Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia on 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Janine Didn't Die On The Handmaid's Tale — It's Much Worse

I just need her to be OK.

by Ani Bundel
Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Since The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 5, “Chicago,” fans have been wholly focused on June and her journey out of Gilead. It’s an understandable decision — getting June out of Gilead has been one of the series’ main focuses since the first season. Moreover, all of June’s Handmaid compatriots seemed to be dead: Alma, Brianna, and Dolores were hit by a train, and Janine disappeared in the Chi-town rubble. But speculations about Janine’s fate on The Handmaid’s Tale turned out to be premature.

Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 8 follow. When the bombs fell on June and Janine as they ran through the streets of Chicago, it seemed like Janine hadn’t survived. The rubble was everywhere. June was injured and experienced hearing loss and a concussion. At first, Moira couldn’t even get June to leave the area because she was frantic about Janine. But with no sign of her, June finally allowed herself to be led away.

However, fans know the rules of this kind of television: No Body = No Death. Viewers knew Alma, Brianna, and Dolores were dead. There was a whole scene that showed them getting hit by the train. In contrast, viewers didn’t see Janine’s body after the bombing. The chance therefore remained she had survived and her story would continue.

Sophie Giraud/Hulu

Fans should’ve known Janine would be brought back. She’d already been discussed earlier in the season between June and Aunt Lydia, which is a clear sign of foreshadowing. June used Lydia’s irrational adoration of the “broken-girl-as-a-success-story” against her, telling her that Janine hated her just as much as the rest of them. The chances Janine would come face to face with Lydia, therefore, remained high.

But even with all these context clues, it was still a gut punch when The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episode 8 cut to Janine, lying imprisoned in the same cell June occupied in Episode 3, about three-quarters of the way through the episode. And there was Lydia, telling Janine that Gilead had saved her from starvation and worse.

At least Janine learned June was in Canada in this scene. For a moment, her joy and relief that at least one of them got out were overwhelming. But it was also short-lived, as Lydia went to work using this fact against Janine, trying to brainwash her into believing that June had abandoned her for freedom.

Whether or not Janine will break again remains to be seen. Her begging to die rather than be sent back out into service as a Handmaid was heartbreaking. Perhaps death would have been the kinder option. But as long as she survives, fans are going to pray she'll be ok.

The Handmaid’s Tale continues Wednesdays on Hulu.