely. They eventually get to a farm where they can pretend to be Marthas working the fields while they figure out their next move. The Wife who lives there, Mrs. Keyes, is a young teenager who just so happens to be a June superfan. She asks June a million questions about what the plan is and seems super eager to dive in: “I want to hurt them so badly—Gilead, the men.” And while all this is going down, June is trying to recover from her gunshot wound, having to use things like homemade penicillin and oils.
The Waterfords find out about the plane full of children.
Up in Canada, the Waterfords, who are being held in custody, are informed of the plane carrying roughly 80 Gilead children that landed in Toronto. Fred cautions that if they don’t return the kids to Gilead, it could start a war.
Aunt Lydia faces the Commanders and is stripped of her duties.
Since it’s a group of her Handmaids who were responsible for getting the children out, Aunt Lydia has to face the music and is brought before a panel of Commanders, who inform her that her services as an active Aunt will no longer be required. Poor Lydia…JK!
Commander Lawrence is seemingly sentenced to death.
Lawrence is being held and gets a visit from Nick, where he repeatedly thanks him for his “service to Gilead” after a trial was held (without Lawrence even being present), where it was implied he was found guilty. He also questions Nick’s plans to invade Canada and encourages him to take a diplomatic route.
The young Mrs. Keyes opens up about being raped.
After losing it at dinner a bit and forcing Janine to eat the pig she had befriended, June lays into the young Mrs. Keyes about her treatment of these women who had already experienced enough trauma. Then, in a heartbreaking scene, Mrs. Keyes opens up to June about how her Commander husband would bring in other men to let them have sex with his underage Wife, saying, “Wives have bad things too.” If you haven’t already watched this scene, then have some tissues ready.
Nick gets Lawrence out of jail.
Just when it seems like Lawrence is being brought to his death, Nick takes him to a room to get a shave and tells him he’s been enlisted as a consultant on Gilead’s military response to Canada keeping the children.
Mrs. Keyes kills Guardian Pogue.
The young mistress has Guardian Pogue apprehended for coming onto their property, and she soon reveals that Pogue, aka Johnny, was one of the men who raped her. They string him up in the barn, where June has a mini Gilead-esque trial of sorts and lays out his crimes of treason against the United States and repeatedly raping a child, then sentences him to death. She leaves Mrs. Keyes to take care of it and is all “good girl” and “make me proud,” which, TBH, was way too Aunt Lydia–ish for my liking.
Season 4, Episode 2: “Nightshade”
Guardians show up at the farm looking for Pogue.
Of course, when a Guardian goes missing, the other Guardians are going to try to find the missing guy. So they come to the farm asking to speak to the Marthas. Mrs. Keyes lies and says they’re all out hard at work, so the Guardians say they’ll come back later. June tells her the fact that they’re coming back means she has to leave, so she and the other Handmaids start planning where they’re going to go.
Serena considers turning on Fred.
Her team advises her that the best approach is to show she was a victim of Fred’s, but Serena isn’t totally comfortable with that, saying she wasn’t abused “exactly,” whatever the heck that means.
Mrs. Keyes asks to leave with June.
This poor girl has been through so much terrible crap that she begs June to take her with her while they’re planning their exit. June also finds out in this scene that Mrs. Keyes has been poisoning her disgusting husband and asks her to show her how to make the poison.
Not all the Gilead kids are happy to be in Canada.
Moira, who’s been working to reunite Gilead kids with their real families, goes to the home of one of the recently rescued kids and finds out that he is less than happy to be there. He says he misses his home, his (adoptive Gilead) parents, and his Martha. Moira eventually gets Rita to go over to the kid’s house and spend time with him and make him some Gilead food so that he feels more at home.
June wreaks havoc at Jezebel’s.
With the poison in hand, June heads over to Jezebel’s and gets the women there to serve up deadly drinks to all the men in the club, carrying out what we can only assume is a mass murder.
Serena is pregnant!!
The impossible became freakin’ possible, because Serena Joy is pregnant! While she’s being held in Toronto, she has to do a health exam. They tested her, and turns out she has a bun in the oven. She gets to hear the news from Tuello (aka the man who arrested her), which isn’t the most conventional way to find out you’re having a baby.
June gets captured AGAIN.
For what seems like the zillionth time, June gets recaptured by Gilead forces, but this time, Nick is there to apprehend her. She gets back to the farm after her trip to Jezebel’s to find that it’s been totally surrounded by Gilead troops. Nick tells her that he’s trying to keep her alive and she comes with him.
Season 4, Episode 3: “The Crossing”
June is tortured for information.
June gets berated by Aunt Lydia for taking all the children, but that’s nothing compared to the literal torture the creepy Lieutenant inflicts on her by strapping her down on a table and waterboarding her.
June calls out Aunt Lydia and she can’t handle it.
In a scene that ALMOST makes you think Aunt Lydia might have actual human feelings, June tells her that she failed at protecting the girls, letting them get raped and beaten, and she even tells her that her fave girl Janine turned on her “in a fucking second.” Lydia loses it, screaming at June to “shut your mouth.” This lady is the definition of someone who is able to dish it out but can’t take it.
The creepy Lieutenant kills two Marthas.
In another attempt to get June to give up the missing Handmaids’ location, the Lieutenant threatens to push two Marthas off the roof. One bravely tells her not to say a thing (which gets her immediately sent to her death), while the other, much younger Martha seems terrified but eventually comes around to the idea that she’s going to have to die to save the Handmaids, and she too gets pushed off. And when that whole stunt doesn’t work at getting June to talk, she’s shoved into a tiny box and kept there.
June finds out just how many Commanders she killed with her poisoning.
While sharing a meal with Commander Lawrence, he tells June that six commanders are dead and another nine are in the hospital after some “bad liquor” was served up at Jezebel’s. He doesn’t say it but seems to imply that he knows June had something to do with it.
Hannah’s safety is threatened.
June’s daughter Hannah is brought in to be dangled in front of her, with some threats that Hannah will be hurt if June doesn’t say where the Handmaids went. It’s a totally heartbreaking scene because Hannah doesn’t seem to recognize her own mom and seems pretty scared of her. With Hannah being the one thing June still cares about, she gives up the Handmaids’ location and they get captured.
There’s an even more effed-up new kind of colony.
Lydia tells June that all the offending Handmaids are being sent to a new place called a Magdalene Colony, which is essentially a breeding colony where the Handmaids will have to work all day and then be visited by their Commander and his Wife when it’s time to perform the ceremony.
June and the girls escape (again!).
The Handmaids, en route to the colony, attack Lydia inside the transport van and all get out. But some of them are shot while running away. And sadly, June’s buddies Alma and Brianna don’t make it across the train tracks in time and get hit by the oncoming train. Only June and Janine make it across safely and are on the run once again.
Season 4, Episode 5: “Milk”
June and Janine catch a train to Chicago.
After making it away from Aunt Lydia and the transport driver, June tells Janine they’re going to follow the train tracks and head west. They stumble upon a parked train that’s heading to Chicago, which June says she heard is still a war front. They sneak their way onto one of the cargo containers and hop down in through the roof hatch, only to find the car is full of cold milk. But June manages to find a drain plug and turns the car lactose-free.
Rita pays Serena a visit.
Serena asks Rita to come see her, and after much deliberation, Rita agrees. When she does go, Rita still weirdly calls Serena “Ma’am” (??). Serena shows Rita the sonogram of her baby and she quickly finds out Fred has zero clue he’s about to be a father. Serena also grossly assumes Rita will help her take care of the baby, saying, “It’s nice to have a friend,” as if she hadn’t held Rita as a slave for years.
We get Janine’s backstory.
In some flashback scenes, we find out that Janine, after having her first baby, got pregnant again. While seeking out an abortion, she accidentally ends up at a scary pro-birth clinic that tries to guilt her into having the baby. She eventually makes it to an actual compassionate doctor, who gets her the abortion medication she wants.
Serena wants Rita to speak in her defense.
As if assuming she would take care of her baby wasn’t enough, Serena then surprises Rita with a request to defend her to the International Criminal Court. She wants Rita to tell them that everything she did was under duress from Fred. It’s at this point that a very disturbed-looking Rita explains to Mark Tuello that in Gilead, she was officially considered property of the Waterfords and was registered to them as if she was a car.
Rita visits Fred and gives him a big surprise.
After everything she just went through, Rita is not here to play. She shows up for a meeting with Fred, and after reminding him that they aren’t friends, she says she doesn’t want to be in the middle of the hot mess he and Serena have created and hands over the sonogram, saying, “You deal with your family.” Fred tells Rita he was “never cruel” to her, as if that makes up for imprisoning her in his home? OKAY, FRED.
The Chicago train gets attacked.
While riding it out in the milk fridge container, June and Janine realize they’re under attack, and as June points out, if the people out there are attacking a Gilead train, they could be potential allies for them. So she and Janine climb out of the car to meet the attackers. After a bit of back-and-forth, they agree to let the two Handmaids come with them to their hideout.
They have to secure their safety with sex.
Once June and Janine get to the hideout, the head honcho of the whole operation goes from acting totally shocked that they were forced to be sex slaves to demanding one of them sleep with him in exchange for being allowed to stay there. At first, June agrees, but she can’t go through with it so Janine does it instead.
Season 4, Episode 5: "Chicago"
June asks to help with trading supplies.
The camp June and Janine are hiding out with are gearing up to trade with another camp and June asks to go. At first she's told "no," but then her and Janine are allowed to tag along. After a close call with some Gilead officers, they make it to the swap location. June and Janine trade in their old handmaids robes for a Chicago Cubs hat that Janine wants to give her new boo, Steven (aka the creepy dude that demanded one of them sleep with him that Janine seems to actually like now).
Aunt Lydia is real sad because she has no girls to control.
Everyone’s least favorite Aunt tries to tell her higher ups that she’s ready to get back in the field. But she’s very quickly told that the girls are no longer her concern, which she doesn’t seem too happy about 'cause she goes back to furiously power walking on the treadmill.
Lawrence pitches an idea to the Commanders.
Lawrence makes a play to call off some of the military attacks that Gilead is carrying out against the rebels and says they should send in humanitarian aid to hopefully get some of the economic sanctions against Gilead lifted. After being reminded that it was his handmaid who got all of those Gilead children out, the commanders vote against his proposal.
Sneaky Lydia finds a way to get reinstated.
Aunt Lydia meets with Lawrence and immediately starts blackmailing him with info about his involvement in Commander Winslow’s disappearance, and his collaboration with June. Lawrence says the only way he can help her get reinstated is if she gives him all the dirt she has on the other commanders so that he can get himself back to his previous status. Lydia agrees to it, on the condition that if June is caught, she is given to her directly to handle.
Nick tries to get info from the marthas about June.
Nick confronts two marthas to try to get some info about June. Although one of them advises him to stay far away from June, the other tips him off that two handmaids were seen heading into Chicago.
June wants to find the rebels but Janine wants to stay.
June is all about the fight, so obvi she wants to find the rebels. But Janine on the other hand wants to stay at the camp and try to have a normal life. And in a very sweet moment, Janine gives June the Cubs hat they traded their robes for.
JK! Janine is coming with June.
June gets spooked while walking down the road and ducks under an overturned car. Turns out the footsteps she was hearing were just Janine’s, who has decided she wants to come with June instead.
Lawrence uses his new-found blackmail to get what he wants.
He’s back on the council and has convinced the other commanders to pull their forces out of Chicago. Except there’s one little problem, Nick then gets put in charge of coordinating a bombing of Chicago just before the ceasefire deadline, which is extra bad since he knows June is likely there.
Chicago gets bombed.
In an eerie scene, June and Janine realize the Gilead soldiers have left their stations in a hurry, which June rightly assumes means something is very, very wrong. Planes start flying in overhead and let out a barrage of bombs.
Moira finds June.
In what may be the best few seconds in the entire series (yeah, I said what I said) June wakes up after the bombing only to see Moira coming through the smoke. Moira looks utterly shocked, like she can’t believe what she’s seeing. And if this ends up being some sort of concussed dream sequence then let me tell you there will be riots!
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