Janine speaking with Esther

After an extended hiatus as a result of the pandemic, The Handmaid’s Tale finally returned to Hulu for Season 4. And it’s been a doozy, as June escaped and was captured a number of times before finally finding freedom in Canada. Since Janine's one of the only main characters in Gilead and is currently advocating for Esther Keyes, I have to wonder: is she the new June? Luckily I got to speak with actress Madeline Brewer about this very idea.

Madeline Brewer has been playing Janine in The Handmaid’s Tale since the very beginning, but Season 4 brought on a seismic change to the character’s agency. I had the privilege of speaking with Brewer ahead of the Season 4 finale, where she addressed this change in Janine’s status, saying:

Is Janine becoming the June to Esther’s Janine? The one we need to always have a side eye on, make sure she’s not getting into any trouble. Because Janine knows what could happen.

Well, this is interesting. It looks like Madeline Brewer has clocked this major change in her character, and seems open to the possibility of Janine benign the new June in Gilead. After all, she was already able to wrap Aunt Lydia around her finger upon being captured in Chicago and returning to Gilead.

For much of The Handmaid's Tale run so far, Janine has been someone that June, Emily, and the other Handmaids have had to take care of. Her mental health often suffers as a result of Gilead’s cruelty, but she’s changed after finding some freedom in Season 4. And now Janine is the one taking care of others in the Red Center, specifically Esther Keyes.

Later in our same conversation, Madeline Brewer went on to explain how much she loved her recent scenes with Aunt Lydia, where she asked to take care of Esther after she’d initiated a hunger strike within the Red Center. As the Orange is the New Black alum elaborated,

I love the scene with me and Aunt Lydia, Lizzie directed that as well. When she goes to Aunt Lydia to tell her ‘Let me talk to Esther before you take her tongue out.’ I love it so much because that’s so June of her. That boldness to be kind of manipulative to get something that she wants and that she knows is right. It’s not just entirely for altruistic purposes, but she’s also doing it to help this lady and feel like she’s got a purpose there. But she brings a bit of June out, a bit of manipulation and uses what she’s learned from June to her advantage.

With June now safely in Canada and reclaiming her power, there aren’t a ton of stories to tell within Gilead itself. Characters like Rita, Emily, and Moira have all made it out alive, so could Janine end up being our anchor within the totalitarian society? As Madeline Brewer said herself, she’s showing a penchant for manipulation upon being recaptured.

I must admit that I’m curious to see exactly how The Handmaid’s Tale will continue functioning now that its protagonist is seemingly safe with our neighbors to the north. Seeing the Aunts battle has been an interesting way to keep Gilead itself part of the narrative, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Janine actually becomes the new June.

The Handmaid’s Tale airs episodes Wednesdays on Hulu. Be sure to check out the summer premiere list to plan your next movie experience.

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