The fiery conclusion of “The Handmaid’s Tale” has the potential to turn the show around – and it all depends on how well it’s executed.
The Furies are goddesses in Greek mythology who are tasked with exacting revenge on humanity. Their genesis stories differ, but since we’re discussing “The Handmaid’s Tale” fourth season finale, “The Wilderness,” we’ll go with Hesiod’s version. They arose from the blood spilled on the Earth, according to legend, when hulu son Kronos “hurriedly shaved off his father’s genitals and hurled them rearward to be carried” I used to confuse the Furies with maenads. These female Dionysiac worshipers whipped themselves into a primal frenzy before ripping apart a sacrifice, whether it was a bull or a man.
Even so, every woman has a little bit of both. June (Elisabeth Moss) presents various faces to former Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) before enacting her brand of justice. June becomes outraged beyond control when she hears that despite her public testimony about being imprisoned, beaten, and raped by Fred and Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), the pair would almost certainly be granted immunity in exchange for giving crucial data on Gilead’s regime.
Then something worse happens: she transforms into a tranquil vessel. A calculated fury. She visits Fred in prison, has a drink with him, and seems moved and touched by his words of repentance, which are, of course, worthless. Her eyes are knife-sharp, yet her smile is kind. During this time, she utilizes her influence to broker a deal with America’s exiled government. June’s former Commander and still sporadically Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) arranges for the release of almost two dozen women in return for Waterford.
Until late in the episode, “The Wilderness” keeps this bait-and-switch close to the vest: Fred kisses Serena goodbye, thinking he’s going to Geneva to confess his sins and get forgiveness, only to be thrown into a vehicle destined towards a bridge and Joseph. When Lawrence nonchalantly shrugs in Fred’s face, all but laughing at his impotence as June’s lover Nick (Max Minghella) takes him into prison, scenes like these are designed to demonstrate Whitford’s ability to combine sardonic comedy with gloomy apathy.
Nick then drives Fred to a dark forested region of No Man’s Land, where June awaits with the option of a pistol or a whistle. Maenad or fury? Fred, a committed sexist, firmly informs June that she could never shoot him. It’ll be frenzy. She blows the whistle, causing a swarm of ladies with flashlights to line up behind her on the slope. They team together and chase Fred down in the dark, ripping him apart and saving his finger and wedding band for Serena. During the rampage, June even bites him. They spray-paint the phrase “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” under him and hang the rest of his corpse on a chunk of concrete, their version of Gilead’s Wall.