Episode Recap: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Returns for Season 4

Season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale ended with June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) helping dozens of children escape Gilead. While distracting a Guardian, June was shot, and the season ended with her fate left unknown.

On April 27, fans of The Handmaid’s Tale were in for a treat when Hulu released the first three episodes of the fourth season early. Here is a recap of the first episode of season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Pigs.”

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for season 4 episode 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale.]

Mckenna Grace and Elisabeth Moss in season 4 episode 1 of 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Mckenna Grace and Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

June survives in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Even though the third season ended with fans not knowing if June would live or die, she is the main character of the series. So, she survives. “Pigs” picks up with Janine (Madeline Brewer), Alma (Nina Kiri), Brianna (Bahia Watson), and other Handmaids carrying June on a makeshift stretcher.

The group stops in an abandoned building and Janine cauterizes June’s gunshot wound so they can make it to a safe house. Their journey then brings them to a farm run by Mrs. Esther Keyes (Mckenna Grace), a 14-year-old Wife. June collapses as soon as they arrive, and she spends the next several days recovering.

In Canada, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) are informed by Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) that June orchestrated the escape of 86 children.

Gilead deals with the fallout of the children’s escape

Back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) meets with the Council of Commanders, her face bruised after being “interviewed” by the Eyes for 19 days.

RELATED: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: What Happened to Aunt Lydia in Season 3?

The Commanders decide not to subject Aunt Lydia to any further discipline, citing her frailness. At this comment, Aunt Lydia tells the Council she blames June for the other Handmaids being “led astray.”

“She’s out there planning who knows what kind of atrocities to visit upon our righteous nation,” Aunt Lydia says. “Find her, and bring her to me. And a frail woman will sleep better at night.”

Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) also faces punishment for aiding June in her mission. Midway through the episode, Commander Nick Blaine (Max Minghella) visits Joseph in his cell to thank him for his “service to Gilead,” hinting that Joseph was possibly sentenced to death.

Joseph reminds Nick that the escaped children are “June’s legacy,” and Nick tears up when he hears the name of the woman he loves. Nick then convinces the Council to spare Joseph’s life and bring him on as a diplomatic consultant.

June and Mrs. Keyes bond in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back on the Keyes’ farm, the Handmaids disguise themselves as Marthas and enjoy their temporary freedom. After lashing out at Janine, Esther opens up to June about the trauma she has gone through as a Wife. When her husband could not perform, he enlisted men to come to the farm to try and impregnate Esther.

RELATED: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: What Are the Episode Titles for Season 4?

This emotional conversation leads June to take on a parental role with Esther. A Guardian named Johnny Pogue (David Thompson) is then captured after trespassing on the farm.

Esther reveals that he is one of the men who rapes her. Instead of having him arrested, June channels her best Aunt Lydia impression and inspires the other Handmaids and Esther to kill him like a Salvaging.

June returns to her room as the Salvaging takes place. A few moments later, Esther crawls into bed with June, covered in blood.

“I love you,” Esther says.

“I love you too, Banana,” June replies, calling back to the nickname of her daughter, Hannah.