Warning: Contains SPOILERS for The Handmaid’s Tale season 4, episode 5, “Chicago.”
Is Janine still alive on The Handmaid’s Tale? During season 4, episode 4, “Milk,” June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) drags a reluctant Janine (Madeline Brewer) to Chicago, where it turns out that trading sexual favors for survival isn’t a unique Gileadean concept. In an interesting twist, it’s Janine and not June who does what is necessary to ensure their survival. During episode 5, “Chicago,” as Janine and June adapt to life in a war zone, back-alley dealings between Nick Blaine, Commander Lawrence, and Aunt Lydia prove that the women aren’t out of Gilead’s reach, leading to tragic and unexpected consequences.
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In The Handmaid’s Tale episode 5, allegiances are shifting both in Chicago and Gilead. June remains determined to meet up with some legitimate Resistance members while Janine vacillates between staying put or disappointing June. Nick continues to associate with members of Mayday and fulfill his duty as a commander while striking a Faustian bargain with Commander Lawrence, who regains power thanks to a quid pro quo arrangement with Aunt Lydia. They all have a vested interest in keeping June alive, but for different reasons. All signs point to a kinder, gentler Gilead (albeit temporarily) as the Republic agrees to a cease-fire in the areas of America not under Gilead’s control as a show of goodwill. It all falls apart in the final minutes, and after Gilead launches an airstrike on Chicago, an injured June reunites with Moira, but Janine’s fate remains unknown.
Throughout a particularly brutal season 4, Handmaids have tied their survival to June’s, with the herd thinning down to two. The current season has established over and over that June’s actions have dire consequences for her allies. However, everyone truly close to June is still alive. Although as the series progresses, the stakes grow higher for June, and who she saves is quickly becoming secondary to who she doesn’t. The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 finally gives Janine a long-overdue backstory and a backbone, bringing her story full circle and setting up what feels like either a final goodbye or a fresh start for the show’s arguably most tragic and abused character. Death is not the ending Janine deserves or the one fans want for her, especially given Brewer’s standout performance. Unfortunately, if the trailer for episode 6 (entitled “Vows”) is any indicator, things don’t look good for Janine. It begins with June frantically yelling for her missing friend but quickly shifts focus to Moira trying to help a still reluctant June — and only June– get out of Chicago.
On a more positive note, if a character’s fate appears ambiguous, that can be a good sign. Emily Malek, Luke Bankole, and Moira Strand all disappeared, only to pop up again later. And despite the show’s high body count, fan favorites continue to defy the odds (and often plausible storytelling) and avoid the Wall. If the series wants to kill someone, it leaves nothing up to chance with characters being tortured and killed violently (including being stabbed, pushed off walls, and drowned in pools). Brewer’s name is also attached to the remaining episodes of the season, according to IMDb.
Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale were undoubtedly divided over whether Janine’s pipedream of domestic bliss with rebel leader Steven would have ended better for her than sticking with her friend. In an interview with TheWrap, Brewer didn’t reveal whether her character is alive or dead, only that Janine’s decision to go with June was a pivotal one for her character and one of the series’ most enduring female friendships. “Who is to say whether or not it was a fatal choice? I will not say. I think she made a choice based on the fact that she loves June … She loves her like a sister, like a friend, like her own blood.” In other words, even if Janine is dead, don’t blame it on June.
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