The Handmaid’s Tale is, without a single uncertainty, one of the most incredible, exhilarating series. The fans were forced to wait a year for a fourth season as the pandemic affected the entertainment industry, but now that it finally arrived – what a season it is! With seven episodes in, June finally gets a breath of sweet, sweet freedom after escaping the walls of Gilead. She finds herself standing at the edge of the ship’s entrance as the sixth episode, “Vows,” concludes; one more step and she will be untouchable.
The next episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Home,” is unlike any other in the series. June is free. After years of oppression, constant rape, and violence, the former Handmaid can finally go to the store and buy a bag of Doritos if she so desires. The episode also demonstrates that, while her body is free, her mind is not. June suffers from PTSD and experiences flashbacks that appear out of nowhere, but instead of seeking help, she is clearly on the path to vengeance and anger. Nevertheless, both fans and critics awaited this momemt. We were there when Moss’ character was kidnapped, and we cheered her on when she devised new and better escape plans.
“Home” is full of touching moments and reunions. Luke isn’t the only one who has been waiting for his wife, Moira and Emily also warmly welcome June. Even Nichole, despite being a baby, appears to be more content, finally reuniting with her mother. However, one encounter causes our eyes to widen, and our jaws to drop to the floor rather than forcing us to smile. June won’t pass up the opportunity to visit her tormentors. When the sun goes down, June sneaks out of her new home and calls for a taxi.
The next scene only intensifies minute by minute after realizing that she’s going to see Serena. One might think that she specifically chooses to see her and not Fred, her rapist, because she knows she can affect her and play on her fears. Serena is beyond relieved to see June and wholeheartedly believes that God brought her there so she can make amends. But June promptly corrects her. Everything turns after that.
“I brought myself here so I could tell you how much I hate you. You don’t deserve to make amends. The only thing that you deserve is a life full of suffering and shame. You have destroyed my life, my family, my friends, my country, and my child. There is no one less worthy of redemption than you,” she says. Serena begins crying after that, which is an unusual sight for the viewers. The character is known to demand, yell, and smile even, but not cry. Serena then does something unexpected; she kneels in front of June and begs for forgiveness. June, on the other hand, remains unconcerned. Filled with pure venom and strange satisfaction, she strikes where she knows will cause the most pain.
“Do you know why God made you pregnant?” June asks. “So when he kills that baby inside your womb, you will feel a fraction of the pain that you caused us when you tore our children from our arms! Do you understand me?” she grabs Serena’s jaw, “Do you understand me?!” she shouts in her face and leaves her on the floor, sobbing.
The scene is exceptionally detailed and mastered by Yahlin Chang, the writer, and Richard Shephard, the director. Every detail contributes to it being strangely satisfying, shocking, and outright violent. The power dynamic shifts dramatically. June now wields all of the power. Her newly discovered strength is also visible in the way she stands in front of Serena. Despite her shorter stature, the woman feels far more powerful than the former Wife, who bawls in front of her.
The scene, particularly the last sentence, feels eerily familiar. When we return to the first season and its third episode, “Late,” we can relive another of the Handmaid and Wife’s many encounters. June suspects that she is pregnant, and she tells Serena about it. “You’re here, you’re my miracle,” Serena says. But the atmosphere quickly turns into something more vicious when June reveals that she isn’t, in fact, pregnant. Serena yanks her by the wrist and throws her into the room, causing June to fall on the floor. “You will stay here and you will not leave this room. Do you understand me?”
Serena then aggressively comes towards her, kneels above lying, scared June, and yells, “do you understand me?!” The scene is extremely passionate and, quite frankly, brutal. Yvonne Strahovski repeatedly highlighted that it’s one of her favorite scenes with Elisabeth Moss.
When we compare the scene from the most recent episode to the one mentioned above from the first season, we can’t help but think about Serena’s character coming full circle. As mentioned in my previous feature for Awards Watch, this only serves to highlight the works of karma. The parallels in both scenes appear to have been carefully planned, except that who holds power has shifted. Not only June’s attitude and rage but also Serena’s shocking, unusual emotions create an excellent, well-crafted dynamic between these two characters. Even a noticeable change in their hairstyles signifies the difference. June has a bun, just like Serena had before.
Serena and June’s scene is one of the most brutal and exhilarating of the season. It’s both literal and metaphorical. It may represent a variety of things, but the most crucial is the transfer of power. It also clearly illustrates and summarizes Serena’s actions and where they led her. Serena’s gumption, however got her out of other sticky situations before. In the following scene, she visits Fred and proposes an alliance. June may have hurt Serena and made her cry, but she certainly also proved that she would need to work with Fred to have any standing chance in the trial.
By reversing the usual dynamic between Moss and Strahovski, we are left with many mixed feelings about sobbing Serena, who begs for forgiveness, and emotionless June, who wants nothing more than to inflict pain on the Waterfords. The scene is surely deserving of praise and recognition during this year’s Emmy season. It would be fantastic if Strahovski and Moss were nominated and possibly won. “Home” finally brought them together on-screen; the actresses undeniably reminded viewers not only of their phenomenal talent but also of the unique chemistry that exists between the characters, making them one of the most interesting aspects of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Handmaid’s Tale is available for streaming on Hulu.