Season 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale finally returns Wednesday, April 28 after a pandemic related delay, and it is worth the wait.
At the end of season 3 we saw June liberate 76 children and a handful of marthas to Canada from Gilead, ultimately getting herself shot in the process. The final moments saw June’s fellow handmaids carrying her to safety.
Leaving season 3, critics and viewers alike had to consider the longevity of the current narrative and trajectory. June continues to defy the laws and way of living in Gilead, is convicted of crimes that find others hanging on the wall, yet somehow time and time again she lives to resist another day. How much longer could this story be maintained yet still remain believable?
It was time for a fresh approach, and season 4 delivers. The plot is fresh, with new alliances and betrayals throughout, giving an even deeper dive into the treachery that lies at the base of Gilead. The back half of the season gives viewers what they’ve been craving for so long, but nothing is as it seems in The Handmaid’s Tale, and nothing is easy.
At its base the series (and novel) is dystopian speculative fiction (with some elements grounded in a growing actuality …), but season 4 takes a turn closer to reality, changing our characters we’ve known for three seasons and their relationships completely. And to be honest, it’s jarring and a little frustrating in an absolutely satisfying way. It’s authentic and a brand new look for these characters we’ve known now for four years.
As one expects from The Handmaid’s Tale, the performances from all of our main players are stronger than ever, particularly from Samira Wiley who is virtually the emotional backbone of the mid-season . Moira is thrown in every direction this season, quickly thrashing from high to low, jubilation to desperation, and she hits every scene with exactly the emotion it needs. It’s high time Moira got her due in having her story told, and this season brings about so many different aspects of her life and her struggle, even free in Canada.
Ann Dowd is just as spectacular as ever as she dons her Aunt robes for the fourth season. Aunt Lydia is such an eerie, unsettling character, and Dowd still somehow finds a way to keep us on our toes in terms of deciphering Aunt Lydia, her loyalty to her post, and that sometimes weird, endearing sympathy she has for her girls. This season is no different.
This season had me sobbing like Tony Stark had just died (or the end of Coco), pounding my desk, peeking through my fingers at the screen, and cheering like my football team just won the Super Bowl (which won’t be happening any time soon …), and it is absolutely a fresh new take on this story. While I’ve only seen episodes 1-8 for the purposes of review, I do hope that the final two of the season keep June and co. on their current path, there’s much work to still be done.
The first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale premiere exclusively on Hulu Wednesday, April 28, with each subsequent episode dropping weekly.