June struggles to free her mind of Fred for her family as the Commander and his wife find themselves on the verge of total immunity in exchange for information on Gilead.
This entire season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been about June trying to reconcile her years in Gilead, compartmentalize them if possible and figure out how to live no that she’s free.
It’s far, far harder to overcome trauma and be able to move on with even a semblance of who you once were than many people realize. In this season finale, June is trying desperately to do that, finding some solace in the fact that Emily — who was mutilated during her time as a Handmaid — has as much anger as she does.
She acknowledges and understands that she has miraculously made it out of Gilead alive, she got her daughter Nichole out, she knows where Hannah is. These are monumental achievements that are a testament to her strength, ingenuity and tenacity.
But just as those are her strengths, they’ve come at a tremendous price. At the close of last week’s penultimate episode, we saw June at her absolute most unhinged, completely out of control and threatening to kill U.S. intelligence officer, Mark Tuello.
This was in reaction to finding out that the U.S. had just agreed to negotiate total freedom for Fred Waterford in exchange for the wealth of information he can offer them. June’s captor, her rapist, the man who destroyed her life in multiple ways was looking at total freedom. How could that be okay?
June tried within the system to get them to change their minds by offering a blistering testimony against the man and what she endured, but it was for naught. He was more valuable an asset than her pain and suffering. For the greater good and all that.
What they didn’t quite seem to realize was that this was June “f——” Osborn they were dealing with here. The woman who orchestrated Angel’s Flight from within Gilead where she seemingly had no power at all. That’s what she could do from there.
This week, we learned what she can do from out here. We also learned what GIlead had made of her, and it’s hard to say if there’s any coming back from that kind of emotional damage. And for June, she had that opportunity.
She could say goodbye, let Fred go and move on with her life. Just shut him out, she survived him. Let his life serve that greater good that might make it easier to free Hannah from the clutches of Gilead. Maybe she could have done that.
But then Fred apologized to her for what he’d put her through, and as we saw in flashbacks, she was there all over again. In visceral moments we saw how she took herself away from her body during the rapes, we saw that tension and fear as he approached, we saw again that lack of control.
With as different as this season has been, it’s easy to forget just how visceral and raw those early seasons were as June was subjected to horrific crimes against her body, her mind, her freedom, her very being over and over again. His own wife wasn’t spared his callous behavior, not that Serena is any better a human being.
That reminder helped us to understand the depths of her rage, but still, what is the right thing to do here? If you’re June f-ing Osborn, it’s to orchestrate a last-minute trade with GIlead (through Joseph) to free 22 Resistance fighters believed dead who’d been captured in Gilead in exchange for Fred.
And then — and then, it’s to coordinate with Nick and Joseph together to have the Eyes take Fred into custody and then conveniently “lose” him in what’s known as No Man’s Land. Well, by the end of the episode, it was one man’s land. It was Fred and June. And then it was Fred and June and a dozen or more other former Handmaids.
It was time for Fred’s reckoning. June had lamented that she couldn’t let Fred go, no matter how much she wanted to. Him being imprisoned, him even being executed wasn’t even enough for her. What she wanted was for him to know the fear she had know for all those years.
And so, she told him to “run” as the women gave chase. And then they literally beat him to death, with June going so savage as to bite a chunk off of his face. This is how visceral her rage was, and that’s terrifying. Would this be enough to assuage it? We’re not so sure.
It wasn’t enough to kill Fred, though, she sent a message to Serena as well. Serena thought Fred was off to Geneva to secure their ultimate freedom. Instead, she received in the mail his wedding ring … and his severed finger.
Truthfully, she may never receive these things as security intercepted them, but it’s telling as to just how far down that rabbit hole June is that she even sent these objects. At the end of the episode, Serena does not yet know that Fred is dead. Clearly, the aftermath of his death and what comes next for June’s other tormenter is the stuff of Season 5.
Will June orchestrate a similar grisly fate for Serena? Will Serena’s pregnancy have any impact on June’s wrath? By the end of this episode, we were not at all convinced that June was satisfied as she hoped she might be with Fred dead. And we already know she has as much rage and hatred for Serena, whom she once considered an ally.
But we also know that Serena is a genuine sociopath, who flows wherever the wind is at her back to benefit her own agenda, and she is possibly the smartest character on the show. Fred was victim to his own ego, weakness and insecurity. Serena has no such weaknesses. She may prove a far more worthy adversary.
As a fellow designer of Gilead, she could well prove as potent a source of information as Fred was before his deal fell apart. And as the “wife” who was also mutilated by her husband and GIlead — and pregnant to boot — it might be even easier for her to secure her own freedom in exchange for that information.
A free Serena could well pose a far more difficult challenge for June. But then, is that what the back half of this series is to be, June exacting revenge on all those who wronged her? Who does that satisfy? Will it even satisfy her? What about Hannah?
Are there political repercussions for her having killed Fred? The U.S. seems satisfied with the prison exchange and Gilead is likely satisfied that Fred has shut up, so that may be something she gets away with officially. But what about personally? Luke was horrified just speculating what she might have done. And what about Moira, who just wanted to put it all past them.
She was already put off by June hijacking her support group to make it a group for fueling rage. And now that rage has led to more than a dozen women committing a rather grisly murder. They are all murderers. Sure, their rage is justified, but is this murder? Even if they get away with it, can they live with it? What if one decides to turn herself in?
Beyond all of that, there’s still the issue of Gilead itself. Viewers would love to see Gilead toppled and the U.S. re-established by series end, but that may be a pipe dream. We may not even get Hannah out of Gilead by the end. But can we at least get June into a better place by then, or is it too late for her, too?
“The Handmaid’s Tale” has already been renewed for a fifth season, so there’s still time. But is there enough?
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