Warning: contains spoilers for season three.
The Handmaid’s Tale season three tracked June’s descent from compassion to ruthlessness. Five years of torture, abuse and betrayals in Gilead’s system turned her from a regular woman into a badass resistance fighter. She became a murderer twice over, and enacted a perilous plan that would harm Gilead where it would hurt the most. With season four already confirmed, is there a way back for June Osborne?
New castmembers for season three included The West Wing and Get Out‘s Bradley Whitford and Six Feet Under‘s Julie Dretzin as Joseph and Eleanor Lawrence. Law & Order and Oz‘s Christopher Meloni played High Commander Winslow, with The Haunting Of Hill House‘s Elizabeth Reaser as Mrs Winslow. Transparent‘s Amy Landecker played Hannah’s new mother Mrs Mackenzie, and The 100‘s Ashleigh LaThrop played Handmaid Ofmatthew/Nathalie.
Below is a synopsis and a link to our spoiler-filled reviews for each season three episode.
Emily and Nichole cross over the Canadian border and are granted asylum. June visits a sleeping Hannah at the Mackenzie house, but is discovered and warned to stop. Serena deliberately sets fire to the Waterford house and June rescues her from the flames before being reassigned to Emily’s former Commander, Joseph Lawrence.
At the Lawrence house, June joins the underground Martha resistance network and harbours a wounded fugitive who dies. Commander Lawrence makes June dig a grave in the back garden, over which his wife Eleanor plants flowers. In Canada, Emily reunites with her wife Sylvia.
June says goodbye to Nick, now a Commander being sent to fight in Chicago. Commander Lawrence forces June to choose five captured women from his files to become Marthas, saving them from worse fates. She chooses five that would be useful to the resistance movement. Serena is separated from Fred and staying with her mother.
June acts as go-between for the Waterfords, brokering a deal to give Serena more power in the marriage if she returns. Aunt Lydia savagely beats Janine when she asks to return to the Putnam household. Serena tells June the location of Hannah’s school. The Waterfords identify Nichole from a video of Luke at a protest in Toronto.
June is forced to phone Luke and arrange a visit from Serena to Nichole. In Canada, Serena is pressured to defect and given a phone. June records Luke a cassette tape telling him that Nick is Nichole’s father and she was born from love. After seeing Nichole, Serena betrays June by taking part in a publicity campaign pleading for the return of the Waterfords’ ‘kidnapped’ daughter.
June, Rita and the Waterfords travel to Washington DC on a ‘bring back our daughter’ press trip. In DC, Handmaids wear ring piercings forcing their mouths shut. June tries to make a deal with the neutral Swiss to keep Nichole in Canada but finds out that Nick played a key military role in Gilead’s victory over America.
Further reading: 25 nerdy design details from The Handmaid’s Tale
June manipulates Eleanor Lawrence into going with her to Hannah’s school, but is unable to see her daughter. June’s walking partner Ofmatthew informs on Hannah’s Martha, Frances, who is hanged for endangering the child. June attacks Ofmatthew. Serena and Fred reconnect in DC, making friends with the powerful Winslows.
A pregnant Ofmatthew is ostracized by the other Handmaids and eventually tries to shoot Aunt Lydia in the supermarket, but is shot by a Guardian. Flashbacks reveal Aunt Lydia’s past as a kindergarten teacher who befriended and then betrayed a single mother, having her son taken into care because she deemed her unfit.
June is forced to keep vigil at Ofmatthew’s hospital bed for weeks until the baby is born. She tries to kill Serena and plans to kill Ofmatthew but is stopped by Janine who calls her selfish. Ofmatthew’s son is born by c-section and June apologises to her as she dies, gaining a new sense of purpose.
High Commander Winslow visits Boston and Fred, wanting to undermine Commander Lawrence, insists that they witness that month’s ceremony in the Lawrence house. They’re forced to go through with it, and June makes Joseph agree to help her get children out of Gilead. Serena tells Fred to make a secret deal with the Americans to get Nichole back.
June goes to Jezebels to arrange a plane for the children she’s planning to help escape, where she meets High Commander Winslow. He attacks and tries to rape her, but she kills him and is helped by a Martha, who disposes of his body. Over the Canadian border, Fred is arrested for war crimes.
Serena confesses to Fred that she made a deal with the Americans, exchanging him for Nichole. A distressed Eleanor Lawrence almost blows the escape plan and takes an overdose. June discovers her but lets her die instead of reviving her so the plan won’t be jeopardised.
Marthas bring children to the Lawrence house, from where they walk to the airport (the roads being blocked and surveilled). June is shot, but shoots and kills an airport guard to create a distraction so that Rita and the others can get the children on the plane. The plane lands in Canada, greeted by Moira, Luke, Emily and others. A bleeding June is found in the woods by the other Handmaids and borne away.