June has been through hell, but thanks to the love of two men, she’s moving away from the boiling point, leaving her heart behind once again.
The final scene revealed that June won’t be traveling alone, as Serena will be sharing her journey to find safe haven.
For those of us who have always known that Serena’s salvation could only come from June, The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 10 ended on an unexpectedly upbeat note for the two troubled women.
Arriving at that point was a journey in itself.
After the hail of bullets at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 9 and the increasing threat from Gilead, every move June made seemed like it could be her last.
We live in houses with glass windows, and we still feel safe despite the fragility. Every frame that showed June sitting comfortably in front of a window reminded me of how vulnerable we really are in the places we call home.
June’s safety wasn’t compromised inside, though. It was when she left the comfort of her home that she was struck down in the street. With everything that she’s been through throughout The Handmaid’s Tale, the viciousness of the attack was jarring.
We can watch June fighting against the oppression of Gilead, and while her struggles definitely impact us, we don’t feel the urgency. Sure, it could be coming, but we’re safe now.
That looming truck, the engine revved, and the vile man inside, though, hit home. As tensions rise worldwide and dissent and debate are stifled, people are losing their tolerance for differences of opinion, and the threat of violence looms as dramatically as the truck rolling over June and coming back for more.
In keeping with that troubling feeling, Luke, heroically coming to his wife’s rescue, becomes the target for removing that threat. For some, the driver was speaking for them all that they’ve had enough of sharing their country and resources, and they weren’t going to stand by as tensions against the refugees increased.
June worried that they’d be too late once more. They held onto the small hope that it couldn’t happen to them until it did. This time, it was Luke left behind.
June: We have to run.
June: We waited last time. We waited too long, and we didn’t see how much they hated us. I lost you, and then we lost Hannah.
Luke: Are we just gonna forget about her now?
June: We will never ever forget about her, but we cannot help her if we are dead. It’s changing, Luke. This country is changing.
Luke: No, Canada’s not Gilead.
June: America wasn’t Gilead until it was, and then it was too fuckin’ late. Luke, we have to go. We have to run. Now.
It’s such an ugly way to end their time in Canada, but it rings far more authentic than the supposition that arms would be opened wide, welcoming in a disparate group, no questions asked.
It’s too easy for people to turn a blind eye to the troubles of others when their own lives get caught in the crossfire.
I’ve continually asked what the Americans have done while their people have been pulled into the violent and oppressive land called Gilead. It never seems like much.
Mark, as the sole ambassador of America for Americans in Canada, shows that they’re stretched beyond their capacity to make a difference, and the recent defeat they got during a rescue attempt inside Gilead’s borders didn’t inspire confidence.
What transpired inside Gilead during “Safe” drove that point home.
The once rather genteel commander, Commander Lawrence, has dropped the kindness Joseph offered, instead opting for a firmer stance where he’s once again considered one of the guys, which is an intrinsic part of the Gilead system.
The attack on June’s life, which Commander Lawrence swore wasn’t his decision, was a stark reminder to Nick that the men he works with are nothing less than power-hungry animals who will put anyone in danger to retain their influence and authority.
June’s harsh words to Joseph struck a chord, and he seemed determined to erase any portion of the man he had become in the wake of his wife’s death. That doesn’t bode well for the incumbent Mrs. Lawrence.
Naomi seemed to sense that marrying this man who slayed her husband right in front of her wouldn’t be the ideal Gilead pairing, but her attitude changed as their wedding day progressed.
Still, it was unexpected that Naomi almost warmly welcomed Janine, once again posted after Aunt Lydia realized she’d been discovered coddling the young woman.
Naomi has always walked the same line as Serena. It’s been impossible to tell what makes her tick. Despite the many ways in which Janine caused trouble for her family (and knowing how even writing this sounds to those of us not in Gilead), Naomi never fully turned her back on the woman who gave her a child.
It’s impossible to believe that women like Serena and Naomi, even unable to give birth themselves, could really justify their callous beliefs that other women who could give birth would be unfit just because they weren’t part of the Gilead system.
I hear Motherhood is a deep yearning, and the idea that you cannot bear children can be devastating. To get children through the system devised in Gilead required women to wear blinders. How else could they justify tearing children from their mother’s arms?
When Janine’s love for Angela saved her life, Naomi opened the door a bit, allowing her limited access to the daughter she loved to keep Angela safe, healthy, and happy.
So it’s not a surprise that when she opened that door wider on her wedding day, Naomi would dare treat Janine friendly, if not as a friend — until she called Janine OfJoseph.
Naomi: Janine. Have you seen your room?
Janine: Uh, no, mam.
Naomi: Well, I can have a Martha show you.
Naomi: Or I could show you. I feel so hopeful, don’t you? And honestly, it will just be nice to have a friendly face in the house, OfJoseph.
Janine: That’s not my name.
Janine: We’re not friends. Do you really think that we’re friends? I think that you’re one of the worst people I have ever known. I am not your friend. I hate you, Naomi. How could you not know that?
That proved that until a woman finds herself in the same position as Serena, they’ll never fully understand the maternal instinct, let alone extend kindness akin to a mother’s love, and if they don’t have that, they have relatively little to offer.
These things have culminated in such a way that Nick no longer believes in Gilead. He probably didn’t even realize to what extent he’d washed his hands of it when he signed a contract with Mark to deliver information to the Americans.
The commanders of Gilead’s great mistake has been to underestimate the power of June Osborne on those left behind. Trying to tear her asunder has shaken Nick’s foundation, and the supporting players that the commander system relies on have come alive, too.
The same men who described their June problem failed to see how gunning for her would blow back on them. Things are falling apart around them. They may feel momentarily in control, but as fissures in their system grow, they’ll lose the power they hold so dear.
For now, Janine is muzzled and tossed in the back of a van, the likes of which we’ve not seen for some time. Nick is in jail for assaulting Joseph. Luke is in Canadian custody for daring to stop a man actively trying to kill his wife.
And June and Serena are on a train west.
The scene at that train station evoked many painful historical memories, and the truth of the matter is we have no idea what will become of it. Like June’s head framed in a window, being aboard that train doesn’t feel like safety. It feels precarious and concerning.
As events escalate, can Gilead allow so many Americans to escape Canada on one train without making some sort of move against them? We can’t be under any illusion that just because they’re not muzzled and behind bars, June and Serena are any better off than their cohorts.
But we can bank on the fact that if they are together, finally, they will stand united against the world — two mothers on the lam.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 finale is the most evocative yet because these two women who have battled against and sometimes for each other for years find themselves on the same path against all odds.
The setup was brilliantly executed. Serena was absent from the finale otherwise, and all we knew was that she was still in the wind after escaping the Wheelers. And then June began cooing to Nichole that there was another baby on board, and the focus shifted from her painful departure to a sliver of hope.
She’s not alone; by now, she and Serena understand each other better than most. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, they say. And despite it all, the possibility of frenemies is on the table again.
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.