She got them out.
For whatever else anyone can say of June and the dark path she took this season, she did what she set out to do, and the world of The Handmaid’s Tale can never be the same. Let’s get right into the season 3 finale, “Mayday.”
The Great Escape from Gilead is on, and we’ve reached the big day. The mood as the morning light hits Gilead is optimistic, perhaps amazed that June, Alma, et al. have gotten this far in their plot to get dozens of young girls out of Gilead and into freedom. Lydia tells June to stop her subversive duties, clueless to the extent of what’s about to (maybe) happen. But this being a season finale, the plan isn’t going to go off without a hitch. Back at the Lawrence house, preparing to have everything ready, a few obstacles immediately present themselves: Beth, a key partner for June, is sick, and far earlier than anyone was expecting, a Martha and young girl arrive as the first group to be evacuated. The Martha asks June if it’s finally “Mayday.” June says yes.
Things devolve from there. With June, a recovering Beth, and the others still scrambling to get ready, the Martha immediately gets anxious about the whole plan, and while June bandages up the girl (who’d injured herself secretly making her way over), the Martha decides she’d like to go home and forget it ever happened. ““This is where she belongs,” she tells June, referring to Gilead. June says, “No one belongs here.” And so June pulls the girl in while the Martha runs away. June chases after her, pointing that gun Lawrence gave her at her, but doesn’t shoot, letting her run into the woods. She turns around, startled, and accidentally points the gun right in the girl’s face. It’s a chilling moment.
Lawrence Puts His Foot Down
One immediate consequence of the Martha and child’s early arrival at the Lawrence household? They were fleeing in broad daylight, which means they were spotted. Lawrence, still in mourning but equally dedicated to the cause, says that a search for the two is ongoing and that it will eventually reach his home. “I’m pulling the plug,” he says. “The girl has to go home.” But June blatantly refuses. She’s come too far: “I am not sending her back so that she can get raped and maimed in this insane f—ing world that you helped build.” She then tries to reach him with sympathy, adding, “This can’t have been for nothing.” He doesn’t budge. And so he gives June no choice. She pulls the very gun he gave her back on him. “You are not in charge. I am,” she says. He repeats indignantly that she’s in his house. She can only laugh. “You really think this is still your house?” Here’s the logical conclusion of how this dynamic has developed this season, with a total reversal of power.
In Waterford land, if last week was Serena’s betrayal, this week is Fred’s revenge. As “Mayday” begins, Serena’s prospects continue to brighten, with Tuello discussing her leaving the facility and having a place to live on her own. But next thing we know Fred is giving in to his worst nature by throwing Serena under the bus. While her immunity deal protects her from anything she did in conjunction with Fred, given Gilead’s oppressively patriarchal structures, he finds a way in through the way June actually had her baby: via Nick, in an arrangement orchestrated by Serena. (One could definitely argue that this still falls under Serena’s immunity deal, since the mandate for June to have a baby is still rooted in Gilead.) The next time Serena sees Tuello, she’s not getting more time with Nichole; it’s now her turn to be carted away. It’s the last we see of the Waterfords this season. Could this be their final fate?
The Great Escape
Marthas (including Rita) and girls steadily arrive at the Lawrence household throughout the night, joining the first young arrival who was there alone. As June is escoring a group through the backyard and back into the house, with all the lights off, she feels a note of trepidation; have they been caught? But she finds Lawrence reading stories to an enormous group, an idyllic image that Gilead had so cruelly denied so many for so long. But the moment of peace is short-lived. Janine arrives, and tells June and Beth that the Martha who ran away from June was caught just two miles from the house. Guards are going from door to door. June is right when she says, “We have to leave, now.”
Joseph had provided them with a map, which they use to walk to the cargo plane and elude the guards; it’s their backup plan, but given the heightened security, their best chance. In a long sequence of everyone walking, all the girls and handmaids and Marthas, we sense the intense danger: sirens overhead, rustling in the woods. But they go deeper into the woods until they reach the area where the plane is. They can see it. But then a car arrives, with guards opening the gate that separates June and the group from the plane. June realizes: She’ll need to sacrifice herself. “Get them on the plane,” she tells Rita. “Trust me.”
June walks away from them, deep into the dark woods, alone. But then she’s suddenly joined by Janine. Then a bunch of Marthas. They’re ducking in the silence, watching the guards. All of a sudden they stand, in unison, and start pummeling the guards with rocks. They duck when the guards try shining the light on them, staying hidden. Then they start throwing again. All the while, other Marthas are guiding the girls toward the plane, avoiding the preoccupied guards’ gaze. Gunfire begins. June gets up while those around her stay down. She wanders. She’s spotted. She races through the woods, gunfire following her. Finally, she’s shot. Then she turns right back around as he gets closer and shoots him near-dead. Both ramble around, hurt. But she gets the best of him. “Tell them it’s all clear,” she commands. He does, reluctantly. Then she shoots him dead: Again, a logical, dark conclusion to her journey this season. She sees the plane take off. She’s severely injured, she’s just killed a man, and she’ll surely be wanted for treason and at risk of being killed. But she got them out.
Welcome to Canada
No one is expecting a plane full of girls to arrive back in Canada, and it’s Moira who opens the plane door in shock and joy. This is no ordinary refugee call. “My name is Moira, I’m here to help you,” she says carefully, looking at all the innocent faces. The first girl who’d arrived at the Lawrence household, whose perspective we’ve been following, asks: “This is the place where I can wear what I want?” Moira nods. The girls are escorted off the plane.
Off the plane, it’s all happy reunions. Emily is there, and she sees Rita deboard, and greets her tearfully. Rita introduces herself to Luke, who’s heartbroken to not see Hannah on that plane, and tells him June is the reason for all of this. He shares a look with Moira. But most affectingly, the aforementioned first girl to get to June at the beginning of that day is recognized by a man. He calls her name. “Rebecca!” They hug and cry together. She instantly recognizes him, too. Her father.
Back in Gilead, our final scene is of the handmaids finding June, alive but not doing well. They join hands to carry her on a stretcher through the woods. June pictures a magical day spent with Luke and Hannah from before Gilead. As for what comes next? See you next season.