Comparatively to the last three seasons, season four of The Handmaid’s Tale is more toned down in its approach to the drama, evidenced by its choice of blue hues throughout the color patterns, opting for a more subdued atmosphere to bring up morality questions than the straight shock factor season three had gone for.
“Home” provides a look into June’s (Elizabeth Moss) character that we haven’t seen in awhile—her humanity and compassion. Faced with the reality of coming home as seen in the last episode, we as the audience now get to watch beyond the fireworks of reuniting with her long-lost husband and face reality with June.
The episode starts as a slow burn with June leaving the boat with her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle)and Moira (Samira Wiley). She is finally asked if she is in danger by escaping Gilead and whether she seeks asylum, a sentence June has been dying to hear since day one, yet her reaction is minimal. Her responses are one word each and she doesn’t seem to be able to get the emotion out even though it’s clear on her face.
June is given first-class treatment in comparison to other refugees in Canada, like Moira and Emily (Alexis Bledel) who met at the refugee center. However, June’s importance is the last thing on her mind as she stares out the window of the fancy hotel, overwhelmed by her surroundings. Left alone, June and Luke awkwardly try to figure out how to be a couple once again. In the shower, June’s body cast against a white shower wall highlights the bruising all over her body, a visible representation of the trauma she has endured that is wearing on her; even as she tries to clean herself, she cannot wipe off events of her past.
After seventeen hours of sleep, Luke and June finally talk, airing their grievances about their daughter Hannah. June doesn’t allow herself the ability to grieve with her husband, instead offering him the relief that Hannah is still theirs in her own heart. June at this point knows that’s not true, as Hannah seems to have already been conditioned against them.
This episode unpacks June’s grief and suffering in a way no other episode has, and it starts with her trying to keep a tough facade with Luke, and telling him a lie to comfort him. Upon going grocery shopping, the coloring of the store is like a rainbow in comparison to the grocery store in Gilead, Loaves and Fishes. June is struck by the differences in the settings and is affected by it, flashing back to the trauma she experienced seeing Alma (Nina Kiri).
June’s healing continues as she attempts to seek support from the women around her. Emily, Moira, and Rita (Amanda Brugel) come over for dinner for a “girl’s night.” June asks the question she’s been trying to wrap her head around the whole episode—do they think they deserve to be in Canada? The women seem to have found a sense of peace in their survival of the events.
In the aftermath of this conversation, June feels empowered enough to find her peace. She seeks out Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and takes control of the confrontation, finally allowing the narrative to be turned away from her sick twisted idea of the world. She doesn’t allow Serena to bless God for June’s actions, taking ownership of her path and her decisions, choosing to have Serena beg at her feet and to tell her she hopes Serena’s pregnancy will fall through so that Serena experiences the same pain she went through.
This desire for revenge is not unexpected in June as she has shown this type of contempt in the past. The problem with June wanting revenge is that it doesn’t seem to do any good for her, as she goes home after this confrontation and has sex with Luke in a forceful and almost self-serving way, covering his mouth and refusing to let him touch her beyond the physical act. While sex with her husband could be seen as a step forward, I think it lends more towards June’s plan to cope going forward. Unlike the other women she discussed her feelings with she isn’t ready to move on, and accept that she survived—she needs revenge.
Juxtaposed against June who seems empowered by her decision to act out of anger, Serena made up with Fred despite previously swearing to never communicate with him. Both women decide in the end to cope with their feelings by taking the easier path. For June, anger has always been her response and she isn’t ready to try to move on, just as Serena is not ready to be independent again.
Emotionally the episode is heavy, June’s trauma on full display is unsettling and never discussed. Like the conclusion of the episode, the actual events of Gilead tend to take the frontline, rather than the emotional weight. June hasn’t had the safety to catch her breath until now and it symbolizes a change in path for the show, as now the emotional battle rather than the physical one can take center-stage.