A Major Handmaid’s Tale Character Is Dead — What’s Next?

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Handmaid's Tale episode “Liars.”
June Osbourne (Elisabeth Moss) has been walking around Gilead with a murderous look in her eye for all of Handmaid’s Tale season 3. She nearly let Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) die in a fire in the very first episode of 2019. Then, she went and stole a scalpel in “Heroic.” June almost used the weapon on comatose Natalie (Ashleigh LaThrop) before instead turning it on Serena Joy, who ended up in the wrong hospital room at the wrong time. However, June’s bloodthirsty tendencies have been thwarted all season.
That is until Wednesday's new episode, “Liars.” In “Liars,” June kills commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni) in Jezebel’s brothel. It’s a murder scene meant to feel exhilarating. However, the gruesome death is still horrifying in the moment and promises June isn’t out of the woods yet as Handmaid’s dashes towards its season 3 finale, “Mayday.”
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Last week, Santa Clarita Diet actress Natalie Morales went viral on Twitter by writing, “I'd be very happy to never see anyone get raped in any movie or TV show ever again. It's been done … I'm good forever, man. Literally forever.” One instantly thinks of The Handmaid’s Tale upon reading Morales’ words. The series made an emotional and indelible statement in season 1 by portraying the institutionalised rape made law in dystopian Gilead. However, in the seasons since, the constant visualisation of sexual violence has often been more painful to watch than thought-provoking.
All of these emotions bring you June’s confrontation with Winslow in “Liars.” Once again, we’re made to watch a man prepare to rape June. In last week's “Witness,” she talked her newest commander, Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), through a begrudging rape (itself an unnecessarily disturbing scene). But unlike Lawrence — and very much like the gross Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) — Winslow relishes in his power over June.
This time though, something changes. Rather than convince herself this latest rape is a “job,” as June says in “Witness” and again this week, she snaps and kicks Winslow’s lumbering frame off of her. In the ensuing fight, June stabs Winslow multiple times with a pen before bludgeoning him with a statue. His blood pours out of his skull and into the hotel carpet beneath him.
At last, June has transformed the murderer she has so intensely wanted become as the abusive restraints of Gilead broke her soul.
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Although a Martha whom June helped save from the colonies protects her, it’s impossible to believe this bloody incident is behind the handmaid. Particularly not with the finale ahead. It’s not like June killed some low-level guard. No, she killed one of the most powerful commanders in all of Gilead. There is nothing Gilead cares about more than its powerful men. Even with the arrest of Fred set to distract the nation's ruling class, someone is going to notice that one of the capital’s leading figureheads has gone totally missing.
Handmaid’s has even started laying the foundation of something coming back to bite June in the bonnet. Yes, Jezebel’s Marthas seemingly erase every single piece of evidence tying Winslow to the hotel room where he died and June. Yet, some commander must know the brothel was the last place Winslow was seen alive. As the series tells us repeatedly, Winslow is an illustrious leader whom everyone knows. You don’t miss him in a place like Jezebel’s.
Then, following the murder, two random people see June, however quickly, slinking down the hallway shoeless and covered in blood. The horny commander who spots her doesn't react in the moment — he is far too preoccupied with another woman — but, a rumour of Winslow’s disappearance at Jezebel's may make him realise how suspicious June was that evening. The story of a missing commander and a gore-splattered woman at one brothel on one night certainly doesn’t sound like a coincidence. And who’s to say some government body doesn’t know Lawrence drove himself and his handmaid to Jezebel’s on that evening?
While yet another threat hovers above June, at least the arrival of “Liars” means two commanders were eliminated in a single episode. Winslow is dead, and Fred is in American custody. It’s a suggestion that maybe, just maybe, the entire system they love so much could come crumbling down as we head into the final chapters of Handmaid’s Tale season 3.
Hopefully that's enough to start a new day in America.
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