1:15 pm EDT, June 7, 2019

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ 3×04 screener secrets: Clean slates

Can June find the right lever to move Gilead? Here’s what to expect in The Handmaid’s Tale 3×04.

The first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 arranged its forces of characters and politics in a careful tableau. June, placed in the Lawrence household, positions herself to foment rebellion. Serena, adrift in her dying marriage, seeks direction in unlikely places. In Canada, Emily hesitates between her old life and her new one, as Moira and Luke adjust to the reality of Nichole’s presence, and June’s continued absence.

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Now, in The Handmaid’s Tale 3×04, titled “God Bless the Child,” these deliberate poses can begin to unstick as the story moves forward and change threatens from every angle.

Spinning webs

In “God Bless the Child,” June takes an independent step forward in her role as professional underminer of Gilead. Her interactions with Commander Lawrence have imbued her with a sense of ownership in her quest for allies of every stripe. June taps out suggestions of change in those closest to her, finding stony resistance in some, even as others prove receptive. Her investigations also yield important tidbits of information, edging toward the illumination of some of the new seasons’ mysteries.

It’s all a tricky business, frequently interrupted by Gilead’s unyielding dedication to its own structures — one that seems increasingly familiar to our own lives as the episode progresses.

Old habits die hard

As June pursues new ventures, other players on Gilead’s stage return to more familiar forms. Fred explores the familiar contours of the enigmatic women in his life, seeking the normalcy upon which he was borne for so long. Meanwhile, Jeanine and Aunt Lydia find themselves locked in a repeating pattern with uncomfortable outcomes. Even in Gilead, training can only go so far; sometimes instinct takes over.

Home is…

The Handmaid’s Tale is never light on emotion, but expect the long-awaited reunion between Emily and her wife Sylvia to provide one of the most quietly intense interludes of the series so far. The meeting is handled with The Handmaid’s Tale‘s classic restraint, but it is wrenching nonetheless. Words are simply not enough to cover the awful gap between these two loving people, and “God Bless the Child” makes no effort to simplify or smooth over the jagged emotions at play.

Some of the strongest moments in The Handmaid’s Tale come from sitting with the impact of Gilead’s agonizing, almost non-fictional realities. The utterly uncertain ground on which Emily and Sylvia stand is ripe for this kind of exploration, and The Handmaid’s Tale 3×04 suggests that there is much more to be reaped from this sad territory.

The wayward daughter

One thing that becomes frighteningly evident in The Handmaid’s Tale 3×04 is the fact that Gilead is not about to forget the child stolen from their midst. Nichole’s absence is more than a bittersweet triumph for June and tragedy for Serena; it is a thorn in the side of a regime that views its own impermeability as the will of God.

And as the theft of their “holy property” become an ongoing concern for the regime, the balance between life in Canada and life in Gilead becomes increasingly fragile. Gilead’s primary language of response is violence, after all, and as attentions focus on the stolen daughter, all that’s needed is one small trigger to pull the strings between Canada and Gilead painfully tight.

The Handmaid’s Tale 3×04, “God Bless the Child,” will be available to stream on Hulu on June 12.

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