With its fourth season, The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t pulling any punches. Following a gruesome torture sequence in which June escaped the clutches of Gilead once again, our hero and fellow handmaid Janine find themselves on the run in Episode 4 — if not to Canada, then at least Chicago, the heart of the rebellion.
But what they find on the frontlines is nothing like what they expected. Here’s what you need to know about this shock revelation, and how it changes June’s fight forever.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 4, Episode 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale!
In Episode 4, “Milk,” June and Janine sneak onto a train filled with... well, milk. Shivering in cold, dairy-soaked clothes, June and Janine debate the merits of freedom, with different definitions of the word. It’s something that comes into sharp focus as soon as they meet their next obstacle: a group of rebels with no name, who are shocked to see handmaids so close to a warzone. Reassured by June that they are not on Gilead’s side, the rebel leader, Steven, takes them back to the group’s headquarters in Chicago, now reduced to ruin.
The headquarters is bustling, and all the civilians of the group are understandably concerned over these walking symbols of Gilead mingling in their new group. Steven almost turns them away, as food is scarce, but June assures him they can be useful. Now it’s the definition of the word “useful” that differs, as Steven only knows handmaids as sex slaves — and that’s how he figures June will earn her keep.
In this moment, June learns these fighters aren’t members of Mayday at all, just a scavenger crew trying to fight back against Gilead, but even more focused on their own survival in the midst of a new economy. This new system relies on bartering goods like the red handmaid cloaks and, unfortunately for June, other services.
When June asks Steven if they’re Mayday, his answer is even more surprising than “no.” He replies “What’s Mayday?” This is why this new, unnamed group is so important to June’s journey. She’s realizing the world is bigger than just her fight with Gilead. There are whole groups who are just focused on surviving without worrying about the bigger picture.
For some people, like Janine, living outside Gilead is enough. They don’t need to topple down the system that runs the rest of America. They simply want three meals a day and a safe place to sleep. That’s freedom for them.
But for June, her mission won’t be accomplished until she’s reunited with her daughter who is still within Gilead’s rule, and takes down the entire system. In the pilot of the show, June says she intends to survive. Now, she’s surrounded by those with the same intention, but she’s not satisfied. Now, surviving isn’t enough. June intends to thrive.
The Handmaid’s Tale is now streaming on Hulu.