The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 3: Border Recap

In episode 6, “Borders”, Moira (Samira Wiley) and June (Elisabeth Moss) visit a rebel camp on the Canadian border with the hope of getting more information about Hannah (Jordana Blake). Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) works to secure her future in Gilead. Hannah’s adoptive parents, the MacKenzies, worry that June is a threat to their family. As Janine (Madeline Brewer) lingers in a coma, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) stays by her bedside the way she once had June sit with Natalie/Ofmatthew (S3Ep9).

Recap

The episode picks up later in the evening after the end of the funeral in episode 2. June sits in her living room, going over the funeral broadcast in her mind and staring at a photo of Hannah from the before times. She asks Luke (OT Fagbenle) what Hannah was wearing, but he can’t remember. Moira, who’s been trying to get through to the refugee center on the phone, was watching at home and remembers the outfit. June asks if she noticed the color. Moira is upset that the broadcast revealed Tuello is in Gilead with Serena. But she recalls Hannah was wearing purple rather than pink, the color little girls wear.

They all look at each other with dread when this ominous sign that Hannah is growing up sinks in. June remembers seeing Nick (Max Minghella) there as well and decides to contact him. Luke reminds her that they have to use Tuello’s (Sam Jaeger) sat phone to do that. Moira tells them she knows of a group of rebels at the border who are able to get messages into Gilead.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 2: Ballet Recap

In episode 2, June (Elisabeth Moss) returns to normal life with her family in Toronto while Serena returns to Gilead for Fred’s (Joseph Fiennes) funeral. Both have some difficulty achieving what they want and clash with their allies in the process. At the Red Center, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) prepares the latest crop of handmaids for placement, including Esther (Mckenna Grace) and Janine (Madeline Brewer).

This is a triggering episode for all of the women, whether they’re in Gilead or Canada, no matter their social station. The episode studies how each woman handles the crisis she faces, especially comparing June and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), now that their positions have reversed. Serena is pregnant, alone and in danger of losing her child and her freedom, as June was at the beginning of S2, while June is married, in a safe place, with a home of her own and among friends, as Serena was for the first 2 seasons. But the threats that Gilead and the war pose to women and to the citizens of the US are always in the background for every character, whether they choose to acknowledge those threats or not.

Recap

As in episode 1, the Everly Brothers get the opening voiceover with All I Have to Do Is Dream, while June lies awake in bed running her reel of Serena memories on a loop. Among Serena’s greatest worst hits are the many times she violently manhandled Offred; the way, as the Wife, she (and Fred) took credit for June’s pregnancy (with Nick’s (Max Minghella) baby); and of course, her worst offenses- when she dangled her access to Hannah in front of June without letting June near her own daughter. Serena abused June/Offred just as much as Fred did, and in some ways the pain she caused was more insidious.

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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.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Every Recap in Order

Links to every Metawitches post related to Margaret Atwood and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in order, so y’all can skip the tag. I’ll add future seasons (and the rest of S3) as they arrive.

Season 1

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Watch the New Trailer– Series description and trailer analysis.

HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Analysis and Commentary– Review and in depth analysis.

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The Handmaid’s Tale & A Discovery of Witches Recaps

Links to all of my recaps for The Handmaid’s Tale are available at the tag, including all of Season 4: The Handmaid’s Tale Recaps

Current Episode- Season 4 Episode 10: The Wilderness Recap

Previous Episode- Season 4 Episode 9: Progress Recap

Links to recaps for the complete series A Discovery of Witches are available at the tag: A Discovery of Witches Recaps

Current Episode- Season 2 Episode 9 Recap: In Which Diana Is Given Surprising News

Current Episode- Season 2 Episode 10 Recap: In Which Diana Contemplates Endings and Beginnings

Previous EpisodeSeason 2 Episode 8 Recap: In Which Marcus Tries Again

I recapped both series out of order, so if you’re looking for an episode other than the current one, scroll through the tag until it shows up. For The Handmaid’s Tale, S2 & S4 are complete. I haven’t started S1 yet and have done about half of S3.

Images courtesy of AMC & Hulu.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 10: The Wilderness Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep10 June, Mark, Joseph

In episode 10, the final installment of season 4, we follow June as she comes to terms with Fred Waterford’s imminent release from prison. We’ve spent the season watching June try to balance the rage from her experiences in Gilead, the need to fight back and her sense of helplessness over Hannah’s situation with her exhaustion from the fight, her desire to return to ordinary life and her efforts to act like the person her loved ones remember. This episode is the culmination of that struggle, as she makes irrevocable choices about who she is and what she’s willing to do to fight for the world she wants for her daughters.

Recap

We begin with a flashback to a trip to Jezebels back in the season 1 era. June is in her sparkly gold dress and cheap makeup. Fred pulls her out onto the dance floor. Though June smiles as though she’s enjoying herself, her voiceover tells a different story:

“It has to look like love. That’s what he needs. Pretend you like it. Pretend you love it. Pretend you want him. He is your Commander. Make him your whole world. Your sun, your moon and all your stars. Make him believe. Because your motherf—ing life depends on it. Don’t run. Don’t kick. Don’t scream. Don’t bite it off. Don’t… bite.”

She left out “Don’t punch. Don’t hit. Don’t scratch.” I wonder why she didn’t include her arms as weapons. Maybe because she’s so used to Serena holding them down? I fought off a rapist, once upon a time, and I can assure you that I used my arms, legs, wits and everything else available to me, just as she describes. Though it was decades ago, I still feel the potential to fight for my life in my muscles and bones, as if they are always coiled, ready to spring into action if I need to fight again.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 9: Progress Recap

Episode 9, Progress, includes several surprise visits which bring both good and bad news. June has an unexpected visit with Nick, where she receives new information on Hannah. Fred receives a visit from Warren Putnam, while Naomi pays a call to Serena. The Putnams congratulate the Waterfords on their forthcoming arrival, then inform them that Gilead is no longer in need of their services. Janine visits Esther in the Red Center to explain the reality of how life works for handmaids.

Mark Tuello’s end of episode visit with June and Luke is expected, but he delivers news that shocks June to her core.

Recap

We begin with June and Luke, apparently the morning after episode 8. It appears that they’re wrung out after staying up all night talking about June’s attempts to rescue Hannah. Luke tries to look hopeful. June apologizes again. He puts the blame where it belongs, on Gilead, not on June. June tells him that Nick said Hannah is safe at home now. Luke corrects her- home is in their house in Toronto, with them. June agrees.

Like June, I was so relieved during the scene on the bridge S4Ep3, The Crossing, that I didn’t question Nick’s wording, but Luke is right. Hannah isn’t safe and she isn’t home. She’s back with the MacKenzies, where she’s okay for the moment, but only for a very few more years. Her time is running out. June knows this from the parades of girls she watched in the hospital in S3Ep9, Heroic and from Mrs Keyes’ and Eden’s experiences (S4Ep1, Pigs and S2Ep12, Postpartum).

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8: Testimony Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep8 Emily

Episode 8, Testimony, examines how the characters are coping, or not coping, with their trauma. June faces Fred for the first time since S3Ep10, Witness, when he forced Joseph to perform the Ceremony. They meet in international court, when June testifies against Fred. As generally happens when women accuse powerful men of sex crimes, the results are mixed. The women who know June are empowered by her testimony. Luke sends June more mixed messages. Moira is sympathetic, but prefers to keep June’s experiences at a distance. June searches for and finds an outlet for her anger, which also brings out Emily’s repressed anger. Serena Joy and Fred never change.

Aunt Lydia continues to have difficulty dealing with her own anger and trauma, which leads Joseph to reprimand her and then give her a puppy turn over a handmaid captured in Chicago to her for discipline. That’s right, Janine’s survival is finally confirmed! Lawrence says he’s giving Janine to Lydia for her to use as a punching bag, but I’m convinced he knows Lydia actually needs a support handmaid to love and Janine is really good at loving people. Before she became a rebel, she was notorious for kidnapping her baby, jumping off a bridge and then later for bringing Angela back to life. Janine is a miraculous character and now God has brought her back to Lydia to fulfill a new purpose.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 9: Heroic Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep9 June & Aunt Lydia

Episode 9, Heroic, is probably one of The Handmaid’s Tale most controversial episodes. Almost the entire episode takes place in Ofmatthew/Natalie’s hospital room, where she is brain dead after being shot by a Guardian in episode 8. Natalie is comatose, but kept alive as an incubator for her baby for as long as possible in order to give the baby the best chance of survival. Little care is given to her comfort and none to her potential wishes. She is now blatantly referred to as a vessel for the baby and nothing more, ultimately the only role that matters for the women of Gilead.

It was shocking enough to watch as a pregnant Black woman was shot by the Handmaid’s Tale version of the police in the previous episode. In this episode, we watch as her body is treated like an inanimate object by almost all of the many people who file through her hospital room. Natalie is reduced to frequently malfunctioning life support for her womb, an obstacle in the way of the healthy baby boy they want to eventually harvest from her, just as they’ve stolen her previous three children.

Season 3 aired in the summer of 2019, long before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths in May and March of 2020. It’s a reminder of the long history of racism, medical mistreatment and violence in the US; of the continued commodification of women’s bodies, especially those of women of color; and that everything in The Handmaid’s Tale novel/S1 has already happened somewhere in the world/history. It’s all still happening in the US and globally. The series continues to be grounded in reality, no matter how extreme it seems.

It’s a genius move for Aunt Lydia to punish June for her harshness toward Natalie by sentencing her to remain kneeling in the room 24/7 until Natalie gives birth. Natalie was annoying, but after 5 years of Gilead’s abuses, she was also mentally fragile. She did what she hoped would allow her and others to survive, just like the rest of the handmaids. June’s constant presence in Natalie’s hospital room, swathed in handmaid’s red, reminds those who enter that Natalie is a human being, not just a vessel.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 7: Home Recap

Handmaids Tale S4Ep7 June & Gilead Gang

In episode 7, June is recognized as a citizen of the United States and is accepted by Canada as an official refugee. This should mean that she’s not subject to extradition by Gilead as one of their citizens, but it doesn’t mean they won’t try to assassinate her in Canada or extradite her as an escaped criminal. In the meantime, Mark Tuello and Rachel Tapping put her up at a fancy hotel for the duration of her initial recovery and debriefing. Luke soon has other ideas and takes her home instead, where she attempts to fast track settling back into normal life, along with catching up with old friends and enemies from Gilead.

It’s a lot for her first 2 days in Canada and eventually it all catches up with her.

Recap

The episode begins where episode 6, Vows, left off, with June stepping onto Canadian soil. No sooner has her foot touched the pavement than Mark Tuello begins speaking. He and Rachel Tapping, the US government official who’s met frequently with Luke, are there to officially welcome June to Canada. But first, a few questions: “If you were returned to Gilead, would you be subject to a danger of torture, a risk to your life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment?”

June has a hard time keeping up with what they say and is afraid they’re here to send her back, especially after the cold welcome she received from Oona’s crew. She manages to answer, “Yes.” She also answers yes when Rachel asks if she’d be persecuted based on being a woman. Mark reminds her that she’s a citizen of the United States. She finally says, “My name is June Osborn. I am a citizen of the United States and I seek asylum in the country of Canada.”

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