The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 5: Fairytale Recap

During episode 5 June and Luke go bowling in No Man’s Land, while Serena meets Commander Mr Wheeler and spars with Warren and Joseph. The message of the episode: Life is a fairytale, but one written by the Brothers Grimm, not by Walt Disney.

A few moments from the “Previously” stand out: Moira’s line delivery when she tells June that Hannah wont become a wife under any circumstances is so heartfelt; the tears in Luke’s eyes combined with the anger in his voice at the end of his meeting with Serena- she pushed all of his buttons after knowing him for less than an hour in total; the way Serena leans into Ezra as he escorts her out of the Information Center when they hear the gunshot- she’s looking for a man she can rely on; and Mrs Ryan Wheeler’s crazy eyes when she looks up at Serena as she caresses the baby in her womb- no way is she letting Serena keep that child.


The episode begins with one of June’s (Elisabeth Moss) iconic flashbacks to toddler Hannah (Jordana Blake) at the aquarium, a memory that both sustained and haunted June throughout her time in Gilead. The end of the flashback rewinds, then June wakes up to her phone buzzing. She was dreaming. The rewind was an expression of her fear that Hannah’s memories of her childhood with June and Luke (O-T Fagbenle) are disappearing and being replaced by memories of childhood in Gilead with the MacKenzies. By extension, she’s worried about the way Gilead is shaping Hannah as a person.

The phone call was from Mayday Lily (Christine Ko), with word that a friendly Guardian is on his way to their camp with information about Wife schools and maybe about Hannah and which one she attends. June, Luke and Moira (Samira Wiley) pile into the car for the long drive out to the Mayday camp on the border. They’re slowed down by anti-immigration Canadian protesters who want the Americans out of their country.

Oh, the irony.

Serena’s (Yvonne Strahovski) bedroom is on the top floor of the Wheeler’s mansion, just like a handmaid’s. She’s in a blouse and jeans as she makes her way downstairs. She stops in the foyer to look at the artwork, which gives Ezra (Rossif Sutherland) the opportunity to bring her flowers.

They’re really from one of her cult followers, confiscated at the gate, but let me have this, ok? He moons at her even more than Nick mooned at June in season 1, since there’s no Fred to stand in their way. No word yet on his marital status.

Serena hands the flowers off to the maid, then asks if Mr Wheeler (Lucas Neff) is available for a meeting. Ezra is still lost in staring at her beautiful face and takes a second to focus on her words.

Actually, I think he’s just trying to figure out how to let her down gently. She’s still acting as though she’s in American custody, with equal rights, freedoms and responsibilities, instead of a disgraced Gilead woman who will speak when spoken to and never, ever overstep her boundaries. For some reason she thought the High Commanders would follow through on their plans to let her act as an ambassador, instead of pulling the bait and switch they’ve pulled on her every time she thinks something good might happen for the last decade.

Ezra explains that Mr Wheeler is a Very Busy Man, but he’ll see if he can get her an appointment. They part and she enters the formal dining room, where Alanis (Genevieve Angelson) is having breakfast. Serena explains that she doesn’t need a big meal, but Alanis tells her she’s going to keep serving what she’s serving, in order to make sure Serena and the baby are properly nourished. This household strives to live up to Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and Gilead’s standards. And they need to make up for Serena’s early pregnancy, spent with the Americans, who don’t know how to properly care for a pregnant woman. Shame on Serena for getting herself taken into custody.

This is all said in polite code, of course.

Serena, who’s trying very hard not to read this room properly because she doesn’t want to believe the truth, changes the subject. She tells Alanis that they’ll have the center open again soon. Alanis replies that she heard the center was closed indefinitely.

Serena: “We can’t let a few simple rules get in the way of God’s will. Can we?”

Alanis chuckles and looks super happy. She’s probably recording this conversation and knows that line will be perfect for the hearing in Gilead to prove Serena is an unfit mother. Serena seems to think Alanis, an infertile Wife married to a powerful man, is on her side. She’s forgotten everything she wrote in her book and that her mother taught her about unmarried women in Gilead in S3. She thinks her personal power will prevail. We get a shot from behind Mrs Wheeler, reminding us that’s she’s the one sitting at the head of the table, not Serena.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Serena & EzraHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Mrs WheelerHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Moira

When they arrive at the Mayday camp, Luke hangs back at the car, since men aren’t allowed in. Lily calls him forward, saying they should all hear what’s going on. She says the Guardian with the information is just on the other side of the border in No Man’s Land, but Canadian Border Patrol won’t let him cross. They’ve increased their patrols to clamp down on rebel activity. Canada is tired of hosting rebel encampments and is trying to force them out.

Moira asks if they’re giving up. Lily tells her Mayday will never stop fighting. They’ll move the camp somewhere else, but unfortunately it seems Hannah’s family won’t be able to retrieve the information they came for. She only just found out that he couldn’t get through or she’d have told them sooner.

Luke thinks about it for approximately 2 seconds, then announces that he’s going to get the information from the Guardian. He can’t stand to lose this chance to find out where she is. Lily tells him they have a meeting spot in No Man’s Land. Getting there shouldn’t be too hard, with some luck. She’ll let someone know he’s coming.

June looks at Luke with admiration, then announces she’s going with him. Because Bonnie wouldn’t let Clyde do something stupid alone and that’s the basis of their relationship. Nobody argues with her. Everyone knows it would be pointless, but Moira’s disturbed face says it all. At least Hannah will still have Moira when June and Luke get themselves captured and killed- oh, let’s be real, they’re both protected by plot armor and can take any risks they want. They’ll get someone else killed or maimed instead.

I find Lily’s reaction a little odd. Why will it be simple for Luke to get through, but too difficult for the Guardian? This feels a little like a set up, especially since she called Luke over from the car to make sure he was involved. But I can’t figure out how Gilead or Mayday would have set Luke up, since it’s all been his idea, from visiting Serena to entering No Man’s Land, so I think it’s the writers who are setting him up.

Lily and Moira walk June and Luke to within sight of the border. Lily packed them each a heavy backpack of supplies for her Mayday counterparts in Gilead, since they don’t know when the next exchange will be. Moira confirms that June checked in with Rita, who’s watching Nichole. June told Rita they wouldn’t be long.

Lily explains that they need to make it across an open field crossed by power lines. No Man’s Land begins on the other side. It’ll take all night to reach the meeting spot. She marked a trail on the map that will help them avoid patrols. She refuses to give them the Guardian’s name, saying, “Names are dangerous.”

Names can be revealed under torture.

Lily instructs them to look for the other flag to find the meeting spot, then give the code word, “Beret”. Moira hugs them goodbye. Holding hands and looking a bit like Hansel and Gretel, they head out as the sun is setting.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 About to Set OffHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 June & Luke & Border MarkersHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Border MarkerHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Scrub Land

As they walk through the dark forest, June has flashbacks to her and Hannah’s initial capture by the Guardians. Luke notices and suggests they take a break, but June wants to keep moving. Best not to linger where the Big Bad Wolf likes to hide in wait.

Back in the Mayday cabin, Moira and Lilly share a bottle of liquor and talk. Lilly asks about Luke and June. Moira tells her, “They don’t quit. Through all the sh*t they’ve been through, they just keep fighting for each other.” Lilly admires that. Moira, looking thoughtful, agrees. Maybe she’s remembering her late fiance, Odette, or another of her lost loves.

Moira asks where this Mayday cell will go next. While Lilly lists Maine and Montreal as potential locations, Moira adds Detroit, her hometown. They laugh, because it wasn’t exactly a tourist destination before the war, either.

Maine is where June’s tapes were found in the book. Are there already Mayday cells in both places?

June and Luke get a jump scare when they come across a body who’s been hung high up in the trees. The man has a sign attached that says “Rapist.” Luke asks if Gilead did this. She tells him that Gilead wouldn’t use a sign with words- the ladies wouldn’t be able to read and appreciate it. She doesn’t want to linger there.

Handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Guy in Trees
He didn’t get the Fred treatment, just a straight hanging with the Puritan style sign announcing his crime. I still have to wonder if June inspired a rash of vigilante executions.
Handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 June & Luke Look Up
Are we in a horror movie now? Are they the Black Dude Dies First and Final Girl tropes? Nah, we’re way past that, but not past the show making their lives a living hell again.
Handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Serena & The Infertile Wives Club
Serena Joy and the Infertile Wives Club sit in June’s hazy light, with her window wings. Our dark angel doesn’t understand what this adulation means.
Handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Serena & Naomi & Adoptees
More glass, isolation and rejection. No show does sinister, institutional white like Handmaid’s Tale, except maybe original flavor Roswell.

Serena Joy changes into a skirt, then trundles downstairs to meet a group of adoring infertile wives. They pray to her, sharing their stories of woe, then she lets them kneel before her and rub her belly for good luck. The super chosen ones get to feel Fred Jr kick. It never occurs to Serena that this could be a prelude to raffling off her baby for a good cause.

She remembers when Gilead was new and there were many kidnapped children waiting to be adopted. She and Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) visited the adoption center together, but couldn’t imagine any of these older children of color in their homes. Naomi wasn’t comfortable with the uncertainty of taking in a child who could have been anywhere and done anything before this.

After all, they could turn out to be a corrupt serial rapist, like her husband.

Both women have heard whispers about handmaids, but they aren’t ready to take that step yet. Serena insists that she and Fred will eventually have their own biological child.

In the morning, June and Luke find a tree with the markings they were looking for. The Guardian they’re meeting is hiding behind a tree, because he’s a professional with skillz. He points his rifle at them and says, “Rasberry,” twice. June responds, “Beret.”

There are some Prince fans in Mayday.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 June Luke & Jaeden Exchange PacksHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Mrs Wheeler Pops Her EyesHandmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Joseph & WarrenHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Serena Through the WIndow

The young Guardian orders June and Luke to follow him… somewhere. They want to quickly exchange backpacks and info and be on their way back to Canada, but he refuses. He says they don’t have to come with him, but he’s got to go, now. Without the information they came for, Bonnie and Clyde have no choice but to follow him.

After the baby shopping is over, Mrs Wheeler leads Serena into a study so she can take a call from Gilead. Serena is thrilled that Mr Wheeler has arranged the call without having to use the American or Canadian governments as intermediaries. Once again, she doesn’t understand that these diplomatic niceties are in place for a reason, just like a passport, which she is also lacking. Citizenship and an official record of your location and existence protect you in the long run. But Serena is also a criminal who helped overthrow one of the largest, most bureaucratic countries to ever exist, so of course she thinks official channels, other than Gilead’s, aren’t necessary.

She invites Mrs Wheeler to join the call, but the other woman is scandalized at the thought. As a mere woman she couldn’t possibly. Why, she’s not even capable of such a thing!! Her eyes widen in shock at the thought of it. A woman involved in man’s business!! My stars!! She scurries out of the room. Serena doesn’t see this for the warning sign that it is.

Mrs Wheeler stays within earshot and eavesdrops. Her definition of womanhood includes spying on other people’s phone calls and probably reporting what Serena said to Mr Wheeler. But it has nothing to do with business! She might as well be a parrot, mimicking the meaningless sounds she hears!

Joseph (Bradley Whitford) and Warren (Stephen Kunken) are both on the call. Serena is surprised that Warren is there. Joseph is surprised, too. After the greetings, Warren, speaking to her as if she’s a child, asks if Serena thinks she’s fulfilled her mission with the Gilead Center. Serena blames June and says that issue needs to be taken care of. Joseph agrees, but there’s something implied in his words that I’m not getting. He might be trying to get through to Serena that she’s in trouble too.

Serena makes a proposal for the rebuilt center to focus on fertility rather than directly on Gilead, since people want babies and have negative misperceptions about the country. Offering them help with fertility, the Gilead way, does an end run around their misconceptions. She blindsides Joseph and Warren with this idea and they don’t know what to make of it. Warren won’t approve of anything proposed by a woman unless he can make it look like his idea. He hangs up on her mid sentence.

Joseph: “You’ve always had a way with the ladies, Putnam.”

Warren tells Joseph that he doesn’t like his new grand plan for Gilead, New Bethlehem. He thinks it will be the end of Gilead and the death of them all. Joseph looks stricken.

His comeback plans must hinge on this project.

Putnam: “A bunch of traitors, criminals, terrorists and you want to welcome them back. Coddle them. Forgive them. Never. The other Commanders will never support that.”

Joseph: “What are you proposing we do?”

Putnam: “We don’t need to court the love and support of the whole world. We don’t want them poking around in our affairs.”

Not when “we” have so much rape and pedophilia to hide.

Joseph: “If we keep the walls up and the borders closed, this country will die, Putnam. It will die. All of this will have been for nothing. Nothing.”

And by all of this, he means Eleanor’s death and the loss of his international reputation. Maybe some of the slavery as an afterthought.

Putnam: “Wow. That was a lovely speech, Lawrence, lovely. You really think another speech from you is going to sway the other Commanders? I doubt it. You know, you’re welcome to try.”

He laughs in Joseph’s face and walks out. 

Putnam is too much of a caveman to be swayed by language, so he underestimates the power of nonviolent persuasion. Joseph is well-versed in both- not that he gets his own hands dirty.

Handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Gilead Map with New Bethlehem?handmaid's Tale S1Ep5 Warren Putnam

Putnam is so stupid that he thinks he rose to power through his own actions or merit and now he has free reign. Instead it was just the random luck of being the last man standing when all of the other original Sons of Jacob were done being struck down by betrayal and misfortune. And handmaids. So many losses can be traced back to the handmaids.

Young Guardian leads June and Luke through a hole in a tall fence, then barricades it behind them. They cross a parking lot/moat and enter a low cinder block building- so far, this looks like the perfect place to spend the apocalypse, guys. It’s completely dark inside until the Guardian turns on the lights.

OMG, it’s a bowling alley. Well, thank goodness we’re in a bowling alley. It’ll all be okay now.

Young Guardian says the building has a real bathroom- not just a great hide out for men, then. But I do wonder why they have running water and sewer. A well and septic tank with pumps that run on the generator? But how is the generator powered? Maybe they ran an exceptionally long extension cord from the power lines June walked past earlier. Or set up windmills and a battery system on the roof. (I have mentioned that I come from a family of engineers, right? These details are important!)

Guardian hangs out here most of the time when it’s cold. He goes behind the bar to exchange Luke and June’s backpacks for replacements from Mayday in Gilead. Then he offers to tell them about the wives in training, known as the Plums. Because of the color they wear and because they’re about ready to pluck and consume. 

He says the Plums go to special, heavily guarded schools, but they aren’t prisoners. “They’re like princesses, the best of the best. Completely taken care of.” Uh huh. Totally not behind 12 foot high walls and barbed wire. Can leave anytime they want. Lots of choices, like which flower pattern they want to embroider on their future husband’s hankie today.

Luke asks about the training, because he’s maybe never thought about what a traditional wife does/did? Guardian says it’s to run a household, while June says it’s to learn to be wives. If you don’t know what a traditional wife does, this still doesn’t answer the question. Either Luke is so evolved that he doesn’t comprehend the idea that women could be in charge of all of the tasks of running a house, from laundry and cleaning to planning dinner parties and overseeing the children’s education, or he’s so clueless that it doesn’t occur to him that household management is a freakin’ job, even if you have another one. Especially when managing staff, as the wife of a Commander does, and being required to memorize everything that can’t be summed up in pictures, since they aren’t allowed to read. 

Nobody mentions whether the Plums will be given sex education of any sort. It’s pretty clear to everyone but Luke that little or nothing will be said until the Plum joins her husband/rapist on the wedding night, except for whatever whispers the Plums might educate each other with.

[Testaments spoiler: Also helpful community servants/pedophiles like the local dentist.]

June asks what comes after Plum school. Guardian says they aren’t in Plum school long. With a chuckle, he says they’re married pretty quickly once they start. Not so much a school as a holding pen for prize specimens.

Luke is outraged and tells Guardian that his daughter is 12 years old. Guardian replies that it’s just how the system is. He’s young enough that he doesn’t remember anything different. To him, arranged child marriage is just culturally normal and acceptable. It didn’t even take a whole generation or any brainwashing to flip that switch. 

He hands them a thumb drive and says he doesn’t know where the Plum schools are. The system is new and information about it is restricted. The information they have is on the thumb drive. 

June and Luke decide to leave, now that they’ve gotten what they came for, but Guardian stops them. It’s not safe to cross this section of No Man’s Land during the day, even for him. If they stay until sunset, he’ll guide them back to the border. Since they’ve already walked all night, June and Luke decide to wait.

Who are Gilead’s Guardians afraid of? Mayday has moved on and the Canadian Border Patrol didn’t execute that rapist. The US doesn’t seem to have a presence on the border. There’s another organized faction in play here who share some of Gilead’s views but aren’t friendly to them. Will a third independent nation grow out of No Man’s Land?

Luke takes Guardian up on the offer to bowl. They have a great time bonding over strikes and spares while June sits to the side, nervously keeping watch. Guardian says no one cares that he holes up here. A lot of guys find places to slack off rather than patrol. He appreciates having company and help resetting the pins.

Slacker Guardians help explain why No Man’s Land is so out of control. It also shows that Gilead’s military discipline is breaking down.

Luke mentions that he loves bowling and Guardian says he thinks he used to love it too, before the war. He thinks his dad used to take him. His memories from before Gilead are hazy and dreamlike. Suddenly the mood gets serious, as June and Luke figure out that Hannah’s memories from before Gilead are probably the same.

Guardian doesn’t think Gilead is that bad. He’s helping the resistance because he thinks people should be able to talk to their families outside of Gilead and have more secular freedoms, like being able to bowl. When he returns to the game, June tells Luke, “I’ve never seen anyone in Gilead who’s pure like him.” And then Luke and Guardian/Jaden (Owen Painter) give each other their names.

Jaden decides to share the beer he has stashed in a cooler and Luke decides it’s time for some music. He sits down at a keyboard in the corner and starts playing and singing the Al Green song Let’s Stay Together. After a few minutes he stops playing and asks June to dance. He serenades her a cappella while they slow dance. 

Jaden is impressed and asks if Luke wrote the song. With nothing to lose, Luke takes credit for it and June backs him up. They continue to dance. It’s a carefree moment, probably one of the most relaxed they’ve had since the Sons of Jacob executed Congress.

It’s too carefree for the danger they’re in. No one is standing watch.

Word has spread about Serena’s whereabouts and a continuous stream of followers shows up at the Wheelers’ gate. Serena walks down to try to say hello to some of them, but Ezra intervenes. She’s not allowed to speak with strangers. He suggests she walk the grounds by herself.

Serena recalls meeting with Aunt Lydia to choose her first handmaid, the Offred who died. Aunt Lydia poured on the flattery of the Waterfords and of course the four handmaids on offer were the best in the district. When Serena picks up a file, Aunt Lydia notes that Fred showed interest in her as well. Serena puts that file aside. She chooses the next file she picks up, seemingly to get the process over with rather than because she approved of the particular woman. Aunt Lydia sounds like an overenthusiastic waiter, telling Serena her dish will be prepared to perfection and her child will be served up soon.

In the present, Serena kneels by her bed to pray, looking like a handmaid. The image she presents can’t be lost on her. Mr Wheeler stands in the doorway and knocks, silhouetted the way Fred was many times. He apologizes for not visiting her sooner and says he doesn’t want to take up too much of her time- as if she has anything to do in her barren room. He’s spoken to the other Commanders about her phone call. They agree her idea for a fertility clinic was a stroke of genius and have decided to implement it. But she’s being shut out of the process. He promises they’ll give her input from home, but that feels like a lie meant to ward off her anger in the moment.

For now, she needs to take care of the baby’s health, even though there’s no indication that anything is wrong.

Mr Wheeler: “Most pregnancies do end in bedrest. And while you’re not exactly there yet, can’t be too carful. Can’t have you running around the city. Your baby’s needs come ahead of any plans or ambitions.”

Sorry, Serena, the men aren’t going to pretend you’re a whole person anymore. Not with a male fetus inside you.

He supervises her while she takes some vitamins, just to emphasize that her judgement and reason are no longer sufficient. He’s an amateur, though- didn’t even look inside her mouth to make sure she swallowed. Before he leaves, she asks if she can have a cell phone. He tells her no, because of security concerns.

She’s the security concern. If she has a cell phone she might read.

Once he’s gone, Serena’s face shows her understanding that she’s trapped, just like the handmaids who were kidnapped and forced to bear children for their enemies.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 June & Luke DanceHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 OffredsHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Serena & LydiaHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Serena & Mr Wheeler

Unlike the tense morning journey to the bowling alley, Jaden is loose as he guides June and Luke back through the forest, chatting at a normal volume and not watching where he’s going. Just as he’s telling them that he’ll turn back soon, there’s a distinctive click under his foot- yep, it’s a landmine. He says the “rebels” have scattered a few in the area.

My guess is the landmines are left over from the war or soon after and were placed by Gilead. So far, we haven’t seen anyone be as needlessly destructive as them, though their tactics did evolve from America’s tendency to shoot first. We haven’t seen any “rebels” anywhere with access to something like landmines. They’re lucky if they have food and running water.

They all stand in shock for a second. June asks what they should do. Jaden tells them to stay back, then starts to say something else, but the mine explodes before he finishes.

This is another reason why we don’t learn the Guardians’ names. Other than Nick, who wasn’t really a Guardian, those poor boys don’t last.

Also, kids, don’t drink and wander through forests with landmines and scary monsters.

June and Luke rush to help Jaden. Through his moans of pain, he tells them to leave him and run. He continues saying it through his agonizing pain, which means they ought to take him seriously. But they stay, trying to figure out how to tend to his massive injuries, including a missing foot. There’s not much they can do for him, but June uses a belt as a tourniquet on his leg while Luke moans louder than Jaden. Just as they try to pick him up to carry him, a team of Guardians calls out to ask if he’s hurt. June finally understands that they need to run, but it’s already too late. Luke still hesitates as she tugs him away. They’ve been spotted in the flashlight beams and the Guardians give chase.

The forest chase was the part of June and Hannah’s initial capture that Luke missed because he stayed by the car for an ineffective shoot out. June has been the hunted and the hunter multiple times since then. My favorite is probably the season 3 finale, where she led the Guardian away from Angels’ Flight, then turned the tables on him.

They crash through the forest, hunted by what feels like an army, with brights lights and trucks disorienting them. June remembers running with Hannah. I can’t help but remember Fred stumbling through No Man’s Land.

They make it to the power lines- within a few feet of the Canadian border. But they’re surrounded, restrained and separated before they can cross. June cries out for Luke as they’re dragged away from each other, into the dark.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 June Luke & Jaeden in Forest
Once again, June, a lover, a victim and a flashlight in the spooky forest at night.

Handmaid's Tale S5Ep5 JaedenHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 June Sees GuardiansHandmaid's Tale S5Ep5 Captured


Jaden wins the award for maintaining his ability to try to save others while in extreme pain.

June’s definition of pure and mine are maybe a little different- mine doesn’t include condoning child marriage. Jaden is still outwardly sweet and can still understand that other people might also want the same personal freedoms that he’d like to have. But otherwise he’s been utterly corrupted and his moral code belongs to Gilead. He’s meant to embody a play on the Too Good for This Sinful Earth trope. He’s another variation on Eden and Isaac, the children of Gilead who are raised in such ignorance that they don’t understand how awful their views are. They are a version of pure and some are able to instinctively understand right and wrong anyway, then act accordingly. This is a set up for when we get to know Hannah as a teenager and find out who she’s become after so many years in Gilead, with so little contact from June.

June and Luke had a horror movie start to the episode, leaving civilization to visit a remote cabin, then leaving the cabin to walk through the forest where the monsters hide. The episode plays with the Final Girl trope, in June’s case, and in Luke’s case, the Black Dude Dies First trope.

The land mine mirrors the season 2 Red Center bombing. Handmaid Lilly/OfGlen2 was a former drug addict who chose to become a suicide bomber as a political statement and act of revenge. She gave the Gilead lifestyle a chance, but they treated her so badly that she turned against them. She ran toward the Commanders before detonating the bomb, warning as many handmaids as she could to get out first (though many more died). This time, it’s a random bomb, probably placed years ago, by an enemy who didn’t care who they killed. And their weapon hurts an innocent who doesn’t have strong feelings for either side, he’s just trying to survive and do a little good in the world.

Last episode I said that June and Luke tend to talk each other into bad decisions and that Luke isn’t meant to be a field operative. I stand by those statements. Taking on a mission that Guardians have turned down was a particularly annoying decision. It was not worth risking both of Hannah and Nichole’s parents’ lives to find out more about Wife School. The name tells you what you need to know. The information wasn’t urgent. Even if Mayday left, they could have searched for another way to get similar info.

After walking all night, they should have taken turns taking napping instead of drinking and bowling. They knew that to get back to Mayday, they were going to have to walk all night while avoiding Guardians. If they rested, they might have avoided the land mine or at least realized they needed to run after the explosion. June is capable of making the tough decision to run when she’s away from Luke, but once again, he’s there and she’s caught.

The motifs of the season are becoming clearer to me: glass that’s obscured, often by reflections; vehicles, which often end up hitting dead ends or going back to where they started; and nature/plants/trees, which grow but become associated with negative emotions.

We see dangerous forests, trees used as gallows, June’s frustrating garden, the indoor garden Moira hates, the estate grounds which trap Serena. June can’t revel in Nichole’s growth or her own freedom because those changes mean Hannah is growing into a woman in Gilead. Every turn of the seasons highlights June’s failure to rescue her. Canada feels more like captivity and stagnation than freedom, because she still can’t do the one thing she’s driven to do. Only Hannah, Janine and Esther remain trapped in Gilead and June doesn’t know if Janine and Esther are still alive.

Come to think of it, why hasn’t she asked about Janine and Esther?

The glass and vehicles are often combined, with the glass as a reflective car windshield. Windows don’t let the characters look into the distance or get a different perspective. They only show a murky version of the character already sees and frequently the glass also serves as an obstacle to the audience, blocking our view as well. We are all seeing through a glass, darkly.

The vehicles take people places, but they can’t accomplish their goals and are dissatisfied. The vehicles themselves frequently serve as obstacles rather than rides, as they did at the end of this episode. The characters are driving in circles, metaphorically trapped in No Man’s Land, just as Fred was at the end of season 4. Maybe there’s some karma June and Serena need to work out with Fred before they can move on with their lives. Maybe Fred can’t move on to the next plane of existence until he knows Serena and the baby are safe and Serena has worked out her Gilead karma.

Joseph and Nick are also spinning inside their own web, but I don’t think it’s Fred’s ghost they need to make peace with. They both made Faustian bargains with Gilead, which they now regret. Joseph promised Eleanor and Nick promised himself that they would reform Gilead, to make up for the horrors they helped perpetrate. Nick can’t fully commit to being a husband and father to anyone until he cleanses his soul of those sins. Joseph wants to solve the puzzle of human nature, to create a system that will turn civilization into a perpetual motion machine rather than slowly eating itself alive, as all human societies have in the past.

Glass and light in this episode: There’s glass between Serena and everything she wants. Joseph’s map is behind glass, with stained glass reflecting on it. Warren stands in front of the map, but Joseph’s light shines through- Warren doesn’t block the reflection, but the glass is there, between Joseph and New Bethlehem. We don’t see the glass windows in the bowling alley, only a bit of light. Luke and Joseph are both associated with colored light and a second man who stands between them and what they want. Luke cooperates with and charms Jaden, but is captured. Joseph and Warren size each other up and end on a challenge. To be continued. Serena is framed by light and June is in the dark. June and Luke spend the episode in the dark forest and in the dark bowling alley. They meet Jaden in the brief morning light and lose him in the dark, except for the red explosion and the bright white flashlights.

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Waterfords’ First Handmaid Exposed Gilead’s Lies From the Start–

I’ve waited five seasons for this show to do a scene in a bowling alley. If you haven’t seen the movie Pleasantville, I highly recommend it (it’s currently on Hulu). One of the early Sons of Jacob meetings (Nick missed this one):

Images courtesy of Hulu.

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

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.