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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 4 Review: Dear Offred

We’re finally getting somewhere.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 4 found, for the first time, June and Luke on the same page.

It’s about damned time!

The most frustrating thing about June’s journey for freedom post-Gilead has been how everyone wants her to just put the past behind her.

June carries physical and emotional scars that will never allow her to forget what she’s suffered, let alone just brush it under the rug for the sake of civility.

Until their daughter was on the jumbotron, Luke lacked the urgency to deal with his wife’s anguish. She needed to rant and rave; she wanted to be heard.

Who could blame her? Handmaids in Gilead have no voice. Everything must be done in secret, and every phrase uttered aloud could lead to punishment. When you’re finally free, getting it all out isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.

June’s volatility scared Luke. It even frightened Moira, who was on the front lines in Gilead, which notes the difference between the handmaids and every other oppressed woman in that land.

Handmaids are a special breed, quite literally, as the only women capable of breeding and replenishing the human race.

Luke, and even Moira, couldn’t understand June’s frustrations as she clung to the past, needing to eradicate it in any way possible. June will feel safe enough to begin moving forward only when the threat is gone.

June’s past and immediate threat is Serena. June’s very soul is irked that she’s free and actively trying to take Gilead’s ways outside of its borders.

It’s gonna happen here. She is going to bring it here. I swear to fucking God, she’s going to bring it here! The only way to stop her and to stop them is to put them all in the fuckin’ ground!

June

Canada hasn’t gone to great enough lengths to ensure the murky bible-thumping ways of Gilead don’t permeate its society, and if how someone easily shrugged off how June and Nichole were accosted in the park is any indication, they won’t act until it’s too late.

June knows how they operate. June knows of Serena’s tenacity. Until Luke met with Serena face-to-face, he couldn’t understand.

Armed with building codes, poor Luke was entirely outmatched by Serena. Humiliating him to show her power when he entered the room, Serena had the upper hand in their conversation from the start.

It was Luke’s last-ditch effort to save his family from utter destruction. He’d already come to terms with June’s plans to kill Serena. It happened when he started talking about it rationally, reminding June that if she killed Serena, they’d be less likely to get Hannah back. Uh, ya think?

But feeling Serena’s calm, steely stare as she rationalized away his poor attempt to upend her new cushy gig finally lit the fire under him that I’ve been waiting for.

Serena: Is that what you came here to tell me? That we have issues with the plumbing here?
Luke: Well, I also came here to tell you that my wife is gonna kill you, right? And I’m gonna let her.
Serena: Is that so?
Luke: Um hmm. So, you can get kicked out, you could be killed, or just help us get Hannah back.
Serena: Agnes is happy. She has fit and loving parents, just as the good Lord intended. Who am I to question God’s will? You know, come to think of it, I do wonder why you never returned to Gilead to ‘save’ your daughter. I mean, there were risks, of course. Which your wife took, and she suffered for them many times. Then again, she did have Nick’s support. I’m sure that gave you some small comfort knowing that.
Luke: You stay away from my family, or the next time I see you, I’m going to fuckin’ kill you myself.

Luke finally understands the impossibility of asking June to put aside her animosity toward her former captor. It just can’t be done, and more importantly, it shouldn’t be done.

The next time June was waiting outside of Serena’s new home, a fight broke out in the streets.

Bloodshed is in their future as tensions rise between those who wish to remain free and those beginning to harbor love for the Gilead ways. Calling June a whore for having her child is one thing, but men striking women in the streets is another.

Soon enough, the Canadians in The Handmaid’s Tale are going to have to choose a side. It won’t be as easy as providing shelter to refugees and having concern for women unable to bear children.

The two cannot stand at the same time, and relying on current laws won’t make a difference.

I loved the moment when Moira was urging June to stand down, that losing her family isn’t worth taking the risk.

June is still a woman who can give birth, and if Gildead’s culture seeps outside of its borders, she and every other woman still capable will be forced into submission again, especially if that society is eager to spread the wealth of childbirth outside those who can do it.

June pointed out that they’d already tried all of that in America before the war. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Getting their hands dirty is the only way to stamp out the rot of Gilead.

And although it is awfully personal for June to end Serena, it’s just as important for Serena to be taken out for the greater good of free society as she actively tries to crush freedom in her wake.

Given all of this, it was surprising that June allowed Serena to live another day. She has the perfect opportunity to end it, and without a crowd around, it would have been easy.

Outside of the obvious — that the two need to continue this dance as the show progresses — why didn’t June take the shot? I can only guess that it’s because Luke was at her side, and she’d yet to learn that Luke not only wasn’t going to stop her from killing Serena but would be happy to do it himself.

At the very least, this is a round that June won. She may not have taken a shot at Serena, but shooting at all upended Serena’s existence. That’s enough to at least put a smile on June’s face.

And I couldn’t help but think that Serena might have had her first inkling of what it’s like to be a handmaid when she stood before Alanis, aka Mrs. Ryan Wheeler, who had been kind enough to invite her to their home.

Serena is out of options. Even though she hears “good job” from the Commanders in Gilead, she’s got no freedom. Useless Mark the American was at least right when it came to that.

Luke: Get the fuck out of my house. Get the fuck out of my house!
Mark: She has no standing here. She has no status. She doesn’t have a passport. There’s no money in her name. She can’t even drive a car. She’s limited.
June: I warned you about her. You won’t listen. God, you’re such a fucking disappointment.
Mark: Well, perhaps your expectations were unrealistic.

She’s no longer awarded the protection of America, and she’s got no rights in Canada. Serena has to remain with her Gilead hosts and follow their commands. She might make demands, but nobody feels obligated to meet them.

Things inside of Gilead aren’t going as swimmingly as they would like, either, and one of their most trusted Aunts, Aunt Lydia, has lost her taste for blood.

Janine has been through so much that she doesn’t hesitate to say what she feels anymore. What are they going to do to her that others haven’t already tried? How many times do you escape death before it’s no longer a motivating factor?

Janine: [laughs] Why didn’t you just pluck her eye out?
Aunt Lydia: I gave you the education you needed to live a safe and meaningful life. And here you are, still with us!
Janine: Stop it! I know what you do, what you do to those girls. You’re precious girls. I see you! I see who you really are. I’ve still got one good eye, remember? You going to take that one too?

The way Janine spat out her displeasure at what she’s suffered at Aunt Lydia’s hands actually wounded the older woman. Aunt Lydia has shown kinks in her armor before, but this is different. She seems to want to make up for her mistakes.

If you’re a God-fearing reader, maybe you can explain how Aunt Lydia can still call on God for all things when interpreting the Bible has paved the way for Gilead’s harsh reality.

You can’t use God to punish and forgive in the same breath without sounding a little looney.

Still, Aunt Lydia did swallow her pride by trying to sway the needs of the Handmaids more fully into her jurisdiction.

Aunt Lydia: Commander Lawrence, I have come to believe that the handmaid system must be reformed. A new protocol to prevent such harmful incidents from happening in the future.
Commander Lawrence: I’m all ears.
Aunt Lydia: Handmaids would remain under my care. Commanders and wives would visit each month when it’s time to perform the ceremony.
Commander Lawrence: You mean go to the Red Center, kind of Handmaid’s Hotel, where you’re the concierge?
Aunt Lydia: I believe God will be better served if handmaids are no posted in households!
Commander Lawrence: What are you smoking? No commander is going to buy into that. They’re not interested in some quick in and out to make a baby. They want those girls in their homes, accessible anytime so they can sniff the air after they walk by or do whatever the hell they want to get their rocks off. These are pious men. They need a little kink. You know that.

But all it did was allow Commander Lawrence to express what we’ve known from the beginning. There’s nothing pious about Gilead and the Handmaid system; it’s just a way for men to control women and subsequently get their rocks off.

At this point in the story, everything is in flux. There are changes inside and out of Gilead, and it’s hard not to imagine a world war coming as a result.

Commander Lawrence indicated other countries eager to get their hands on the formula Gilead uses to oppress women. It’s no surprise that Venezuela tops that list.

For now, the dance between June and Serena continues, but for the first time, June isn’t alone in her fight. She’s officially reunited with her husband, and that’s the kind of support she’s needed all along — unfiltered and without strings.

What do you think is next as tensions bubble to the surface? Share your thoughts below.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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