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Recap / The Handmaids Tale S 4 E 10 The Wilderness

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Unsatisfied with the deal that Fred had struck with the International Criminal Court, June strikes a deal with Commander Lawrence regarding the fate of Commander Waterford.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Fred spends a good portion of his time in Gilead begging Nick to release him and help him, even trying to earn his help by calling him "son." He also tries to get June to release him by appealing to her mothering instincts.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Serena makes requests of Mark Tuello about relocating to a house where they could "raise their family", Tuello asks, "Can you explain that for me?". Serena flatly refuses to answer his question.
  • Asshole Victim: Fred Waterford, possibly the biggest one so far in this series, gets his comeuppance in the hands of former Handmaids.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the previous episode, Fred complained to Commander Putnam that Gilead wasn't doing anything to secure his release including consideration of a prisoner exchange. Here, Fred is returned to Gilead in a prisoner exchange, except this was after he turned state secrets to the International Criminal Court, and thus his position is even more precarious.
  • Bittersweet Ending: June finally has her justice against Fred, but her relationship with Luke may be irreparably harmed.
  • Blood Is the New Black: Exaggerated by the fact June cuddles Nichole while still covered in Fred's blood and smears some of the blood on her.
  • Brick Joke: When meeting with June and Mark Tuello to strike a deal for Commander Waterford, Commander Lawrence tries to use the same "monetary policy" talk that June used in the prior episode, with Tuello similarly deflecting it back to Commander Lawrence, telling him he's wasting time. June, knowing that Commander Lawrence is jerking them around, shuts down the conversation to get back on track.
  • Brutal Honesty: Lawrence warns June that whatever revenge she gets to exact on Fred it won't be enough.
  • Call-Back:
    • Emily jokingly calls June a "pious little shit."
    • Fred tells June that he imagines she finds the situation strange, just as he did while inviting her to play Scabble.
    • Fred dies via a Particicution. Like the pilot, it is begun by June, who throws the first punch. His body is also strung up on a nearby wall spray-painted with the slogan "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum".
    • "You Don't Own Me" which played during the closing credits of the pilot, appears as Waterford is beaten to death.
  • Continuity Nod: The episode features several moments from previous episodes.
    • June's monologue about the color blue during "Birth Day."
    • June going downstairs in "Offred."
    • Fred's restraints as he is being transported to be executed.
  • Dead Guy on Display: June says early on that she wants to hang Fred on the wall. By the end of the episode, Fred's corpse lies hanging on a wall in the Canadian-Gilead border.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Fred has made too many enemies on both sides of the border, and they come back to haunt him.
    • Nick and Lawrence, who are both technically his victims due to Rape by Proxy, allow June to execute him.
    • June and her fellow former handmaids, all victims of both him and the system he helped create, take their time beating him to death.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: June, Waterford's main victim, who was repeatedly raped, beaten, and degraded by the man and his wife, and nearly saw her abuser free, kills Fred, setting herself apart from him forever.
  • Easily Forgiven: Tuello, still possibly reeling from the threats from June in the previous episode, gets (justifiably) angry and unsettled when he realizes June has been stalking him and found out where he lives. Almost immediately, however, he apologizes for his tone with her and listens to what she has to say.
    • It should also be mentioned that June concedes his point almost immediately and apologizes.
  • Enemy Mine: Turns out Gilead and the rump American government can agree on something: wanting Fred Waterford dead, especially if handing over Fred to Gilead gets the release of twenty two Resistance fighters in Gilead's custody.
  • Exact Words: Tuello tells Fred that he'll be tried under Gilead law during the exchange at the border. Sure enough, Nick and Lawrence (two commanders) sentence him to a Particicution, which is immediately carried out by June, Emily, and other women he'd helped to enslave.
  • Finger in the Mail: Somebody mails Fred's finger and wedding ring to Serena.
  • First-Name Ultimatum: June calls Fred by his first name to his face, and later does the same to Lawrence, telling him "not to be a dick."
  • Foreshadowing: Shortly before meeting Commander Lawrence, Mark Tuello asks June of "guaranteeing safe passage". It turns out this question isn't referring to the prisoner exchange, it is referring to the agreement that June's group will be allowed into Gilead to execute Commander Waterford. In addition, Commander Lawrence's remark about "it won't be enough" means that Joseph knows that June has every intention of killing Commander Waterford.
  • Hope Spot: A Gender Flip History Repeats example from the last episode of the previous season- Fred is looking forward to a life with his child in Canada, and it doesn't last very long.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Fred's defense to Commander Lawrence when he is taken prisoner in Gilead, considering that he felt that Gilead had abandoned the Waterfords. It doesn't change Lawrence's decision to allow Fred to be given over to the Eyes.
  • I Have a Family: One of Fred's final words is to plead for mercy by saying he has a child. It does nothing to placate June and the former handmaids. Note that this is also a History Repeats example with regards to High Commander Winslow from the previous season.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: June nearly says this word for word when she goes to see Fred.
  • Irony: Fred has three in a row as his immunity deal is rendered null and he is extradited back to Gilead.
    • His rant saying that he "has rights" is not only unfavorably compared to the fact that he betrayed a country that initially gave those rights through the Constitution, but that he has even less rights as an agent of Gilead.
    • Upon arrival in Gilead, Fred is sentenced to death for treason by Commander Lawrence on behalf of Gilead. Never mind that Waterford and the Sons of Jacob were the initial architects of the treason against America that brought about Gilead in the first place.
    • Not only that, but his final words saying that he has a son rings hollow for June who had her child forcibly ripped away from her.
    • For Gilead, they are willing to part with 22 American resistance fighters despite wanting all American Refugees deported back to Gilead last season. In fairness, though, this was more of High Commander Winslow's pet project, and he's long been dead - the other Commanders were ambivalent at best about it from what we see and seem to be more on board with escapees being acceptable losses.
  • Karmic Death: Commander Fred dies via a Particicution from a group of women victimized by Gilead, including June and Emily. Lampshaded by Tuello who explains to Fred that he will be tried under Gileadan laws. He should know what to expect; after all, he helped write them.
  • Narcissist: The Waterfords, now Drunk with Power thanks to their immunity, are on display.
    • Fred can't get it through his thick skull the trauma he left June with, saying he knows that June had to "frame" certain things in front of the courts and Luke. The only thing he apologizes for is the fact Gilead had June's daughter taken away.
    • With Serena, it crosses over with Nice to the Waiter. Serena makes demands of Tuello, including that Fred will be referred to as "Commander" by the female agent questioning him. She also orders Tuello to expedite the process to release her and her husband, despite Tuello mentioning the pair technically aren't free yet.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: June goes to see Fred in order to gain some closure. She finally gets it when she leads a mob of former Handmaids in beating Fred to death.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: June managed to arrange a deal with Nick and Lawrence for a prisoner exchange, without Tuello even knowing it until she told him. She's then able to arrange entrance for her and her support group to enter "No Man's Land" between Gilead and Canada, have Nick bring Fred there, and then execute him. She does this entirely offscreen.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fred has a chain of these in quick succession, starting with when Mark Tuello tells him that his plea deal is null and void, then when Fred realizes he is being returned to Gilead via a prisoner exchange, then when Lawrence implicitly orders his execution, then when he sees just who his executioner is, and finally when he realizes how he is about to be executed.
  • Pet the Dog: Not only did Gilead agree to the prisoner exchange, it is heavily implied that they allowed June Osborne and several former handmaids to enter Gilead (specifically an area of Gilead marked as No Man's Land) to carry out the execution and allowing them to return to Canada without confrontation. To them, the notion of treason against Gilead is much more heinous than any idea of recapturing June Osborne or any of the other former handmaids. It should also be pointed out that in the prior season, High Commander Winslow was trying to get all American "Refugees" deported back to Gilead, and yet Gilead is willing to release 22 Americans just so they can ensure Commander Waterford's execution.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: It's finally spelled out that, no, Tuello is not actually the sole representative of the American Government. He has bosses, and very much dislikes some of the aspects of his job, like helping free Fred Waterford. He actually does want to help June, and once she gives him a viable alternative (a prisoner exchange with Gilead, with Fred traded for 22 resistance members), he doesn't hesitate to make the trade, just clearing it with his superiors first.
  • Precision F-Strike: June, in the opening scene.
    June: Make him believe because your motherfucking life depends on it.
    June: I was a prisoner Waterford would sometimes take out to fuck, and you're gonna let him be free.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Fred, when he realizes what awaits him in Gilead, protests he'd kept his deal with the US to give information. Tuello, without an ounce of remorse, says they activated a clause of the deal to revoke this and hand him over for execution in Gilead.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • June having a televised hearing might be a reference to the steps taken by courts during the COVID-19 Pandemic, with many switching to televised meetings via apps such as Zoom. The US Supreme Court in particular switched to hearing oral arguments over phone calls.
      • Fred offers to Zoom with Serena while he is in Geneva.
    • Luke mentions police are needed at the Osborne residence because June testified against Waterford, mirroring the harassment women who come out against powerful abusers have faced. One such victim, Christy Ford, had to have security detail, faced death threats, couldn't return to her professor position, and had to move houses every so often.
  • Self-Serving Memory: It's made clear that, in some twisted way, Fred believes he had a consensual relationship with June.
  • Stepford Smiler: June tells Moira she doesn't want to obsess over the verdict with the Waterfords. Later in the episode, she breaks down in front of Emily, telling her she's ashamed she doesn't know how to let go of her tie to Fred.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • As a result of the impact the Waterfords have had on Gilead supporters in Canada, Luke mentions to June they've needed police at their house.
      • This is a leftover of a deleted scene where a group of Canadian Gilead protestors dress as Handmaids and confront June, Luke, and Moira near the house, telling June to return to the Waterfords and serve them as a Handmaid. In return, June was to tell them that in Gilead, they would have their tongues cut out for such a thing and orders them to stay the fuck away from her family. According to Joseph Fiennes, the scene "muddied the waters" and so was cut.
    • Gilead didn't seem very happy once Fred decided to spill their secrets and are only too happy to strike a deal with the Americans so that Fred can be killed.
      • In addition, Gilead was never going to give up Hannah as part of any deal involving Fred Waterford, and knowing June's quest for revenge, freeing 22 American Resistance members and allowing June and other handmaids access into Gilead to carry out the execution was probably the best thing that June could get for turning over Fred Waterford to Gilead.
  • Television Geography: The prisoner exchange happens on a small dilapidated bridge between Canada and the former lands of the United States. Because June is a refugee in Toronto, it is heavily implied that this transaction is taking place at the St. Lawrence River. However, the use of this bridge in the transaction is extremely unlikely given that the St. Lawrence River is a heavily used shipping corridor and that any bridges that would actually be used should be much larger to allow for ship traffic to pass under.note 
  • Twisted-Knee Collapse: Luke, when he realizes June has killed Fred.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Fred finally loses his cool big time as June's plan is enacted.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Fred desperately begs June to spare him, telling her repeatedly "I have a son!" Just to remind everyone how hollow his pleading are, he still refers to her as "Offred" as he does so.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Anti-Villain in this case. June accosts Tuello while he is going for a jog near his apartment. It's quite odd to see the normally suited, smooth-talking Tuello doing such an ordinary activity. He's quite unnerved and flustered by June invading his space like this.
  • Wham Episode: Commander Waterford is given over to Gilead and ends up killed by the very same Handmaids he had terrorized over the years.
  • Wham Line:
    Mark Tuello: (to Fred) You're not going to Geneva.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tragic version, as Luke is shocked at a blood-splattered June after Fred's death. The fact that she is holding baby Nicole and has stained her with Fred's blood too makes it even more horrific.
  • Woman Bites Man: June bites a chunk out of Fred's lip while attacking him.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Tuello actually calls Serena by her first name when asking her if married life with Fred is what she really wants.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Apparently, Fred may have given too much information on Gilead early on after getting his immunity deal, meaning his value as a prisoner has been lessened. Although Mark says that Fred would continue to be useful as a prisoner, June convinces him that trading him away for 22 resistance members is more valuable.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: With Fred finally cornered and at her mercy in the woods, June shows that she is holding a gun and a whistle, telling him to choose. Fred tries to play it cool, telling her "I know you can't shoot me", even putting on a bit of a haughty smirk as he does so. June just shrugs it off with a cold "Alright" and blows the whistle, summoning a group of former handmaids. And indeed, June doesn't have any problems with viciously beating Fred to death alongside them.