"The Handmaid's Tale" is a challenging show on its best day. On its worst, it's a miserable trudge through hopelessness and despair without a single glimmer of hope to hang onto, and some fans have clearly had enough.
The finale, which premiered on Hulu at midnight on Wednesday, left a lot of fans pondering one major question: WTF?
Of course, not everyone had the luxury of staying up late to watch it, so before we go any further, we feel obliged to point out the obvious...SPOILERS AHEAD! Read on at your own peril.
This season, the dystopian series doubled down on despair by opening with a three-episode fakeout that led fans to the brink of freedom for Elisabeth Moss' June, only to have it (and her) literally dragged from the belly of a plane and thrown back into the oppressive fascist regime that systemically rapes and dehumanizes her and every other woman on the screen. It was a difficult homecoming for June and the show's fans alike.
For the rest of the season, June vacillated between wallowing in her misery and vowing vengeance on those who have wronged her to fighting for the freedom of her children, but in every instance she did nothing. It was all her internal monologue railing against the injustices she was forced to endure while inaction and passive compliance made up her physical world.
Fans got another glimmer of hope for June's freedom when she was abandoned at the empty house after having seen Hannah. That episode felt particularly pointless, if beautifully filmed, as she spent the hour fruitlessly orchestrating an escape strategy, only to give in when her water broke and call for Gilead authorities to bring her back to her captors.
It wasn't really until this final episode that audiences saw June reach her breaking point, and just as she was finally ready to fight back -- which honestly would have simply gotten her killed -- another shot at freedom was presented before her from the most unlikely of places. It started with a fire and a desperate plea from Rita, her house's Martha (the housemaids of Gilead).
And so the stage was set for June's final rush to freedom, orchestrated by the Marthas through their secret "Underground Railroad." It was a complicated and brilliantly executed plan that deposited June and her baby on the cusp of freedom; a harrowing and powerful rush through a town of chaos by a stream of Marthas risking everything for one Handmaid and one baby. Theirs was a mission of hope and compassion revealing that the Martha network may be the most powerful in all of Gilead, as they go largely ignored by their overlords.
And so what did June do with this gift presented to her by Gilead's lowliest of servants? She threw half of it away, depositing her baby with fellow Handmaid Emily, who was also being offered freedom through extraordinary circumstances of her own, and turning to walk back willingly into Gilead.
It was just too much for many long-time fans of the show, who saw this as June once again walking back into the lion's den. How many times are the writers going to tease her and us with freedom only to have it yanked away? And then, when it is finally within her grasp, she rejects it. The visceral reaction across fandom was one of rage and disgust and frustration, and it's completely understandable.
No reason was given for June's decision and her voiceover was left intentionally silent, leaving viewers to reach their own conclusions. Unfortunately, those conclusions were that she must be suffering some form of Stockholm Syndrome or that she's a total idiot, but there is no way that was the writers' intentions.
The quickest answer is that June is the titular "Handmaid" of this tale, and so we need her where the central action is. And while it might be easy to remove her from Gilead and have others step up and lead the revolution, that's not going to serve the hero's journey she is clearly on. Hulu has a moneymaker on their hands, and with Season 3 already greenlit and who knows how many beyond that, June needs to stay in the thick of things. Happy endings are for endings, and we are nowhere near the end of this story.
But most importantly, June isn't returning to be a Handmaid again and live in the Waterford house and silently stare at Fred as he says and does awful things. She made it very clear those days are over when she told him to go f--k himself and slapped him across the face. She is done taking shit from this world and that is why she is going back in. She's not just fighting for herself anymore.
June has her freedom within Gilead and she intends to use it. Her child is there, her friends are there, and even Serena is there. June has righteous fury on her side, and while she may seem to have no power, the Gilead underground is even more organized than we realized and she has plenty of dirt and information on Commander Waterford. And they don't know she's there or that she's coming for them.
An optimistic viewer would be excited about the future of the show after a sophomore run that was frustratingly bleak and repetitive at times. After two years of watching June be victimized by the powers that be of Gilead, we're looking forward to seeing those tables get turned. Gilead is going to go down. That's the true story of this series, and we are so thrilled it's finally getting underway.
If nothing else, that knee-jerk reaction of outrage is indicative of how connected these fans are with the show and Moss' portrayal. They're so angry because they care so much. Check out just how very much they care below:
I can't even pretend like I'm not extremely fucking pissed off by the season finale of The Handmaid's Tale. There is no way June would have wasted god knows how many personal risks the Marthas took. God damn it. It's insulting on every level. 😡😡😡
All those people went out of their way to get both June and Nichole out & she turns back. Good thing Emily was there for the baby.. What can June do as a freaking Handmaid at this point? People are going to burn. That's for sure. #TheHandmaidsTale #HandmaidsTale
Y'all... the Handmaid's Tale finale has me PISSED. June, how you gon' do all those self-sacrificing women like that? What power possesses you with the belief that you can singlehandedly burn Gilead to the ground? You better GET TO werk hunny because I am DISAPPOINTED in you!! pic.twitter.com/h0S85EJGPd
Ending made ZERO sense and I'm very disappointed #TheHandmaidsTale June needed to get out to help the downfall of Gilead. Now she's a Handmaid's wondering around with no connects trying to do what exactly 🤷🏾♀️ #ImDone