Madeline Brewer as Janine in The Handmaid's Tale

Wait, Did 'The Handmaid's Tale' Just Kill Off Its Best Character?

by Ani Bundel

The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 opened with one of the highest body counts in the show's history when the third episode relentlessly slaughtered June's Handmaid compatriots with a train. It was a brutal reminder of the desperation these women feel to escape Gilead while highlighting how dangerous it is to follow June. And yet, not everyone seems to have learned that lesson. The only Handmaid from the group to survive along with June, Janine, just kept following her, even against her better judgment. Now, after Episode 5, fans are asking, is Janine dead? The Handmaid's Tale just threw viewers for another loop.

Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 4, Episode 5 follow. Poor Janine has had a rough go of it. Her mental collapse at the Red Center cost her an eye; her nervous breakdown after delivering a baby as a Handmaid drove her to obsessive behavior. Janine is the kind of character fans desperately want to protect at all costs, partially because she's so sweet and partially because she's the kind of character who seeks out protectors.

Her horror at realizing June was indirectly responsible for the deaths of their fellow Handmaid friends seemed to have shaken Janine out of seeing June as a protector figure. When she started sleeping with Steven in Episode 4 in exchange for shelter, it almost seemed like, for once, Janine was taking care of June. But it. turned out Janine was simply moving to a new place of protection. When June declared it was time to move on from Chicago, Janine announced she'd prefer to stay behind with Steven.


June didn't take this well. She verbally attacked Janine, calling her "Ofsteven." (Honestly, she's not wrong, but in the moment, it felt like she would have preferred Janine to be Ofjune.) It seemed like the two had hit the end of the road.

It may have been better if they had. But Janine couldn't let June go alone. As she reminded June when she caught up to her on her journey through Chicago, Handmaids are supposed to travel in pairs for protection.

Too bad there was no protection for Janine when the bombs started falling on the Windy City. She and June ran for their lives, but there was no outrunning the explosives hitting the ground. When the rubble stopped falling and the dust cleared, June picked herself up only to see no sign of Janine. Presumably, she was somewhere in the collapsed buildings, the blown-up streets, and the haze of debris. But June couldn't find her.

Instead, when a figure emerged from the darkness, it was... Moira?

Is June hallucinating? (Perhaps she too is lying half-dead in the dust as well right now and this is a dream.) Either way, fate has not been kind to those who travel with June this season, and it looks like Janine may be the latest victim of her eternal crusade to take down Gilead.