The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 1: Morning Recap

It’s time to return to the world of Gilead for season 5 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. When we left June (Elisabeth Moss) at the end of season 4, she and a group of former handmaids had just finished salvaging former Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) in the No Man’s Land between Canada and Gilead, after Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) and the US made a deal for a prisoner swap between the US and Gilead, then Nick Blaine (Max Minghella) and Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) handed off Fred to June after the swap. According to the terms of the deal, Fred was to be disposed of via Gilead’s justice system. According to Gilead’s justice system, the punishment for a rapist is death by salvaging, with the salvagings carried out by the handmaids of the district. Since the Eyes control the border, Nick had the authority to dispense the appropriate form of justice and to turn Fred over to the local handmaids to carry it out.

The terms of the deal with the US were met, 22 Marthas who were part of the resistance were saved and Fred got the ending he deserved according to the system he devised.

May the rest of the Commanders also find the same justice at their ends. Under His eye.

Season 5 picks up moments after season 4 ends. The enormity of what she’s done starts to hit June.

Recap

Yikes, the recap of seasons 1-4 is harrowing. Though I’d forgotten Moira called Serena a Viking, lol.

The Everly Brothers get the opening voiceover this week with their rendition of “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, since June is in a fugue state after returning home from salvaging Fred. As she holds her bloody hand under the stream of water from the shower, she’s lost in memories of hunting and killing her abuser with the help of Emily (Alexis Bledel) and a group of handmaids from Moira’s (Samira Wiley) support group.

Dreams really do come true. But after 7 years of abuse and trauma and zero treatment for it, choosing to commit this level of violence, however justified it feels, is going to have some blowback onto her mental health. She’s still the fragile person who Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) broke by repeatedly yelling “Your fault” in front of Omar’s body on the wall in S2Ep4. June hated Fred, but she knew him well and for a long time. Since she’s not a sociopath, it’s not actually easy to kill a love/hate frenemy like that. And it’s not easy to believe the ordeal is over. Sometimes, an enemy’s ghost is as bad as the living enemy ever was. Echoes of “MacBeth” run through this episode and will probably haunt the rest of the series.

June is still off kilter from the night before, but symbolically and spiritually she’s in the right place. The window replicates her angel’s wings from S3 in DC, only now she’s covered in blood from last night’s battle, marking her as a spiritual warrior. This image contains the 4 symbols that permeate the first two episodes: water, light, blood and opaque or broken glass, especially glass near liquid/Fred’s blood. Fred’s death has taken June through the looking glass, into the next phase of her life as a warrior. She’s been building toward this since her vigil in Natalie/OfMatthew’s hospital room in S3Ep9. Now she’s either taken another step closer to the point of no return or she’s reached it. She’s both moving into the light and more deeply into her true self (as symbolized by the water).

The song ends, Luke (OT Fagbenle) knocks on the door and June takes a good look at the blood on her hands, which reminds her that she cut off one of Fred’s ring fingers and sent it too Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski). She smiles as she reaches for a baby washcloth to dry her hands.

June makes no attempt to remove the blood on her hands, face, etc before she goes back to Nichole’s room and picks her up again. Luke asks her what happened, then wakes up Moira when she doesn’t answer. June kisses Nichole, puts her back in the cribs and heads for the stairs just as Luke and Moira return.

She grabs her coat on the way out the door to the car. Luke and Moira stop her in the yard. She turns, wild-eyed, and whispers to Moira that she killed Fred. Moira immediately understands that she salvaged him. June breaks away, from them and from normalcy, and runs for the car, her eyes blazing as she drives away.

Turns out going straight home after a salvaging feels a little different in a happy family home in Toronto from the way it feels anywhere in Gilead. June needs to go through her recovery period in a different environment. This episode is June’s Odyssey (albeit super compressed- moms don’t get 10 years to unwind), as she travels through time and space, slowly winding down from her Huntress frame of mind back into a normal citizen. Or as normal as June gets any more.

Nick also returns home, to a lonely looking little house in snowy Gilead. It’s cosy and beautifully decorated on the inside. And- surprise!- his new wife, Rose (Carey Cox), waited up for him. Though she’s disabled and uses a cane, she jumps up to make him coffee herself rather than waking the Martha, quoting some pseudo biblical wisdom about wives serving husbands to justify her sacrifice.

Nick mouths an appropriate response as he sits down and looks troubled. Rose joins him and asks how the night went, asking about June by name and if she did what she needed to do. When Nick tells her it went according to plan, she says that maybe June will find peace now. They hold hands for a moment, then she remembers that she forgot the milk for his coffee.

I think this is the only honest Gilead marriage between friends that we’ve seen besides Joseph and Eleanor. Rose is an intriguing character in her own right, but she also gives us some much needed background on Nick. After his disastrous marriage to Eden in S2, Nick has approached his second Gilead marriage differently, with more honesty about his divided loyalties from the start. We don’t know how much he’s told Rose about June or how sympathetic Rose is to the resistance, but she and Nick share a level of trust that’s unusual for an arranged marriage, or any marriage, in Gilead. I hope Rose becomes a full-fledged character, rather than remaining a plot device in Nick’s story.

After Nick’s doomed first wife was named Eden, it can’t be a good sign that a bowl of Eve’s apples is the centerpiece on Rose’s table. Temptation is still dangerous in Gilead.

Serena Joy does her morning pregnancy yoga in blissful ignorance of what’s to come. I guess no one showed her the finger.

A squad of armed guards bursts into her room. The leader demands that she come with them, right now. She’s being moved to a more secure location for her own and the baby’s protection. They haven’t been able to reach Tuello and they can’t tell her anything more. She’s technically still a prisoner, so if she doesn’t cooperate, they’ll force her.

As they hustle her out of the room, Serena asks of this is about Fred, since he hasn’t contacted her. A guard replies that she doesn’t even know who Serena’s husband is.

Before Serena can grasp this affront, an official intercepts them and introduces herself as Marcia McPhadden (Nadine Whiteman Roden), Senior Director of the ICC’s Prisoner Liaison Office. She explains that Canadian Border Enforcement Agents found Fred’s body this morning. They’re worried that whoever killed Fred may also be after Serena, so they’re moving her to a secure location.

Apparently nobody explained (the brutality of) Gilead’s formal justice system to Canada or the ICC, though not for lack of trying on June’s part. Maybe a picture, or a dead Commander’s body that Gilead isn’t upset about, is worth a thousand words.

They shove Serena into an elevator, where she’s in front of the guards, facing the doors, so no one can see her face as she reacts to Fred’s death. She cries a little and remembers the last time they danced together, during their trip to DC to visit the Winslows and work for the return of Nichole. Similar to now, their marriage was in trouble, but they’d agreed to work together and play happy couple in order to bring Baby Nichole home. Serena realized she had no other option in Gilead but to publicly play Fred’s cooperative, happy wife and if they moved to DC, she’d have more freedom in private than she did in Boston.

Recently, they’ve been playing happy couple for the sake of the baby and to help get Fred exonerated so they could both be set free in Canada. Then they planned to continue living together in a large house (separate bedrooms are required for Gilead marriages). To support the family, Serena would return to the lucrative writing and speaking career she had preGilead. Returning to that career wouldn’t be possible unless Serena appeared to be a happy, conservative wife who’d had setbacks in Gilead, but still held her core beliefs. She couldn’t leave Fred and the mirage of their ideal lives, even after they were released from prison and the baby was born.

But June has set her free, hence cutting off his ring finger and wedding ring. June hates Serena, but she also knows that Serena was even more betrayed by Fred than she was. She killed him for both of them, for the Serena she worked alongside in earlier seasons, who could have been her friend and colleague in a better world. For the Serena who tried to change things and got maimed in return.

June also wanted Serena to know she was the one who killed Fred. The hate and need to hurt Serena is stronger than the desire to bring Serena back to the light. Plus, June both realizes that Serena is a lost cause and will never fully give up hope that Serena can change.

In the elevator, Serena cries tears of joy and sadness. She has to control her face to stop herself from grinning. She’ll now play the grieving widow, but whether she meant to or not, June has done her an enormous favor, ridding her of the dead weight she’s been dragging since before Gilead.

Still covered in Fred’s blood, June finds her handmaid posse having breakfast in a diner. The handmaids wolf down eggs and pancakes while Dolly Parton sings “Gettin’ Happy”. “Everything tastes better when Fred’s dead,” according to Vicky (Amanda Zhou).

June looks a bit more grounded by the time she ends the meal with a vanilla milkshake. The other handmaids begin plotting the violent murders of their mistresses and Commanders. June notices blood on her orange juice glass and recalls blood practically running in the streets from Gilead’s punishments.

She probably meant for Fred to be a symbolic salvaging for all of them to get some justice, if she thought about how it would impact the other handmaids at all beyond the actual event, but it doesn’t feel that way to them. This kill awakened their blood lust, even as it seems to have sated hers, at least for now. But chances are she’s been involved in more death than them, both of friends and enemies. They don’t realize the price she and others paid, and are still paying, to get her to the point where she could bring Fred to justice. All they know is that Emily got some justice when Aunt Irene died and now June’s also gotten justice with their help.

Danielle (Natasha Mumba) leads June outside and reveals a trunk full of weapons. As she gives June a handgun, she says she can get more. She and some of the others want to go back into Gilead to torture or kill the people who haunt them most, right now. June asks where Emily is. They say she’s gone, but they’re here.

Echoing Boston’s handmaids, they tell June that they were there for her, so now she owes them. The argument escalates until Vicky point a gun at June and asks if June is there for any of them. When June defiantly says she doesn’t know, Vicky fires several bullets into the air. The handmaids scramble to leave before the cops show up, calling June a coward as they go.

Serena is being held in a remote location in the woods. Tuello finds her tied up, which suggests she was a suspect in Fred’s murder. Or that they thought the pregnant lady might go mad with grief? She did burn her house down that one time. Maybe June mentioned it in her testimony and now Serena has a reputation as a rapist and an arsonist, lol.

Or maybe Tuello wants Serena to feel just a little bit of what Fred felt, to make her afraid for her own life.

As soon as she’s untied, Serena demands to see Fred’s remains and scolds Tuello for not protecting her husband better. Tuello has to tell her about the change in plans that sent Fred back into Gilead’s custody. Unlike Tuello, Serena understands what the agreement that he would be tried under Gilead’s justice system means. Tuello acts all broken up over sending Fred to his death but justifies it by having saved the Marthas.

I never trust either of these two to express an honest emotion anymore. I’m sure they do have them occasionally, but good luck guessing when it’s happening. There’s a kernel of truth on each side in their sadness and remorse during this conversation, but let’s face it, both benefit from Fred’s death. They’re mostly putting on a show.

Tuello tells Serena that his priority right now is to protect her and the baby from whoever mailed her Fred’s finger and wedding ring. He gives her the ring and shows her a photo of Fred’s body on the wall with the Latin joke that means “Don’t let the b*st*rds grind you down” spray painted under it. Once Tuello tells Serena which finger was severed and she sees the message, she tells him that June killed Fred, not Gilead. He doesn’t think that’s possible. She assures him it is.

Neither seems to consider that June could have been acting as an agent of Gilead, which is strange, but the truth.

June goes to Emily’s house, where Sylvia (Clea DuVall), Emily’s wife, tells her that Emily went back to Gilead to find Aunt Lydia and to continue her fight. Emily called Sylvia to say goodbye, but didn’t say goodbye to their son, Oliver. June immediately decides to find Emily and fix this, but Sylvia stops her. She’s already accepted that she and Oliver will never see Emily again and good riddance. Unlike Serena, she barely musters any emotion.

June tries to take the blame, since she’s used to everyone telling her everything is her fault, but Sylvia tells her that it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t need someone to hate or blame. It won’t bring Emily back. She’ll always remember Emily fondly, but now it’s over. And she refuses to call June if she hears from Emily.

I get the sense that she won’t pick up the phone if Emily calls. Sylvia and Oliver have a nice, normal life and Sylvia wasn’t interested in a version of Emily that had so much trauma to deal with. During the last two seasons she was avoiding Emily and making her feel like a monster. Emily didn’t feel comfortable with anyone until June came back. Even Moira wanted her to put her feelings away rather than fully working through them. Once Emily helped kill Fred, she no longer met Moira’s standard of proving they were good people by giving up violence once they got to Canada (S3).

As with June, it wasn’t Emily’s choice to leave Gilead and she still has unfinished business there. In S2Ep13, she was handed Baby Nichole and sent into the back of a van before she even knew what was happening. She’d been a member of Mayday, had mutilating surgery as punishment and watched her lover, a Martha, be executed. She killed a Guardian and a wife. In flashbacks we’ve been shown that Emily was quietly a fighter even before Gilead. While I don’t like the thought of her going back alone, maybe she’s made contact with her old Mayday friends. (In real life, Alexis Bledel left the series for personal reasons.)

June stops at a gas station and tries to call Emily, with no success. In the ladies room, she finally becomes conscious of the blood she’s still wearing like a trophy and frantically washes it off, her anxiety growing in proportion to the blood swirling in the sink. Sylvia’s stubborn normalcy was the reality check she needed to bring her out of the Gilead-style blood lust she was stuck in. But Sylvia’s sense of normalcy also comes with judgement and horror at what she’s done. She still has to face Luke and Moira again.

Emily ran back to her new normal of Gilead, rather than look at Sylvia’s disapproving face or try to mesh her two realities again. The escaped handmaids have lived through a war and then years as POWs who were regularly raped and frequently tortured, even mutilated. Where is the intensive therapy they need to deal with this level of trauma? Many of them should be helped to gradually acclimate to the new culture when they get to Canada. Ironically, Serena’s imprisonment has allowed her gradual exposure to the new environment so she could decide which parts of her Gilead persona to keep and which to jettison.

June goes to the beach and wades in a bit, still wearing her Wellies from the run through the woods the night before. She crouches down and splashes water on her face and chest, remembering Luke and Hannah at the beach (maybe this beach) and her brief visit with Hannah at the lake house in Gilead on the day Nichole was born. She’s recentering herself, reminding herself of her main purpose in life, to be Hannah’s mother.

She can’t help Hannah now, but she can be a Good Mother by being a Good, Responsible Person, so it seems like fate when a police officer shows up and asks if she’s okay. She turns herself in as Fred’s murderer and the officer takes her down to the station.

Luke finds her there, sitting unguarded in the lobby, not even tied to the chair. She apologizes for ruining the normal life he and Moira have built with Nichole.

Luke: “You are my f**king life.”

You know, Luke drives me crazy, but I just can’t quit him. He married June because he enjoys the excitement she brings, not because he wanted a boring vanilla life. He’s not perfect, but he’s actually grown over the years, rather than clinging to the past. That doesn’t mean they’ll stay together forever, but they’ll likely stay friends no matter what. There’s a limit to how much excitement he can stand and neither of them signed up for what Gilead has brought them.

June tells him that Emily went back to Gilead, leaving her family behind. He says that’s an insane thing to do, which is true. He also doesn’t want to lose her again and he can see that she’s feeling the pull toward Gilead even before she says it out loud.

Luke agrees that he too feels pulled toward Hannah. And he used to feel an even stronger pull toward her, but now she’s back. He tries to get her to leave the station with him, but she tells him that she shouldn’t be around Nichole. Luke insists that she didn’t do anything wrong. June tries to explain that if he understood the brutality of the way she killed Fred, he wouldn’t want her around.

They go back and forth about whether Luke can truly understand what June is talking about and whether he’d care if he did, until the police come for her. She confesses to murdering Fred and they take her to the back. Luke tries to stop her from talking and to stop them from taking her, even suggesting they run away to Hawaii for some treason and coconuts. As they lead her away, June tells Luke to have Moira call a lawyer.

June, in a cage of her own making. She feels guilty and alone, like she’s not safe to be around other people. But those bars aren’t real.
Luke helps June break out of her mental prison and realize she’s not alone. If only for a moment, the bars shrink and fade. But June is determined to go through with her confession, her way of balancing scales that don’t need to be balanced.

June gives a full confession, but says she acted alone. While she’s searched and has her mug shot taken, it’s revealed that she still has the red livestock handmaid tag on her ear. After she removed it too soon in S2, now she’s waiting for the right time.

Will that be when she finally feels free or when Gilead falls and the threat is definitely gone, no backsies possible? Or is it now connected to when Hannah comes home, rather than her own freedom?

The prosecutor (Konima Parkinson-Jones) she’s speaking to asks why June wanted to inflict harm on Fred.

June replies: “He raped me and kept me prisoner. He was a monster and he deserved to die.”

The prosecutor tells her, “Society leaves decisions like those to people like me, Ms Osborne. Not our citizens, and certainly not refugee guests in our country.”

June: “I understand that. That’s why I came here. I came myself.”

Prosecutor: “You did. Unfortunately, as they say, this is not my department. Maybe fortunately. These events did not occur in Canada. It is not a concern of the Crown.”

June: “I killed him.”

Prosecutor: “Be that as it may. We appreciate you coming in. Have a good night.”

June: “There can’t just be no punishment.”

Prosecutor: That is between you and your deity of choice, Ms Osborne, but the Crown has no quarrel with you. You’re free to go.”

The prosecutor leaves the room. A police woman tells June that in the matter of the severed finger, they’re citing her for Transporting an Unsecured Biological Sample. She can pay the $88 fine on her way out or online.

Having once again committed the perfect murder, June leaves in a daze. Luke is waiting for her outside. She tells him she has to pay a fine.

Serena views Fred’s remains, then is joined by Tuello after a moment. She requests that Canada reinstitute the death penalty for June. Tuello informs her that June killed Fred in a zone that’s disputed between Canada and Gilead, a No Man’s Land in which neither country’s laws apply. So June won’t be investigated or prosecuted.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure Nick planned the location of the crime. June isn’t quite the criminal mastermind Serena makes her out to be, but she has a fantastic criminal gang to fall back on and make her look good.

Tuello encourages Serena to forget about Fred’s brutal murder and move on with her life. Soon she’ll get out of prison and be able to live like a normal Canadian with him.

In one of the most ironic statements of the entire series, Serena sticks her belly out at Tuello and asks how she’s supposed to feel safe from June.

Tuello deliberately misunderstands her and tells her about applying for asylum as a refugee and all of the resources that will be available to her as a regular refugee from Gilead.

OMG, he’s twisting the knife so bad with Serena in this episode. Last episode she was demanding a mansion and now he’s telling her that if she just wants to cry and play victim, she can go live in refugee housing and get the Canadian version of food stamps. Maybe Moira can be her intake counselor.

But he also says she won’t be alone. Refugee housing is crowded. Serena throws one of her patented crying fits, asking if he’s going to protect her from June when she’s capable of THIS and dramatically rips the sheet off Fred’s body. Serena yells at Tuello that he’s not capable of protecting her from June, which is absolutely true, then walks out. Tuello, who wanted to say he’d be there for her, but isn’t stupid enough to trust Serena any more, follows. Fred’s naked, shredded body is left alone on the table, having lost even his dignity.

A loving wife wouldn’t leave her husband’s body like that, despite the glory of the exit.

When Serena exits the building she’s met by a candlelight vigil made up of fans lining both sides of the sidewalk. As she walks between them, they tell her they’re praying for her and Fred. Her adoring fans are still on her side. Serena’s spirits visibly lift by the time she reaches the waiting car. All she needed was a proper audience.

Before she gets in the car she tells Tuello that she’s taking Fred back to Gilead to give him a state funeral and bury him there. The Waterford name needs to be respected and remembered as the name of a founding father of a nation. Tuello tries to resist, but she plays the version of Mrs Waterford that gets to him every time and he says he’ll make some calls.

This is the Serena who’s useful to Tuello and capable of saving herself.

Tuello is not actually in the business of helping individuals in need, other than his own career. Never forget that. If he helps someone, he’s getting something out of it.

As soon as they get home, Luke says he needs a drink and asks Moira where the good red wine is. June stays silent near the door while Moira asks Luke how she’s doing and argues that June is now a scary killer. Luke doesn’t want to hear it. He says that right now, June is here and they’re going to celebrate the win. He sends Moira into the kitchen with a glass of wine for June.

June asks if she heard about Emily. Moira says the refugee centers and Red Cross along the border will keep an eye out for her. June points out that they won’t be looking for someone going toward Gilead. She wonders again why anyone would go back.

Moira: “It happens. More than you think. People are breakable. I gotta go give Nichole a bath.”

June says she’d like to do it. She pleads with Moira to let her give her daughter a bath.

Moira: “June, I don’t feel comfortable with you taking care of Nichole right now. It scares me.”

June: “Me too.”

Moira: “You scare me.”

June: “Me too. I thought I’d be in jail.”

Moira: “But you’re not.”

Before Moira walks out to give Nichole her bath, June says I love you. Moira grudgingly says it back. Moira offered no love, comfort or understanding to June during their conversation. Instead, she othered June, making her feel like an irredeemable monster. Let’s recall that Moira is a murderer and former prostitute who abandoned June during an escape attempt in the early days of Gilead. It took her a long time to feel normal again after she returned from Gilead and she had much less done to her, saw and was forced to do much less to others. But, as with Sylvia, now that she’s in a good place, she doesn’t want that peace disturbed in order to help help a loved one recover. She’s afraid of facing her own demons again. Meanwhile, June is breaking and her conversation with Moira pushed her further down that road.

With perfect timing, Tuello shows up at June’s house. They sit outside on the front steps to talk.

No symbolism there.

June wonders if he’s there to arrest her, but he’s not. He confirms that no one is pressing charges against her and assumes that’s good news. June is looking for someone to lock her up in a nice quiet cell so she can rest and avoid responsibility for a while. What she wants is an old fashioned rest home or sanitorium for nervous breakdowns, not a prison.

June: “Sorry I kind of played you.”

Tuello, blandly: “All right.”

He’s been with Serena all day. He wouldn’t recognize an honest emotion if it hit him in the face.

June: “So what did she say, when she found out? About Fred?”

Tuello: “She was scared.”

June: “Scared of me?”

Tuello: “Yes. Scared can be very dangerous, Ms Osborne.”

June: “She will always be dangerous.”

Tuello: “I think you scared Gilead as well. A handmaid killing a Commander. I don’t think they’ll be able to let that stand… I just came to say, uh, well done. You did something terrible, that needed to be done. I understand what that costs. May he rot in Hell.”

June, in tears: “Praise be.”

Tuello: “Don’t let the b*st*rds grind you down.”

Mike drop.


Tuello’s Agenda

And just like that, June finally gets the validation she needs, from an unexpected source. Tuello did his best to grind her down, then gave back his approval for an act he knew almost no one else would validate. This is his way of reeling her in, until she’s working for him. He hopes. He’s using the same gaslighting tactic on both June and Serena- undermine and isolate them, then be the one who seems to rescue them, when in reality they rescue themselves. But he hopes they’ll feel like he’s the only one who understands them, even as he vacillates between approval and coldness.

Tuello wants to be their new Fred, which shows that he still doesn’t understand the dynamic between the three of them at all. All he sees is that these two women are kingmakers, who could also bring down an empire, and there’s now a power vacuum where Fred used to be. (June helped make Nick’s career and remake Joseph’s. Serena made Gilead. Both women propelled Fred to the top.) Or maybe Tuello thinks he’s smarter than Fred. (He’s not.)

Tuello made it clear in this episode that he wants Serena as his public operative and June as his underground assassin/spy. He practically told June to go into hiding before Gilead puts out a hit on her. Which he will no doubt encourage Serena to push for.

He is correct that Serena works better as a public figure making showy moves and June prefers to work in the background, building networks and pulling strings until a plan comes together. But they never needed or fought over Fred the way he thinks they did. Fred needed them, just like Tuello needs them to make his career. Serena knows this. June needs to learn and remember it.


June creeps upstairs to the bathroom and looks in on Nichole’s bath. Luke notices her and coaxes her in to join them. Moira doesn’t object. June picks up and cuddles Nichole, who calms down after being fussy. Luke and Moira leave mother and daughter alone to bond and finish the bath.

June finds a measure of peace at last.

Though they sit next to each other on the steps, the camera never captures them in a front facing two-shot. Tuello and June aren’t on equal footing. He uses his drop and run tactic when he praises her for killing Fred, a technique he saves for distasteful tasks.

Commentary

This episode was directed by Elizabeth Moss, who has become one of the show’s go-to directors, in addition to her roles as lead actor and executive producer.

The only official punishment for Fred’s death is a fine for bringing a piece of the trash that was his body back across the border. Good call, Canada.

Looks like June is back on Tuello’s list of valuable assets. Hopefully he doesn’t have her listed as an assassin who leads a gang of assassins that he can call on anytime. At least not until she gives him permission to list her that way.

Tuello and Serena played cat and mouse with each other for the entire episode, each waiting for the other to make an offer they couldn’t resist. Having Serena tied up and locked up after her husband was murdered was a suitable reminder of what awaits her in Gilead if she doesn’t make nice in Canada.

Luke is working so hard to keep June with them, but I think Moira is already resigned to her leaving to rejoin the fight. Maybe Moira feels a little guilty for practically forcing her out of Chicago. Anyone in Moira’s situation would have made the same choice and June needed to get out at that point. But, just like Emily, she has a lot of unfinished business in Gilead, starting with Hannah, but she’s also haunted by Omar and his family, Eden and Isaac, Janine and Esther, and all of the murdered Marthas, Jezebels, Guardians and handmaids who helped and trusted her, such as Beth, Cora, Alma, Ofmatthew, etc. There are still women being taken captive on the front and children to be brought home. She left in the middle of a war and once she’s rested up and regained her mental and physical strength, she’ll want to help finish it.


Nick and Rose

Nick’s wife, Rose, is played by Carey Cox, a disabled actor with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The only other character named Rose I can find was the girl June spoke to briefly in the hospital hallway at the end of S3Ep9. June sat by OfMatthew’s bedside in the hospital for the entire episode, watching lines of girls as they were shepherded through the halls to fertility checks in preparation for marriage. She stopped to talk to one of them, Rose, before she left the hospital.

We don’t know if this is the same Rose. It would be an interesting point of contact if they turn out to be the same person and Rose remembers June from that conversation. That Rose was kind to June and seemed unsure about whether she wanted babies when June asked her. June may have been the first and only person who asked what Rose wanted. She may have inadvertently started some rebellious thoughts in Rose’s head.

That Rose didn’t appear disabled. She even offered to carry June’s heavy bag. Did she have an accident or injury later or was her illness just not visible yet? Did Nick rescue Rose from a difficult home life?

How hard is it for a young, visibly disabled Commander’s daughter to find a husband, even if she’s fertile?

Nick may have been assigned Rose as a wife, the same way he was assigned Eden, so I don’t want to add saving her to his sainthood qualifications yet. But the openness of their marriage and her comfort in her own home is definitely unique among Commanders’ wives. Even Eleanor was kept in her box of a bedroom most of the time. Every other Commanders’ wife has felt like she’s wound up tight and walking on eggshells, worried she’ll be replaced or mutilated at any moment.

Rose talked the Gilead talk and served her husband the way a Gilead wife is expected to- there is a Martha in the house, after all, who can report abnormal behavior to the Eyes. But she also spoke freely, if in code, and knew Nick’s very personal, practically illegal business. She knew as much as Serena ever did about Fred’s ongoing work and more than is allowed under current law, though she spoke carefully so that you had to know what she was talking about to realize it.

She showed that she’s smart, practical and Nick trusts her. But it was clear that Nick doesn’t tell her everything and he’s still very much a loner in most ways. He was kind to her about the coffee and answered her questions, but I don’t think he expected her to wait up for him or that he relies on her for emotional support at this point. That could change with time. She seems like a person you could rely on, but that also makes her dangerous to someone in Nick’s position. She could be a plant and not trustworthy at all.

There’s also the question of children they might have together and how they would affect his relationship with June and commitment to Nichole and the resistance. Rose’s presence makes Nick’s position even more precarious, but Commanders are also expected to marry and have children, so he probably couldn’t put off remarrying any longer after he returned from the front.

Hopefully we’ll see more of them together and learn more about her background and how they came to be married.

What’s The Deal With Nick’s Wife In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5? She’s Rapidly Becoming The Show’s Best New Character (CinemaBlend.com)

Alexis Bledel Exits ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Ahead of Season 5 (EXCLUSIVE) (Variety.com)

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Elisabeth Moss on Alexis Bledel’s Exit in Season 5 and Possible Return (Exclusive) (ETOnline.com)

Elisabeth Moss Says Alexis Bledel Leaving ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ ‘Wasn’t the Easiest’ to Handle: What Happened to Emily? (UsMagazine.com)

I’m going to leave the rest of my commentary for episode 2, since the first 2 episodes feel like a two parter to me.

Screencapping outtake- suspicious Nichole.

Images courtesy of Hulu.

One thought on “The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 1: Morning Recap

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