The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 episode 4 review: Is Serena the heroine after all?

Spoilers ahead!

Chernobyl, which has proven the unlikely show to grip the world this year, turned out to be the story of one man willing to tell the truth and another willing to guard it. A similar narrative is now emerging over in The Handmaid’s Tale, as June becomes a rebel in the trenches of Gilead while Serena quietly effects change among the political classes.

After a run of slightly alternative episodes, the Hulu and Channel 4 show got back to basics this week: a flashback, and a present day situation that darkly mirrors it. Baptism was the commonality this time, though the scenes set pre-dystopia were a little lacklustre. There were no hints as to how the United States became Gilead this time, it was simply a run-of-the-mill christening. Nor was there a take-home message, though the show again delighted in running counter to modern progressive narratives – June isn’t the atheist you might expect, but a card-carrying protestant.


Over in the dystopian future, events were more dramatic. June and Serena were reunited, the pair last seen silently watching the Waterford house burn to the ground. Both characters have learned the limits to their ability to make a difference Gilead in recent weeks, but have ultimately emerged undeterred. I have power “up to a point” Serena lamented this week, “so move the point” June fired bacl.

Serena divulged Hannah’s location to June, but I think we can expect moves with more wide-reaching impact in coming weeks. The tenacious June will continue to rally the handmaids and the marthas, but Serena could prove to be the real heroine here, redeeming herself by undermining Gilead’s political system.

Episode 4 was a rare cause for optimism, all things considered. Emily managed to reconnect with her son despite the horrors she has endured, and even Gilead’s elite were showing mercy, allowing Janine to hold her child despite having almost killed the both of them last season.

With Lawrence proving a crucial, albeit flawed ally to June, and Fred wavering, is the tide slowly turning? It seems that way.

Episode 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 airs on Channel 4 on Sunday 30 June 2019.