June may be the protagonist of The Handmaid's Tale, but there is a whole ensemble of characters who are integral to the show's many interwoven storylines. That means when a new person is brought into an episode, it's likely for a very good reason. In Season 3 Episode 9 of the series, viewers were taken into a Gilead hospital, where a new character caught the attention of fans. Now, many are wondering who the doctor is on The Handmaid's Tale; some are convinced he will play an important role in future episodes.
In the July 17 episode, titled "Heroics," viewers were dropped into Day 32 of June's stay in a hospital room, where she was confined with her mortally injured walking partner, Ofmatthew (whose real name, audiences learn, is Natalie). If you'll recall the horrific events in the previous episode, Ofmatthew was shot following her violent outburst at the market, and as a result the handmaid was left in a comatose state, only being kept alive so that her pregnancy could be carried to term. Fans could immediately see that though Ofmatthew was the one in the hospital bed, June was also very unwell thanks to her weeks of isolation.
As the episode progressed, June's behavior grew more erratic, and when Serena Joy showed up at the hospital, fans knew something bad would happen. However, it was still a shock to see June go after her foe with the scalpel, cutting both Serena and herself in the process.
Serena, for her part, appeared to display a brief flash of humanity, sending in someone to tend to June without causing a scene about the incident. Enter, the mysterious, nameless new doctor.
When viewers first saw the doctor earlier in the episode, he appeared to be another typical pawn in Gilead's treachery: He seemingly paid no mind to June when he was in the room with her, and when he referenced his "patient," it was made clear he was speaking not about the brain-dead Ofmatthew but instead the fetus inside her. However, as the doctor stitched up June' wound, the two had something of a heart-to-heart that revealed a softer, more likable layer to the character.
Though June had just committed some pretty serious offenses, the doctor was solely focused on giving her proper medical care. When she brought up this fact, he explained to her that as a doctor, he had taken an oath to "first, do no harm."
In talking about their pre-Gilead lives, June and the doctor realized they knew someone in common — June's mother, Holly, who was also a doctor before things went awry.
"Now I know why you took a swipe at Mrs. Waterford,” the doctor chuckled. “Dr. Maddox, she was scary.” June, overcome with emotion at the memory of her mother, smilingly agreed with him. A viewer on Reddit pointed out that this exchange may have a deeper significance:
Holly Maddox was a strict feminist, and the doctor seemed to admire her. If he somehow did admire her or she respected him, then he’s clearly not the kind of person who would willingly support Gilead, so maybe June has a new ally now.
During their talk, June admitted to the doctor she had been planning to kill Ofmatthew, Ofmatthew's commander and his wife, and even the doctor himself. His response was surprising; instead of recoiling from the admission, he calmly asked her how long she had been having suicidal thoughts, since they both knew those violent actions would have been punishable by death.
As June came to terms with the state of her mental health, the doctor admitted he had advocated for June to not be kept cooped up in the hospital like she was, revealing that he in fact was at least trying to do the right thing with the limited power he had.
Something about June's conversation with the doctor seemed to shift her perspective, shaking her out of the self-centered, self-destructive path she seemed to be on for the past few episodes. Soon after their chat, Ofmatthew's baby was born via emergency C-section, and June was finally allowed to leave the hospital. However, upon stepping outside, she quickly declined the option to go home, and instead chose to stay with Ofmatthew until she died.
As the episode came to a close, June divulged to the unconscious Ofmathew her great new plan: She was going to get children out of Gilead.
It's an ambitious goal, but some are speculating that June will have some help from inside the hospital. The doctor had already proven himself to have some goodness inside him, and some fans believe the next episodes will show him aiding June in her new scheme.
However, it's also possible the scene with the doctor was simply meant to remind viewers that not everyone who works in Gilead is terrible, and that many are just doing what the can to get by. Or worse, there's a chance the doctor's kindness could have been a fake-out, luring June into a false sense of security before taking her down for her actions in the hospital. Fans will have to keep a lookout on the new character to see what's to come.
Season 3 of The Handmaid's Tale continues Wednesday, July 24, on Hulu.