The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 13 ‘Mayday’ Recap and Review
A siren is going off as we start the episode. A light continues to swirl as we get bits and pieces of June who seems to be in some kind of warehouse. June is watching as a number of what appears to be women are lead out of truck and into a cage. My guess is this is a flashback but its REALLY intense. Between the violence and the language used by the guards this is extra traumatic for a show that leans into the trauma. June asks a guard to find her daughter. He tells her to be quiet and the women are loaded into a truck. She remembers just how ruthless they were. A talent for ruthlessness. The meanness came with ease.
Modern-day June and her Handmaid accomplices exchange a bar of soap. June gathers more of these bars of soap. She is planning to get 52 children out of Gilead. June is the ruthless one now. Aunt Lydia wants to examine June now. She is suspicious of June and her popularity. She warns June of doing anything stupid. She promises to keep her subversive nonsense to a minimum. They part. Back home June is talking to a new Martha. She is telling this new one to get her shit together and to take the initiative and help. June is now cutting up the soaps into smaller blocks (perhaps 52 if I had to guess). Beth is sick with worry. Commander Lawrence tells June he has called a senior meeting. Beth comes in to help June. Beth and June exchange a few words and they begin to make sandwiches and fill bottles of water. It’s like a giant picnic only everyone might die. That is some really bad potato salad. June wipes what appears to be grease on the windows. Beth is ripping linens to make rope. The house is preparing for battle. June hangs a red scarf over a lantern. She then heads outside where she wipes more grease on rusty hinges. As she does that she sees a Martha and a little girl. She rushes them inside. The Martha asks if this is Mayday. You bet your light green ass it is. Meanwhile, Serena takes a cup of coffee from our CIA guy. Who then tells her they need to go over her testimony to the ICC (International Criminal Court). She asks if she can decline. He tells her she cannot with a smile. She reminds him that she did not give up her rights but traded them for her daughter. She has been given permission to leave the prison and start looking for a place to live. She revels in being able to move without an escort. This does not bode well.
June is cleaning up a wound from the little girl. Her foot was injured on her long journey from Lexington. The little girl is brave and tough. The little girl asks her if she remembers what things were like before Gilead. June tells her that she will be free. That no one will hurt her for reading or tell her who to love. June tells her she won’t have to be a mother or a wife. The little girl asks what will she be. She is worried God won’t love her then. June says of course he will. Then she asks if she is hungry. It’s a fantastic moment. They then pray over one of the sandwiches. There is power in the collective process of prayer and I think this moment really highlights it. The Martha who brought the girl wants to bring the girl back. June ain’t playing that. She goes upstairs to grab the gun and comes downstairs to confront the Martha, whose name is Maggie. Holding the gun June warns she will shoot her if she tries to run. They grab the girl and Maggie runs. June shoots no one. I mean this is dumb. Either she is ruthless or she isn’t. The show can’t have it both ways. This lack of choice makes it feel like June isn’t dynamic. She lacks agency when she chooses nothing.
The next scene has June contemplating the gun. Commander Lawrence comes in and asks about the evening. He inquires about the child. June says she will be fine because they are getting the fuck out. He wants to take her back to Lexington. June ain’t playing that game and Commander Lawrence tells her that they are looking for her. He tells June that he is pulling the plug. June is not pulling the plug. She has reached her threshold. Lawrence tells her the child is a commander’s daughter and will be protected. June names those who have died and says too many have died. They differ on whether the universe has a balance sheet. June admits she almost shot the little girl for crying. June is clearly rocked and tells the Commander Hannah is dead and that all of this can’t be for nothing. June tells him it’s not his decision to make and that the time for men to be in charge has come to its close. She then tells him to go to his office and find a map. He throws a tantrum and says it’s his house. She laughs and asks him if he really thinks it’s still his house. She hides the gun in her pantyhose.
Back in Canada investigators are asking Fred questions about how decisions were made in Gilead. The interrogation ends. Fred and our CIA guy exchange pleasantries. Fred wants to report his wife for crimes against humanity. Fred assures him that Serena acted on her own accord regardless of duress.
The Marthas are trying to figure out a way to get the children to the airport. They agree to walk the five miles (I mean is there anyone that thinks this will work). Dogs bark and June goes outside to investigate. A car drives by with a spotlight. Marthas and their children are arriving. I guess the kinderescape is actually happening (I picked the wrong day to drop my kid off at preschool for the first time). All of the Marthas and their children are arriving. One Martha says she killed the parents (fuck yeah you did). They are now making their way through the woods tying white bows on trees to mark the way.
Serena has Nicole and the CIA agent comes and removes the baby. She is being charged with rape for Nick and June’s relationship. I mean it’s totally gross but not remotely believable that she would be charged after all the help she has been.
Back at the house, Joseph is reading a story to all of the kids (it’s WAY more than 52 and they remark on that). I am sure the story he is reading is important but it’s not ringing a bell to me. Man, Bradley Whitford is an ABSOLUTE GEM. A Martha tells her they are doing house to house searches. Shits getting real. June says it’s time to go. They are using both doors and they are getting the hell out of dodge. This is intense. What I find a little amazing and a little unbelievable is how quiet the kids are being. Lawrence reminds her she wasn’t supposed to be trouble. June tells him he can get out too. He says Eleanor would want him to stay and clean up his own mess. They share one last touching moment. Their relationship has been complex and wonderful and wonky and I am completely here for it. She leaves the house to help shepherd the flock of children. The woods are dark and scary and all kinds of children walk (one Martha carries a baby). It’s just sooooooooo much. This whole show. Soooooooooo very much. There are some crazy beautiful scenes of the kindertrain. The music stops and you know some bad shit is about to go down. The line of children stops to hide from a series of cars with stoplights.
We hear a baby fussing, as June finally sees the airplane. A giant fence seems to be separating them from the airplane. A car approaches and someone gets out and locks the gate. June tells the Martha near here that the group will follow the fence looking for a new opening. June will not let the guards catch them. June it appears is going to sacrifice herself. They group shares a moment (another small but powerful moment about prayer). They split up. This episode is really visually dark and it’s hard to follow what’s going on. June approaches the guard. She pauses a moment to gather her courage and a number of Handmaid’s join her. Looks like she has a little volunteer army to kill some mother fucking guards. They begin to attack the guard with rocks. He unloads his gun on them. Meanwhile the kindertransport sneaks across the path. That’s a lot of babies to get across the road though. June’s army (cool name for a band too) is shot and a lot of them appear to die. June steps out and appears to sacrifice herself. She gets the attention of the guard and then runs away. The guard chases her. He shoots her. He tells her not to move. June was hit but she rolls over and shoots him. He is not dead yet. She gets up, and demands that he tell everyone to give the all clear. He does so and she shoots him. She may be wounded but she is still fighting. She lays down and watches the plane take off.
In Canada, Moira tells everyone to expect anything. We didn’t see them get on the plane, my guess is nobody is on the plane. I was totally wrong there are a ton of children on the plane. Yeahhhhh she did it. Moira tells the children she is there to help. One of the kids asks if this is the place where they can wear what they want (listen carefully that’s my heart breaking). Wow the girl that asked the question is reunited with her dad who is one of the volunteers. djldjflfj sorry that’s me crying on the keyboard. Luke is looking for his oldest daughter. Everyone who escaped Gilead is volunteering now at the airport including Emily. Emily and Rita meet again. They share a moment. This whole scene is so full. So cathartic. It’s really beautiful. Luke keeps waiting…..Keeps looking at the exit of the plane expectantly. Rita and Luke meet. He wants his daughter and that’s okay but man what a freaking scene.
The next morning in the field next to airport handmaids are looking for survivors. June is laying in the same spot….still alive. There is a sweet flashback involving Luke and June and their oldest daughter. Man kids are tough, and wonderful, and awful, and the very best and worst. A little like this. The group of handmaids are all June’s friends and they grab her and carry her, a procession of six plus one. We get June’s voiceover. It’s the bible verse of leading people out of bondage to land of milk and honey. It was an incredible episode on a real uneven season. It still remains a great show and my wonder is the fatigue I feel with it maybe comes from the fact that our reality feels too close to home sometimes. The good guys put points on the board this season and that matters and sure feels friggin great! Until next season remember RESIST.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.