The Handmaid's Tale: The Wilderness
June 16, 2021 10:38 AM - Season 4, Episode 10 - Subscribe

June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice.
posted by roolya_boolya (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This ep was brilliant in building the will-she-or-won't-she tension. Genius how June played it to not only get what she wanted but also rescue many in the process.

Got a real B5 And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place vibe from the climactic scene.
posted by kokaku at 12:11 PM on June 16, 2021 [4 favorites]


Fred yelling "I'm a man, I have rights" was one of the most chilling pieces of fiction I've seen this week, because of course there's some men who really believe that.

Am I the only one who thought June might have sex with Fred in that scene in the latter's apartment prison? Either way, it was very odd that June could just tell the guard to go, aka leave the prisoner and his publicly known enemy alone.

Why was June leaving, at the end?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:40 PM on June 16, 2021


It was so satisfying to see Fred come undone and the women get their revenge but the episode as a whole left me unsettled for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.

I think June was leaving because she killed someone. I guess even doing it in no man's land could have consequences.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:52 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]


June left because her interactions with Luke boiled down to let go of her rage or repair the relationship and she chose rage. She came home from murdering Fred with her choice literally written on her face.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:35 PM on June 16, 2021 [5 favorites]


It also felt like June couldn't pretend to the ways that Luke wanted things to be normal. Even though she was laughing at his jokes about Boston, in her heart, Boston means something else entirely. For example, Fenway Park is where they were tortured with the fake hanging in s2e1 (for refusing to stone Janine). How does she move on from that?
posted by kokaku at 3:03 PM on June 16, 2021 [11 favorites]


This episode may have redeemed the entire mess that was season 3.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first non-documentary piece that Liz Garbus has directed & now I think she should direct all the things. She has a good horror movie in her (this was basically a horror movie).

Actual things happened! I liked this a lot!

I hope next season is less about June and more about Janine and tiny murder wife. Or about June, Janine and tiny murder wife.
posted by edencosmic at 5:23 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]


Ah, was thinking June thought she had to go for legal reasons. But the murder and torture occurred in no man's land, after Fred had been handed over to Gilead. Though sending his cut off finger through the mail system probably breaks some law.

The horror though, is that Gilead is winning in terms of June's mental state and health (and others). That doesn't mean she can't or won't dish it out obviously. Gilead will pay for what it did to June, even if it costs her everything. The only question left is how far will June go.

Interesting how Hannah's name never came up in the negotiations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on June 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Having "nolite te bastardes carborundorum" graffittied under Fred's hanging body was a nice touch.
posted by kokaku at 7:12 PM on June 16, 2021 [6 favorites]


Oh my god I was also so worried that she was going to have sex with Fred. I kept waiting for the murdering to happen.

I thought Luke's reaction was interesting in contrast to June at that moment. This is very much not her first time leading a group of women in beating a man to death. This is essentially her therapy that she's used before. This is normal to her, and Luke is horrified. This is who she is now and the old June is gone.
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:11 AM on June 17, 2021 [3 favorites]


June left because her interactions with Luke boiled down to let go of her rage or repair the relationship and she chose rage.

Yeah, I think "I'll go" was intentionally ambiguous, but I doubt that June would have led all those other handwives/marthas into a situation in which they were in legal peril for murder (purely for the sake of vengeance that is--obviously she'd led plenty of people into peril before, for other reasons). Her saying "I'll go" was an acknowledgement that she'd crossed a line she knew would alienate her from Luke (and Moira). You could see it earlier in the way she looked back at Luke, Moira, and Hannah framed in the house window, and then turned away.

Interesting how her murderous intent was telegraphed last week, only directed at Tuello rather than Fred. Her rage wasn't really at Tuello. She might despise him, but she understood he was just an agent and for that matter that she could still work with him. (Tuello's a twerp, though. His infatuation with Serena is absurd. What does he think he's going to do, reform a war criminal and then have a relationship with her? Gross!)

Why did June go to see Fred? Was there a purpose other than the storytelling drama of letting them have one last face-to-face? Despite the voiceovers, she really wasn't in a position at that point where she needed to gain his trust. I guess it worked--especially along with her kissing Nick--as a final "fuck you," but was there more of a point than that?

I guess we're supposed to assume that Lawrence was in on the plan to release Fred to June et al? I don't quite see what explanation Nick gives to Gilead about what happened. The prisoner exchange had been officially negotiated and wasn't a secret.
posted by torticat at 6:30 AM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]


For example, Fenway Park is where they were tortured with the fake hanging in s2e1 (for refusing to stone Janine). How does she move on from that?

Great point, kokaku, I hadn't caught that. Yeah, pretty grim. Just one little example of how Luke thinks he has some understanding of what June has been through, but can't even have a casual conversation with her without making an incredibly triggering comment. And she doesn't tell him. She has withheld all these details--he doesn't know, and she can't explain, so of course communication between them is impossible.
posted by torticat at 6:40 AM on June 17, 2021 [3 favorites]


Why did June go to see Fred?


To see if she really wanted to bring her Offred self back, and to get her dander up. If he’d truly reformed in any meaningful sense, this was his opportunity to show it.

Instead he said the things “I didn’t think I’d ever hear you say” (paraphrasing) and knew it was just words.
posted by tilde at 6:54 AM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]


Although this season has stretched credulity to its limits with people popping over the border and back willy-nilly without, apparently, consequence (other than for Janine), I thought this finale was great. Joseph Fiennes' acting was so good, as a man who's been untouchable for so long finally being held accountable in the best way possible. His fear was palpable.

Serena showed herself to be the real power (another superb performance), and I think her demands of Tuello might have been the point where he realised that she and Fred needed to be stopped. They were part of the main architects of Gilead, and the support they've had in Canada must have been unsettling.

The ending was so good, a night-time version of the scene in Season 1 where the handmaids tore the rapist to pieces.

I, too, am surprised that Hannah wasn't part of the deal, but this leads us to Season 5, which I'm sure will focus on June's attempts to get her out, possibly with the help of Janine and/or Nick.
posted by essexjan at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2021


Ah crap this was the season finale?
posted by tilde at 1:07 PM on June 17, 2021


I guess we're supposed to assume that Lawrence was in on the plan to release Fred to June et al? I don't quite see what explanation Nick gives to Gilead about what happened. The prisoner exchange had been officially negotiated and wasn't a secret.

The Commanders were probably quite happy to have Waterford back and not talking. Since he betrayed them they were also ok with the Eyes killing him. Though having it publicly known that women killed and tortured him wouldn't sit well and Nick would have some explaining to do.

But this show isn't exactly about the logic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:23 PM on June 17, 2021


Fred suggesting to Serena that they Zoom once he arrives in Geneva made me howl- talk about getting your dystopias crossed. Bravo to the writer on that line.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:53 AM on June 18, 2021 [7 favorites]


I guess we're supposed to assume that Lawrence was in on the plan to release Fred to June et al?
It won't be enough, you know.
Whatever happens to him if we get him, won't be enough for you.
Those words practically screamed subtext; I definitely got the feeling Lawrence was making sure that, if June wasn't already planning something, that she would be after their conversation. Whether he was actively involved in what followed or just stepped aside and allowed things to proceed is less certain, but he made it clear Fred's safety after the trade was not a priority for him.
posted by myotahapea at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


The horror though, is that Gilead is winning in terms of June's mental state and health (and others).

Yeah, that's what I really felt about this: there's no escape from Gilead for anyone. Maybe Moira has truly escaped. But this season has been all about whenever the end of Gilead comes, the damage it's done will last so much longer. For the adults who made it out, the children who were rescued on the angel flight, Gilead doesn't leave them.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first non-documentary piece that Liz Garbus has directed & now I think she should direct all the things.

I don't know that name, but the final sequence was so terrifying and beautifully made, I have to agree. And the final shot from above, the handmaids still in formation, observing their training.

We're at a place where there could be a time jump next season. I'd love if we got Hannah's story incorporated into this and the writing started to pull from Atwood's The Testaments.
posted by gladly at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2021


Is there any chance Tuello is the father of Serena's baby?
posted by mefireader at 4:18 PM on June 19, 2021


I almost assumed Tuello is
posted by tilde at 6:04 PM on June 19, 2021


That was the strong hint over the last X episodes. This show’s version of subtlety that Serena wasn’t Kubrick staring into the camera being asked about the baby’s parentage.

Not sure how it’s relevant anymore with Fred dead, other than her being even more of a pariah in Gilead and to her weirdo followers.
posted by supercres at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]


Well we finally got the visceral revenge we've been waiting for since the very first episode of this show. I loved the tension building up to it. Good lord no I didn't think June was going to have sex with Fred in his prison condo. I was waiting for her to pull scissors out from her coat and stab him in the eye! The long build, the tension, the rage in her face and her heart. I really enjoyed her clever double cross, first putting Fred back in Gilead's "justice" system and then just straight up rending the flesh from his face with her teeth. Nasty and awful and brutal but also at least for once the right people were the victims.

But then the emotional cost of that. June's going to live with that rage for the rest of her life. She's never going to rest. I am sad for her but I also find it sort of hopeful. I was originally going to say "June is broken" but she's not really. She's effective, and purposeful. It's cost her a lot of her soul and her husband and her second child. But she has found her role in the world and she will make it a better place.

I guess I'm going to have to stop mocking useless Nick; he was useful, actually. I went so far in comments in the last episode as to accuse him of setting June up for betrayal. I guess I'm wrong. I also read her kisses with him very differently now. I thought she was just manipulating him, stringing him along, but I think she genuinely has transferred her need for love and sexuality from Luke to Nick. And a good choice for that. Luke can't understand or handle who June is now. Nick probably can't either. But at least Nick understands her trauma. And Nick is apparently going to help June seek revenge on Gilead and get her daughter back. It all makes sense.

The big loose end for me now is Serena. She's still got more story left. She needs a reckoning too. The show has continued to waffle on whether she's sympathetic or not and I like that ambiguity; she's both trapped by Gilead and a willing agent for it. But June is not going to give a shit that Serena lost a finger or her individuality. June is going to get revenge for Serena's cruelty, and participation in her rape, and manipulation of her through her children.

As a practical plot point, who were the women who came to beat Fred to death? For a brief moment I thought they were the newly freed prisoners but that doesn't make much sense and is also sort of emotionally hideous. All those women need that night is to get to safety. Did June recruit 20 or so women from Canada for them all to come? I guess it started in the weekly group therapy session?
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


Is there any chance Tuello is the father of Serena's baby?

FWIW, I haven't watched this show since ... well, IIRC June had got Nichole out and was on the cusp of freedom at the border only to turn round and go back into Gilead, so, whenever that was? -- and just happened to catch this episode. So I'm coming in not knowing any of the backstory, and that convo between he and Serena about her and Fred and the baby going off somewhere and being a family had some big Jilted Lover Energy from Canada Guy. I absolutely assumed he was the father of the baby.

As a practical plot point, who were the women who came to beat Fred to death?

I definitely saw Emily in there, so I'm guessing it was Gilead refugees June had got to know once she arrived in Canada. I gather she was attending some sort of therapy/support group, likely some handpicked candidates were given the offer of a bit of retribution.
posted by myotahapea at 10:13 AM on June 20, 2021


As a practical plot point, who were the women who came to beat Fred to death?

1. Any number of women would have been ok with beating a Commander to death.
2. This is not a show for practical plot points.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


My understanding of Serena's baby is as follows:

- Serena was assumed to be barren, due to the injury she suffered when she was shot after giving a lecture in the pre-Gilead days (seen in a flashback scene in an earlier series).

- because sex is for procreation (ignoring the hypocrisy of Jezebels), if a wife is barren in Gilead, she has no sexual relations with her husband. Serena had her own section of the house and her own bedroom, and we never saw her share a bed with Fred or have any other intimacy.

- but when they were heading to Canada, Fred and Serena stopped at that B&B place with that weird family, and it was there that they had sex and the baby was conceived.

I don't see Tuello as the baby's father at all.
posted by essexjan at 9:32 AM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


We're pretty sure Fred is infertile, though, because June needed to sleep with the driver in order to conceive. Serena was blamed in Gilead because the religious orthodoxy does not acknowledge the possibility of male infertility. Infertility is a curse brought on by allowing the world to become sinful. Sin comes from women. Thus it is proven that failure to conceive is always the fault of the woman.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


So I'm coming in not knowing any of the backstory, and that convo between he and Serena about her and Fred and the baby going off somewhere and being a family had some big Jilted Lover Energy from Canada Guy. I absolutely assumed he was the father of the baby.

So, I'm weirdly obsessed with the way the show writes Serena. One of the things I've noticed is that the way other characters refer to her is really important. There's a distinction between Serena and Mrs. Waterford. In that conversation with Tuello, he calls her Mrs. Waterford until he mentions that she'll be living with the Commander as husband and wife, and he says something like, "Can you explain that to me, Serena?" To me, that's a dead giveaway that there's more between them.
posted by gladly at 12:18 PM on June 21, 2021


We're pretty sure Fred is infertile, though, because June needed to sleep with the driver in order to conceive.

So as soon as it was announced I had feared that Serena’s pregnancy—if Fred were the father—might have thrown Nicole’s parentage in doubt, if it weren’t impossible for Fred to have been the sperm depositor, and that was going to be the next drama coming down the pike. With Fred hanging in the woods now, and Nicole’s biological mother excusing herself to go out for a pack of cigarettes and possibly never coming back, I still wonder if there’s some angle here for Serena/Gilead to attempt once again to lay claim to Nicole if she’s actually biologically Fred’s.
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:06 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Fred calling Nick "son" made me laugh.
posted by luckynerd at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]




Oh that Bruce Miller interview is great. A non-spoiler bit about Joe Fiennes
He's the most lovely man, generous actor, such a professional. He is the nicest man stuck playing the most horrible person. I think at the end of every season, he shaves that beard off quite quickly. He's an absolutely lovely man whose two adorable little daughters both call me sir. So he's 100 percent in my book.
Fred is such a despicable character and Fiennes plays it so well I'm not sure I can imagine the actor in any other kind of role. But that's hardly fair to the actor! I recall now he was in FlashForward. I liked the show a lot but I don't remember him so much, which is a bit awkward since he is one of the main characters.
posted by Nelson at 4:10 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Just one little example of how Luke thinks he has some understanding of what June has been through, but can't even have a casual conversation with her without making an incredibly triggering comment.

I always love what they do with Luke, because it’s so perfect as the guy who’s Trying, who Thinks He Knows, who Thinks He’s One Of The Good Ones. And here, after he should know better, after it was his complacency until too late that got his family into the situation in the first place, he is still doing it. He is still thinking of June as a person for him, rather than thinking “How can I do right by June?”
posted by corb at 1:24 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


Tuello/Serena never made much sense to me - this show doesn't do anything consequential off-screen, and while the two of them had a few interesting moments chemistry-wise, there's never been anything beyond that I can recall.

The final scene was harrowing and well-deserved. I half-wondered if they had managed to return to the very spot that June and Hannah were originally captured, but maybe it was too close to the border for that. Very interesting that we don't get to see Serena receiving any sort of news - as far as the outside world is concerned, Fred was returned to the border. From within Gilead, I assume that being taken by The Eyes means you're effectively vanished, and I imagine that's all she's going to ever hear unless June pays her a visit. Or do we think the guy actually delivered the finger? That seems unlikely, but...

It'll be very interesting to see if (or how) next season, which I assume to be the last of this show, is set up to lead into The Testaments.
posted by jquinby at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2021


Did anyone else get maenad/bacchae vibes from Fred's murder? A group of mad women (or women possessed by their god) in the woods hunting and tearing a man apart, and even consuming his flesh (when June bit him). I thought this in the first season scene where they beat the supposed criminal to death at Aunt Lydia's command. I might be reading too much into it, but I thought it was interesting.

My partner and I have watched the whole series over the last 6 weeks or so. I think this finale was my favorite episode.
posted by torisaur at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Somewhere in one of these comments someone refers to Mrs. Keyes as Tiny Murder Wife, and red robe or no, now I just think of her as Tiny Murder Wife. More focus on Tiny Murder Wife in Season 5 would make for a great sub-plot.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 6:24 AM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


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