We start in flashback, back to what looks like the early days of Gilead, when they were first capturing women and holding them in detention centers. June and dozens of other women are being herded onto trucks to unknown destinations by armed guardians. Reminiscent of the Holocaust, we see them separating the weak and disabled. We also catch a glimpse into a room where naked women are being examined in some way. The only satisfying moment of this first scene is seeing Janine also being shoved into the truck, yelling and cursing at the guards along the way. Not only is this the first time June and Janine meet, but we love knowing that Janine has always been a handful.
The flashback morphs into present day, as June’s voiceover references the similarities between those early days and her current armed escort, who is guarding her as she walks through the streets doing her errands. She notes the common thread between them is ruthlessness. She realizes the only way they’re going to win against them is to be equally so.
Through voiceover, June reminds us of the plan that she’s put into motion. The plane will be ready to leave at midnight, and she’ll be getting 52 girls on it. As she walks through town and passes by other handmaids, they all greet her and drop bars of soap in her bag—signals of some kind, perhaps? As she passes by Janine, Janine can’t contain her glee, which catches Aunt Lydia’s attention. Fortunately, June explains it away as Janine just being Janine but now we’re worried Lydia’s attention may ruin the whole plan. She warns June to watch herself. If she only knew.
June returns back to the Lawrence’s to help Beth get ready. Sienna is pissed that she’s not being treated like an adult and allowed to help, so June tells her to act like one and step up. The three of them get to work, preparing for the big night: putting together food and water packages, filling backpacks for the girls, prepping the basement to temporarily house 52 girls and some Marthas until they are ready to board the trucks to freedom.
It turns out the soap was for June to melt down and use to quiet squeaky gates and to smear on the windows of the basement, so nobody can see in. They put a lamp covered in a red cloth in the upstairs window, a signal to the escapees that this is the house to come to. They’ve thought of everything.
Until a Martha jumps the gun and shows up too early with her girl. Nobody was supposed to move in the daylight, but June ushers her inside before anyone can see them.
In Canada, Tuello tells Serena that she’s been so cooperative that she’s been rewarded by being allowed to leave the detention facility for short periods and explore the city if she wants to. “Out in the world without an escort,” she muses, seemingly happy and slightly overwhelmed at the thought.
Back at the Lawrence Underground Railroad Station, June is treating the blistered feet of the girl, who walked from Lexington with her Martha. The girl, about 9, asks her what it’s like on the outside because she can’t remember what it was like before Gilead. June tells her that she’ll be free. She can wear whatever she wants, she can read, she can think for herself, love who she wants to and to believe what she wants. And when she says, “you don’t have to be a wife or a mother if you don’t want,” the girl asks, “then what would I be?” June responds, with a catch in her throat, “you.” If June needed any extra motivation, she has it now.
But the early-bird Martha gets cold feet and freaks out, saying she’s taking the girl home, thinking her Mistress “will understand.” She’s got to know that kidnapping the girl and taking her to an escape plot far away has got to be cause for the wall, but she’s out of her mind with fear and thinks the risk of going back is less than the one going forward. Beth states the obvious, “we can’t let her go.” June’s fortitude is put to its first test. She goes upstairs and gets the gun Lawrence gave her and threatens the Martha, telling her neither she nor the girl is leaving. She promises she will shoot her if she tries to go. We aren’t sure at this point of what exactly June is capable of. But when the Martha runs away, it turns out June can’t shoot her, which seems to make her even crazier. But now she’s got an even bigger problem than her own mental stability: there’s a freaked-out Martha out there who will very likely raise the alarm.
Lawrence returns from a meeting and tells June that the Martha was reported as missing and now security is tightening, so he’s pulling the plug. June, however, is long past the point of going back, and calmly informs him it’s not up to him anymore. It’s not his decision. It’s not even his house anymore. She tells him to go find a map so she can figure out how to get to the airport and puts the gun into her boot.
While Fred is being interrogated by the Canadian authorities, he decides to play one last card. He tells Tuello that he has information of serious crimes committed by Serena. When Tuello reminds him that she has immunity for all the crimes she did that were ordered by the state, Fred says, “what Mrs. Waterford did was far beyond the laws of Gilead. And the laws of God.” Uh oh, I have a feeling it’s about to get really nasty.
Back at Escape Central, Sienna suggests that they walk the girls through the woods to the airport instead of trying to get them in cars or trucks, now that security on the roads will make them impassable. They figure this is the only way, so they head out into the woods to mark a path.
Meanwhile, despite the heightened security, the Marthas start to arrive with the girls, as planned, in the darkness. They are all ushered into the house and into the basement. Even Rita shows up with a baby, telling June the baby’s Martha killed her commander and wife because they wouldn’t let her leave. There’s no going back now.
In Canada, the second shoe is about to drop. Serena is enjoying a visit with Nichole when Tuello comes in and arrests her “for crimes against humanity, sexual slavery and rape of June Osborne.” Shocked, Serena reminds them that those were religious rituals ordered by the state under penalty of execution, for which she has immunity. Tuello tells her the immunity doesn’t cover what she did with her husband outside of state’s orders. “You forced your driver to impregnate Ms. Osborne so you could claim the resulting child.” When Serena tells them that June and Nick were in a relationship, Tuello says it’s still a rape, which I don’t really get, but ok.
After marking the path, June, Rita, Beth and Sienna get back to the house to find the red beacon light out and the door to the house ajar. There is no sound, and no light. Fearing the worst (at least I was), they go to the basement only to find Lawrence reading a story by candlelight to a basement full of girls. Many more than 52, in fact. For the first time in a long time, June feels a small pang of hope. And actual joy. And more than a passing sense of gratitude for Lawrence.
Janine then shows up and reports that they are coming house to house now and that guardians are everywhere. While everyone else expects June to abort because it’s just not possible now, instead June says it’s time to go. It’s seriously now or never. (And it’s at this point where I knew, in my heart, that if something bad happened and this plan didn’t work that I was officially done with this show because I HAVE to have something good happen).
They get all the girls out of the house to start their way to the airport through the woods, following the path they laid out. Following up behind, June takes a moment to say goodbye to Lawrence, trying one last time to convince him to come with them. She says it’s what Eleanor would have wanted. He says Eleanor would have wanted him to stay to clean up his own mess. They have a tender moment and wish each other well. It’s hard not to be thinking of what’s going to happen to him now.
The trek through the woods for the band of escapees goes relatively smoothly, as they get to the airport without a problem (for a nice change). When they get to the airfield and see their plane sitting on the tarmac, you can feel the exhale from all the Marthas, especially June. But then June notices the two guardians who are blocking their path to the plane. Was she not expecting there to be any guards? Did she not have a contingency plan for this? Seems odd, but, anyway, she seems to come up with a plan on the spur of the moment: June is going to sacrifice herself, of course. She will distract the two guards so the others can lead the girls to the plane. Despite Janine, Beth and Rita’s attempts to talk her out of it, she says goodbye to them and sets off alone, making Rita promise to get the girls onto that plane.
But as she gets to the fence and reaches down to grab a rock, which I guess she is planning to throw at the guards to get their attention, Janine, Beth and the other Marthas show up to help her. They won’t let her do this alone. They all throw rocks at the guards, knocking one unconscious, which prompts the other to shoot the machine gun wildly into the forest. As he is shooting, we see Rita leading all the girls to the plane. Knowing now that they are truly outgunned—rocks vs machine gun—June leans down and kisses Janine on the cheek and then stands up so she can easily be seen by the guardian. I was a bit confused by this moment…did she not think he would just shoot her dead right there? But, for some reason I don’t understand, he doesn’t shoot her. Instead he just yells at her to stop and he comes down off the truck, heading towards her, with his gun drawn. She then turns and runs into the forest, and the guardian, taking the bait, chases her, which gives Janine and the others the chance to get on the plane too.
The guardian chases June deep into the woods, shooting, and she’s finally hit and falls to the ground. She’s not moving. Could she be dead? The guardian bends down to turn her over to see and as she turns, she lifts up the gun that she pulled from her boot and shoots him. It’s a great moment, but apparently she’s not a great shot, because he’s not dead. So she tells him to use his walkie-talkie to call off any other guardians that may be coming to assist. Once he reports the all-clear, she shoots him in the head and doesn’t miss this time. Ruthless.
June then collapses, as we then realize she really was shot. As she lies on the floor of the forest (bleeding out?), she sees the airplane taking off and she knows they got out. She did it. But what of her fate now?
In a hangar in Canada, Moira, Luke and Emily are coordinating all the volunteers who are ready to greet the plane-full of children when they arrive. A question, though: how did they know it was coming?
Moira boards the plane when it arrives and is overwhelmed at the sight of almost 100 young girls. Then the 9-year old that June made friends with asks, “is this the place where I can wear what I want?” Moira tells her, yes, it is.
Luke desperately looks for Hannah as the girls stream out of the plane, but she’s not there. Emily calls out to Rita and they reunite in an emotional moment. Emily then introduces Rita to Luke and Rita hugs him, telling him, “it’s really good to meet you. She did this. June. Your June. She did this. She did everything.”
Back in the woods, the handmaids and Marthas find June and carry her away, which means they didn’t get on the plane when they had the chance. Which prompts the last of many questions that are now set up for us to be answered in Season 4: what will happen to June? What will happen to the handmaids and Marthas who were involved with the escape? Will the children’s escape keep Lawrence from the wall? Will Serena and Fred keep turning on each other? What will their punishment be? Will June ever get out? Will I ever smile while watching this show? This and many more questions are sure to be answered (hopefully) when The Handmaid’s Tale returns next year. Until then, enjoy your freedoms and find some shows that make you laugh.
This article was first published on AwardsWatch.com.