Who’s ready for a bottle episode? I can’t say this was how I was expecting (yet-again-Emmy-nominated!) The Handmaid’s Tale to follow up on the shocking events from last week, but this is a show that likes to shake it up every once in a while. Let’s dig into the biggest moments from “Heroic.”
JUNE AT HER BREAKING POINT
Steadily we’ve been wondering — is June losing her mind? Her humanity? She’s at her lowest and coldest in the beginning moments of “Heroic,” forced to kneel unendingly before an unconscious Ofmathew in her hospital room while the doctors try to save her child’s life. She’s mumbling “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” to herself on repeat, watching Ofmathew with dead eyes. “Ofmathew is just a vessel now, and the baby is all that matters — I suppose it’s all that ever mattered,” she narrates.
We’re not sure how long she’s been sitting there as the episode begins, but when she finally stands up and reveals horrible bruises on her knees, it’s clearly been a while. Lydia — who will not let June go home until her walking partner is either recovered or dead — and other handmaids filter in and out to offer “support,” but it’s often just June alone. It doesn’t take her long to try something drastic. She stumbles toward Ofmathew’s hospital bed and tries choking out her breathing tube, only for her to set off a few gentle alarms. The doctors return and stabilize Ofmathew. Better luck next time? (More on that in a minute.)
JANINE’S PLEA FOR DIGNITY
This is the first decent chunk of time we’ve spent with Janine since Lydia so viciously attacked her a few episodes back. Janine is present with Lydia and the other handmaids, trying to hide her horrible eye injury by covering it up. Lydia has none of it, scolding her and forcing her to put it on display.
Janine later shows up at night, though, too, alone with June. Her eye got infected again and so she’s back for more treatments. All the while June had been snagging a scalpel from the room. As Janine catches up with her, she’s alarmed by June’s attitude. “I know how we can help her,” June tells Janine of Ofmathew. “We have to end it.” She shows her the weapon. Janine is stunned and lashes out at her once-close-friend. “You’re different,” she then says. (Well, she’s not wrong there!)
Later, Lydia and Janine reunite. This has long been one of the show’s most twisted dynamics, and it remains so here. Lydia visits Janine in her room and presents her with a gift — a red eyepatch. They both express utter delight in the moment, in each other’s company. Janine says she looks like a pirate; Lydia, perhaps the happiest we’ve ever seen her on the show, beams, “Indeed!” Given how… brutal their last interaction was, this just goes to show how extreme Gilead works on both ends of the spectrum.
SERENA AND JUNE REUNITE
Could things between Serena and June possibly get worse after that screaming match in Washington, D.C.? Serena enters the hospital room eventually — other wives had come and gone, but she hadn’t shown her face yet — and immediately sees June kneeling. As Serena starts to head out June asks if she can speak to her privately. Serena agrees. She asks if she’ll come closer — “It’s a secret,” a clearly unwell June teases — and Serena does that. June has the weapon behind her back, of course, having not used it on Ofmathew (yet, anyway).
June can barely get up as Serena moves closer and closer. “You’re not well,” she says, looking at June with horror and concern. June stumbles, again, and tries to cut her, slashing her ever so minorly. Serena is stunned. She grabs the weapon back from June and slashes her right back. “You’re out of your mind.” Despite this turn toward… attempt at murder?, Serena appears less angry than disturbed by what’s become of June. She leaves, the weapon left behind in the hospital room, and talks to the doctor. Safe to assume she’s ratting June out, but the doctor only returns with a kind statement to June: “Mrs. Waterford said you cut yourself.”
June ends up sitting with the doctor for some time, since she needs stitches for Serena’s retaliatory cut, and here she finally has the breakthrough she’s long been in need of. June tries to get through to his humanity, in terms of Ofmathew being forced to stay alive. “You’re torturing her,” June tells him. He responds, “She’s not my patient. The child is.” The pair make small talk, and June discovers they have a mutual connection — her mother, a former doctor. “Now I know why you took a swipe at Mrs. Waterford,” the doctor quips. “Dr. Maddox — she was scary.” June says she is, or was. “I don’t actually know,” regarding her fate.
They dig deeper. June admits she was planning on killing Serena, Ofmathew, even the doctor sitting right before her. He responds with a puzzling but revelatory question: “How long have you had suicidal thoughts?” She assumes he misheard, but he explains what she’s discussing doing would instantly get her put on the wall, no questions asked. He’s right — here we see June experience a deep, painful epiphany, of the depression that’s been fueling this descent into inhumanity.
A NEW CAUSE
So where does June go from here? Ofmathew’s condition worsens to the point where the doctors are forced to save an emergency rescue for the baby, and let her finally die in her sleep. This means, of course, that June’s sort-of imprisonment can finally come to an end. On her way out, she encounters a young handmaid-in-training named Rose who helps her with her bags. Rose can’t be over 13. She reveals she’s at the hospital because she’s been told she can have babies, and will now start going through the system. June is horrified; Rose won’t express as much, but you can sense the fear within her. June continues outside where she sees Aunt Lydia, but as she sees more young women enter the hospital, she feels a compulsion. She tells Lydia she wants to go back inside — framing it as, she needs to be with Ofmathew until the bitter end — and Lydia enthusiastically obliges.
And so June is back next to Ofmathew, much kinder (as in: not homicidal) than she was before. She apologizes for everything that went down between them. She gushes about her son. And she reveals her plan moving forward: “I’m going to get out as many children as I can.” Through tears, she continues. “I don’t really know how, yet, but I swear to you. I’m going to get them out. Because Gilead should know how this feels. It’s their turn to hurt.”
- Recap of last week’s The Handmaid’s Tale
- Why some Handmaid’s Tale actors were Emmy-eligible but others weren’t
- What to Watch on Wednesday: Final season premiere of Suits and the debut of its spin-off Pearson