The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 6 recap – what happened in “Vows”?

By Daniel Hart
Published: May 19, 2021
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Hulu series The Handmaids Tale season 4, episode 6 - vows

This recap of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 6, “Vows,” contains spoilers.

I’ve seen a lot of snotty reviews aimed at this season of The Handmaid’s Tale. Some critics are appalled that Moira “just happened to be where June was” in the warzone. I mean, let’s not pretend there hasn’t been plenty of exposition leading to that moment; the writers included it into the script like a sore spot — Moira was always going to be there. Nevertheless, it feels natural that June has reached this point; a new chapter in the story where she has the potential not to be shackled by Gilead. The next phase will be interesting.

Naturally, episode 6 begins with a flashback; June and Moira are chilling in an apartment. They both appear content. In the present day, June stands in the rubble, injured from the attack, and Moira keeps on repeating June’s name. Moira is there to provide aid in the warzone, but June walks away from Moira — she wants to find Janine; Moira is panicking, seeing that June is injured. She tells her where the medical tent is, stating that’s where Janine will be if she’s been found. Moira places June on transportation to take her to the tents — Moira is worried, but another companion states she is likely to be concussed.

A desperate Moira tells June to get on the boat 

In an emotional moment that took longer than expected due to June being extremely dazed, she finally recognizes Moira and they both smile at each other.  June is upset that Moira has put herself in danger for her. Unfortunately, aid rules mean they cannot bring citizens of Gilead back to Canada — they have to do it by other means as they do not have the legal jurisdiction; Moira sneaks June on a boat, but June doesn’t want to leave because she wants to find Janine — Moira is desperate, telling her she has come with her. June does not want to leave as she wants to find Hannah. Moira questions June, wondering how she will get Hannah back, and states they will kill her in front of her daughter. Moira tells her to fight Gilead and get Hannah from Canada.

The aid team is getting desperate, with hundreds of people from Gilead desperate to get on the boat. Finally, June decides to head on to the boat with Moira.

This desperate scene had it all; it really encapsulates two perspectives; Moira looks at the situation from the position of freedom, while June is still boxed into Gilead, unable to see outside her limitations — however, leaving without Hannah is a change in her approach that has been forced upon her due to circumstances; this changes the story forever.

Moira disapproved of June and Luke’s impending marriage 

In a flashback, Moira tells June that she thinks a marriage with Luke will be bad. June is frustrated and asks why she shouldn’t marry a kind, smart, loving man who has a good job. Moira tells June that Luke cheats on his wives who cannot get pregnant. June reassures Moira that Luke has had one marriage. There’s tension between the friends as June is moving out.

With Moira planting the thought into June’s head, June raises the scenario to Luke if she can’t get pregnant. Luke insists he is not the same person he used to be and does not believe June will disappoint him. June is worried that there’s always a line, but Luke says he will love whoever she turns out to be. But, of course, this is setting everything up for their reunion — it’s a test to see how much Luke truly loves June.

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 6 brings meaningful flashbacks; in the past, there have been some wasteful, unnecessary flashbacks that serve no use.

June offers to turn herself in

On the boat, Moira learns that there will be an inspection checkpoint by the authorities and has no choice but to tell Oona that she has brought June with her. Oona tells the other aid workers that she has respect for June, but she wants a consensus on what to do with her. The war aid relief workers debate about whether to turn her in or not. Moira reminds them all that this is a humanitarian mission, and if they turn her in, she will be killed. But Oona reminds her that they have plenty of loved ones in Gilead.

As they argue, June tells them all to turn her in, and she’ll blame herself and that her life isn’t worth more than anyone else’s. Oona accepts her offer, and Moira is distraught. Oona makes a good point; if the aid workers are caught with June, they will never be able to return for war relief efforts again.

As they approach the checkpoint, Moira pleads with Oona– she tells the others to find June a vest and an ID; she’s going to pretend to be one of the aid workers. Authorities check all the aid workers; when they inspect June, she calls herself “Rachel Smith”. The officer asks what happened to her as he sees the bruises. Moira covers for June and tells the officer she was hit near a blast — the officer moves on.

June gets on a lifeboat and has a passionate conversation with Moira

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 6 offers June one last chance to return to Gilead — the audience has zero ideas of which way this will go at this point. It’s fascinating to see June conflicted in this way, but also sad, which brings an even more emotional scene.

In the aftermath, June hears Moira and Oona arguing amongst each other, and their relationship is severed due to what happened. June gets on a lifeboat, but Moira tells her she is going with her to “die together”. June feels she was tricked into going with Moira, and if she does not go back, Hannah will be gone forever. Moira learns that June was allowed to see Hannah on a couple of occasions, but there was nothing she could do, and her daughter was scared of her. June blames herself for what’s happened to Hannah; she believes she was supposed to save her, as she is her mother. Moira tells her that Luke has waited for years, and she needs to have faith that he will be there for her. The friends hug it out as June agrees to stay.

The fact that June blames herself is even more upsetting.

The ending

In a flashback, June randomly tells Luke that she is pregnant, and the couple is delighted. It then flits forward to them both caring for Hannah together. In the present day, June needs a minute before getting off the boat, so Moira gives her space. June looks at herself in the mirror and straightens herself. Luke enters the boat and sees June and his face says it all — it’s full of love; he’s finally with his wife; any doubts in the past about whether he was a different man dissipates in this one scene. June smiles for a moment, and then it goes — she apologizes for not having Hannah and that it’s just her. Luke hugs her tight, and she continues to say sorry. It’s awful to see June apologize — she’s a victim of war crimes.

This is four seasons in the making, and the fact that June blames herself for not being able to bring back Hannah is heartbreaking. Watching June leave the boat and enter freedom with a strong measure of hesitancy is paramount to how imprisoned she was in Gilead society — she knows when she steps off the boat, her chances of getting Hannah back reduces; she takes a huge breath, and steps off. Bless this series; it’s throwing everything at us.

What are your thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 6? Comment below.

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