From the first episodes of The Handmaid's Tale, there have always been whispers of a revolution. Even when June was still just an obedient, meek girl who submitted to being called "Offred," she heard tales of "Mayday," the group of revolutionaries working to overthrow Gilead. For the first two seasons, June was looking for the group, trying to connect, believing they would rescue her. But since Season 3, things have turned out to be more complicated. So, what is Mayday in The Handmaid's Tale, and where exactly are they?
Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 4, Episodes 1 through 3 follow. Named after the distress signal in radio communications, Mayday was both, at once, terrifying and thrilling for June. They were the silent bogeymen for Gilead's government, the people who the Eyes have been hunting. When June first believed Ofglen to be one of their number in Season 1, she was thrilled to have made contact. When she was hauled away at the end of the first season, she believed this underground group was saving her.
But quickly, June discovered that Mayday isn't a mysterious organization in which people plot revolutions in upstairs rooms in bars, a la Les Miserables. Nor is it a 21st-century variation on the Underground Railroad. Although June was passed from house to house, these operatives aren't heroes. They're just regular people trying to push back in ways small and large.
Moving into the Lawrence house in Season 3 drove it home for June that there's no actual "leadership" in Mayday. What exists is an organized Martha Network, which is less a revolutionary funnel and more just your run-of-the-mill group of insiders helping one another out. The framework is perfect for people to move more significant items, such as papers or people, but many Marthas aren't willing to participate.
June wasn't the only one who misunderstood how Mayday worked, for the record. As fans saw in Season 4's second episode, the people June met sitting around in miserable circumstances, waiting for Mayday to pop out of the woodwork one day and bring down Gilead.
But there is no Mayday, not like that. Mayday isn't an organization. It's a name that anyone who wants to start fighting back can pick up and use to strike fear into the hearts of Gilead's founders. No one is riding to anyone's rescue in Gilead. As June so succinctly put it: "Mayday is us ... We are the ones we've been waiting for."
The Handmaid's Tale continues Wednesdays on Hulu.