The Handmaid’s Tale spent the first two seasons in a relatively isolated and narrow slice of Gilead. But since the Waterford household broke up at the beginning of Season 3, new characters have come and gone. Season 3 introduced new Commanders like Winslow. Now, the latest arrival for Season 4 is a new Wife, the bride of Commander Keyes. But who is Mrs. Keyes in The Handmaid’s Tale, and how does she fit into the world of Gilead?
Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4, Episodes 1 through 3 follow. When June (Elisabeth Moss) was rescued at the top of the season, Janine (Madeline Brewer) told her they were heading for a farm where a Commander would take them in. But once she healed enough to rise from her bed, June discovered the "Commander" in question was not really in charge. He wasn’t even in possession of his full mental faculties.
The person in charge of this farm — where June and her friends live disguised as Marthas — is his wife, Mrs. Ester Keyes (Mckenna Grace). But this is no barren Wife who adapted to the ways of Gilead once she started living in it. She is a child bride who was forced into marriage and angry at the world that put her in this position.
In a departure from the novels and the show up until now, Ester wasn’t even clearly unable to get pregnant like most Wives. Instead, her Commander husband had been led to believe she may be fertile. (Considering how young the show has gone with making the brides for Commanders, it’s a logical idea that Gilead would attempt to move toward fertile Wives when they’re available.) So, Keyes brought in any virile man he could to have sex with his child bride in hopes of a baby.
The ongoing horror and the constant threat of being raped again made Ester frantic. She flipped out when June told her to be patient about fighting back; Mayday had to lay low. Her eagerness to tear down the system quickly became a running threat. As June observed to Alma (Nina Kiri), someone needed to take the girl and keep her from ruining everything in her tunnel vision of rage.
But once June realized the tragedies the girl has lived through, she could not be patient either. To that end, when one of the Guardians who raped Ester made the mistake of coming back around to the farm, June handed the child the knife and told Ester, "Make me proud."
Unfortunately, June’s choice to let Ester run wild had consequences. Although on the one hand, it worked in June’s immediate favor. Ester, who grew up on a farm, taught June to make nightshade to poison several Commanders overnighting in the area. On the other, it made Gilead suspicious of the farm and the handmaids had to flee.
By the end of the third episode in Season 4, Ester is in Gilead’s custody. Will June’s revolution stay with her? Or will she bend to Gilead’s will?
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 continues with new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.
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