Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 below.
It’s been nearly two years since season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale ended, leaving viewers in limbo wondering about the fate of series lead June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss). In case you forgot, the last we saw, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) were both under arrest in Canada, and June had just been shot by a Guardian after successfully getting dozens of children onto a plane and out of Gilead.
Now, with season 4 currently airing, there are sure to be even more shocking plot twists ahead, and we’ll be compiling all the most important moments right here. Read on—or turn back now, if you don’t want spoilers for episodes 1-9.
Episode 1: “Pigs”
First things first: June is alive. Though she’s received some subpar medical care from the other Handmaids, June is now recovering at a safe house, a farm run by Mr. Keyes and his teenage wife, Esther (Mckenna Grace). One day, after June calls out Esther for being cruel to Janine (Madeline Brewer), we learn the awful truth behind Esther’s life at the house: Her husband isn’t able to procreate but still wants a baby, so he brings in other men—including Guardians, Commanders, and Eyes—to routinely rape her. When a drunk Guardian is then found trespassing on the farm, Esther reveals he’s one of the men who assaulted her. June instructs Esther to kill him in the barn, and she does.
Episode 2: “Nightshade”
Perhaps the most shocking moment of the episode occurs in Canada, where we learn that Serena is pregnant. But back in Gilead, Guards have shown up at the farm asking questions, and June knows she and the other Handmaids must leave at risk of being caught. She goes to speak with a worker at a nearby Jezebels who’s also part of the resistance group Mayday, and learns about a new safe house for the women. While there, June also discovers that members of the Gilead military will soon be at the Jezebels house for one last party before heading to fight in Chicago. When June discovers Esther has been poisoning her husband, she asks Esther to teach her to make more in order to sneak in and help the Jezebels poison the military men. She ventures to the Jezebel house and plans to come back by nightfall to escape with the Handmaids, but when she returns, she discovers she’s too late. While the Handmaids have escaped, Gilead forces—including Nick (Max Minghella)—have infiltrated the farm. They capture June.
Episode 3: “The Crossing”
June is now back in Gilead custody, where she’s being tortured into revealing where the other Handmaids are hiding. She refuses to do so, even as she’s waterboarded and forced to sleep in a steel cage. At one point, June gives a fake location and, as punishment, is made to watch as two other Handmaids are pushed off the side of a building to their deaths.
Nick, who wants to keep June alive at all costs, then threatens Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) into helping manipulate June. Lawrence does so by telling June that Gilead will hurt her daughter Hannah if she doesn’t cooperate. June still refuses, until she’s brought face-to-face with Hannah, who doesn’t recognize her—and, in fact, fears her. Horrified, June relents and gives up the Handmaids’ secret location. The Handmaids are captured and, along with June, are sent off to a Magdalene Colony, where they will work during the day and be delivered to Commanders to be raped at night. But on the way, all hell breaks loose: First, June somehow reunites with Nick on a bridge, and they kiss a lot. Second, while the driver steps out to use the bathroom at a train stop, June and the other handmaids overtake Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and attempt to run away. In their escape, two are shot, and Alma (Nina Kiri) and Brianna (Bahia Watson) get hit by the train. Only June and Janine make it out alive.
Episode 4: “Milk”
After escaping from Aunt Lydia, June and Janine find a train heading to Chicago, where Gilead soldiers are still fighting and June hopes to connect with members of Mayday. The fugitives conveniently find an open train car (filled with milk, which they also, conveniently, drain), and while traveling across the country, June reveals to Janine that she told the Eyes where to find the Handmaids. The train is then overtaken by Chicago rebels, and June convinces them to take in her and Janine. The Handmaids go with the rebels to their hideout—located in an old rock climbing gym—and talk with the group’s leader, Steven, who offers to let them stay in exchange for sex. June relents but ultimately can’t go through with it, and it’s Janine who steps in. The two women stay.
In a flashback, we learn that after Janine had her son Caleb, she got pregnant again and visited a crisis pregnancy center, where a worker tried to manipulate her into keeping the baby. Ultimately, Janine finds a legitimate clinic to help her obtain the abortion.
Back in Canada, Rita (Amanda Brugel) finds out that Serena wants to see her. When Rita goes to visit, Serena shares that she’s pregnant with a son and won’t be telling Fred. The two have a genuine moment together, but afterwards, Rita discovers that Serena now wants Rita to defend her in court. In response, Rita goes to see Fred and tells him about the baby.
Episode 5: “Chicago”
As the title would suggest, much of this week’s episode takes place in Chicago, where Janine is continuing her relationship with Steven, and June is itching to fight back against the Gilead soldiers. Eventually, June decides to leave the camp to try and find the Nighthawks, another rebel group that’s been confronting Gilead forces. At first Janine chooses to stay behind, but then catches up to June, telling her, “I feel safer when we’re together.”
In Gilead, Aunt Lydia is being forced into retirement and, naturally, isn’t taking it well. She goes to see Commander Lawrence to make a deal. Lawrence agrees to arrange for Aunt Lydia’s reinstatement, if she’ll give him dirt on the other Commanders so Lawrence can get his seat back on the board.
Meanwhile, Lawrence is trying to convince the other Commanders to impose a ceasefire in Chicago to allow in international aid, all under the guise of trying to improve Gilead’s economy. (In reality, Lawrence tells Nick a ceasefire could help June escape.) The Commanders agree, with a catch—they instruct Nick to coordinate a bombing right before the ceasefire deadline.
In Chicago, June and Janine are in the streets when the bombing begins. When June wakes up, she can’t find Janine. Instead, Moira (Samira Wiley), who’s there with a Canadian NGO, finds June.
Episode 6: “Vows”
After the cliffhanger in episode 5, we finally get some resolution: Moira finds June in Chicago while delivering international aid with a Canadian NGO. But when Moira tells her girlfriend Oona (Zawe Ashton), who’s also the NGO team leader, Oona says Moira must leave June behind at risk of jeopardizing all future aid work. Instead, Moira sneaks June, who has to be repeatedly convinced to leave Hannah and Janine behind, onto the NGO’s boat.
When Oona tells Moira that Gilead has to inspect the boat before they leave their waters, Moira comes clean. The NGO members must decide: Do they sneak June into Canada or turn her over to Gilead forces? June tells the group they should turn her in, but at the last second, Oona decides against it. They have her pose as one of their colleagues to get past the guards, and the moment we’ve been waiting four seasons to see finally arrives: June lands in Canada and reunites with Luke (O-T Fagbenle).
Episode 7: “Home”
June officially seeks asylum in Canada, where she’s been put up in a hotel with Luke while she gets her bearings and debriefs with the Canadian government. There, Luke apologizes for not saving her and Hannah, and June tells Luke about the day she saw Hannah at the lake house, but she lies and says that Hannah still remembers them.
June then goes home to see Nichole and joins Luke and Moira on a trip to the supermarket, where she’s overcome with memories of Gilead. Later, she invites Rita and Emily (Alexis Bledel) over, and Rita tells June about Serena’s pregnancy.
June then goes to see Serena, who says she believes God brought June to Canada so Serena can make amends. Instead, June tells Serena she deserves a “life full of suffering and shame” and that God will kill her baby so she’ll “feel a fraction of the pain” she caused June and the other women whose children were taken from them. When June gets home, she has sex with Luke, covering his mouth and continuing even after he asks her to wait.
Meanwhile, Fred, who doesn’t want to fight both Serena and June in court, offers to recant his testimony against Serena so the two can team up. At first, Serena resists. But after June’s visit, she agrees, willing to do whatever it takes to be a mother to her baby.
Episode 8: “Testimony”
In her new life in Canada, June has started going to a Handmaid support group run by Moira at the local library. There, we learn June plans to testify at a confirmation of charges hearing for Fred—and she couldn’t be more excited. While she doesn’t want Luke to attend, he goes anyway and hears June explain how the Waterfords imprisoned and raped her. In court, Fred responds by defending Gilead, saying it’s the only place where birth rates are rising. Though his outburst enrages June, it also inspires a new group of right-wing fans. They arrive at the prison to cheer for Fred and Serena as the couple leaves the facility to go back to court.
Meanwhile, Emily’s former Aunt Irene appears at the support group and reveals she’s the one who turned Emily and her Martha lover in to the Eyes, causing the Martha to be killed and Emily’s clitoris to be removed. Irene asks Emily for forgiveness, but she refuses. Instead, Emily drives to Irene’s house to see if she’d be willing to testify against Gilead, but when she gets there, she finds that Irene has died by suicide. Emily in turn tells the support group that she’s glad Irene is dead, and hopes she had something to do with it. When June comes home that night, she finally tells Luke about the last time she saw Hannah.
Back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia is still off her game, yelling at Handmaids and erratically using her cattle prod. Commander Lawrence tells Aunt Lydia she has to shape up. She should channel her energy into punishing a new Handmaid who was just captured in Chicago: Janine.
Episode 9: “Progress”
After June finally tells Luke the truth about Hannah, the two team up to try and bring her back to Canada. With help from Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger), June reaches out to Commander Lawrence to ask for his assistance, though he cruelly declines. Lawrence does, however, tell June that Janine is back in Gilead.
Without Lawrence, Luke asks June if she’d consider meeting up with Nick to see if he’d be willing to help. June and Nick reunite, and Nick comes prepared with a folder filled with information about Hannah, who’s now living in Colorado. He tells June that getting her out is impossible, but that he’ll do what he can from the inside. The two kiss, but after June leaves we discover Nick is also married.
In prison, Serena and Fred get a surprise visit from Naomi and Warren Putnam (remember when Janine was the Handmaid in their home?). The visit is filled with subtle warnings: Naomi (Ever Carradine) tells Serena that, should her child be taken away, Naomi would gladly welcome him into her home. Warren (Stephen Kunken) tells Fred that Gilead has, more or less, given up on him.
Back in Gilead, Janine gets her own piece of breaking news. The new insubordinate Handmaid at The Red Center is none other than Mrs. Esther Keyes, who’s set to receive her first Aunt-approved “correction” for refusing to eat. Instead, Janine convinces Aunt Lydia to let her talk to Esther. Janine tells Esther she has to cooperate at risk of being abused by the Aunts, and that she has to stay alive for “when things get better.”
The episode ends with June returning from her Nick visit, information about Hannah in hand. It’s then that Tuello reveals Fred has decided to cooperate with the government, sharing all the information he has about the inner workings of Gilead, in exchange for his freedom. The prosecution has dropped the charges against him. “I will kill you!” June screams to Tuello as the episode cuts to black.
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