Episode 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 starts with the sound of water. That sound soon paves way for a rotating shot of June Osbourne, standing in front of the bath with the blood of Fred Waterford on her hands and face. If you’ll remember, Commander Waterford met a brutal demise at the hands of the former handmaids during the finale.
Luke knocks on the door and tries to understand what happened but June doesn’t answer. She kisses Nichole goodbye, puts on her coat and marches out the front door.
“I did it. I killed him.” June eventually says, by the car. She smiles deliriously as Moira is shocked silent. She can’t stop June from driving away. As for Nick, he reflects on his part to play in all this and contemplates whether June will actually find peace now or not. Well, given we have 10 episodes of this to go I’d say that’s probably a resounding “No!”
June shows up at a diner where the rest of the women who helped her are in attendance. They all sit together and eat a hearty breakfast. “Everything tastes better when Fred’s dead.” One of the women quips. And given their empty plates, it’s hard to argue with them.
Gilead has certainly left its mark on June though, and she contemplates whether to go after Serena as well and hurt her. In order to do that, they’d need to bust into Gilead. Although breaking in is rather easy, getting back out is not so simple. June is quick to point this out but Danielle is not happy, especially as June isn’t reciprocating the favour they did for her by offing the other commanders that have wronged these women.
After Fred’s death, Serena is moved to a more secure facility and she’s left reeling from this shocking news. With tears stinging her eyes, she reflects on her happy moments with her husband in Gilead. Mark tries to explain his stance in all this when he visits Serena, along with the letter sent (from June) with a severed finger. It’s a threat and Serena knows instantly what she’s done.
June is shocked to find out Emily has gone back to Gilead to fight against the system. June is not thinking clearly and decides to try and get her back. She blames herself and, with blood staining the glass on her car (a recurring motif it appears) June eventually wipes the blood off her body and heads down to the lake.
This show has always been symbolic and full of interesting visual metaphors and this feels like a baptism of sorts; washing away the hurt and the pain of the past to confess and start anew.
June makes a big decision and heads to the police station. One there, she admits to killing Commander Waterford – alone. Luke is shocked and tries to stop her but June has already decided. She confesses, during a beautifully sweeping camera shot that slowly zooms into her face. As it does, June comes to the realization that her confession means… nothing. She has no punishment coming her way as it didn’t happen on Canadian soil. And with that, she’s free to go. As for the severed finger, she’s charged 88 dollars for that. So after confessing her sins, June is free to just walk away.
When Serena finds out, she’s livid. Mark encourages her to focus on her own child and to start a new life in Toronto. Serena is incredulous though, believing her own life won’t be safe until June is stopped.
Fred Waterford’s death essentially serves as a martyr of sorts, especially for those souls that believe in Gilead. They all stand outside in a row with candles lit that night, seeing Serena off as she leaves the hospital. She refuses to go back to the detention center right now, deciding she should give Fred a proper funeral in Gilead.
Mark shows up to see June that night and actually supports her actions, telling her she’s done something that needed to be done [killing Fred Waterford]. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” He says, before signing off and leaving for the night.
This is just what June needs to try and get her life back on track, at least on the surface. Moira is still unnerved and afraid of June, especially after their earlier chat, but it’s at least a start. Will she be able to maintain this? We’ll have to wait and see…
The Episode Review
After that bombshell ending last season, The Handmaids Tale returns with a subdued and pretty tepid episode. That may have been expected though, especially with a need to try and recover from June’s actions, but right now it’s unclear where this season is going next.
Elisabeth Moss has been an absolute workhorse lately and this is another episode that’s Directed by her too. As I said before, there’s not a whole lot to write home about (yes I know that’s ironic given the long recap above!) but in terms of summarizing this chapter, a lot of it stems from the aftermath of Fred’s death and little snippets of symbology. Will June ever be able to get back to how she was before? Or is she destined to slip into this never-ending path of revenge and bitterness?