In The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 7, June Osborne has a battle with Serena Joy, which changes the show’s power relations, calls back to the past, and makes June as terrifying as Aunt Lydia. June finally has a sense of freedom now that she’s landed in Canada after years in Gilead – or at least as much freedom as she can while still coming to terms with the pain of her past. When she reunites with Serena in “Home,” those two components collide.
With June having made it to Canada, where the Waterfords are going to stand trial, a showdown was bound to happen, and The Handmaid’s Tale does not disappoint. This time, though, their roles are reversed: June is the one in charge, while Serena has no control over the situation and no leverage to use against her.
June unloads on Serena in a fantastic show of Elisabeth Moss’ skills, berating her for all the bad things she’s done, concluding with “Do you understand me?” – a remark Serena once uttered in a similar fashion to June.
June As Scary As Aunt Lydia
This callback signifies how dramatically the couple’s circumstances have fallen. Serena returns to Fred, having no choice but to work with him in order to restore some semblance of their former lives. It demonstrates June’s fury and trauma as a result of Gilead’s – and the Waterfords’ – actions. In some ways, it reminds me of an Aunt Lydia moment. Lydia treats people like this: she intimidates them, yells at them, and tells them the worst facts she knows. June, though neither necessarily good or wicked, has certainly learnt a thing or two about intimidation from Lydia, who has mastered this technique and has become a terrifying presence for many of Gilead’s Handmaids.
June’s newfound sense of authority is beautifully highlighted by her transformation into Aunt Lydia. Whereas Lydia and Serena Joy used to be able to make the decisions, June now controls the fate of at least one of them, if not both. Her testimony could be crucial in whatever Serena’s trial entails, and it might ultimately lead to Gilead’s demise, as well as Aunt Lydia’s.
June, like Lydia, certainly understands how to wound someone with nothing but words, highlighting and targeting their weakest points. June may never repeat their horrible acts, but she is Aunt Lydia in the sense that, as Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale approaches its conclusion, she wields a great deal of power and rage, and she is a tough enemy.