Warning: This article contains spoilers for Season 5 episodes 1 and 2
Blessed be the fruit!
It's finally here! The first two episodes of season 5 of 'The Handmaid's Tale' dropped Wednesday, and I don't know about you, but I'm desperate to see what happens next.
Last we saw June, she was covered in Fred Waterford's blood and holding her infant daughter Nichole. She had just torn the commander apart in the woods with her bare hands. It left viewers wondering if she would face consequences for her actions. Would she go to jail? Would Gilead come after her? We needed to know.
Getting Started Where We Left off
In the first episode of the season, we see June standing in front of a bathtub, ready to wash off the blood. Instead, she revels in the moment, going over the murder scene in her head and smiling. She seems to be in a euphoric state. She did it. She actually killed him, and she loved every second of it.
She picks up a washcloth and lets the blood smear across the embroidered fabric. She stares at it, almost as if it's a memento that she can hold onto. She lets it fall, still elated, then Luke starts to bang down the door.
When June comes out of the bathroom still covered in blood, Luke is panicking. He calls out to Moira, and they both rush after June as she grabs her jacket and heads to the front door. They don't understand. They saw the blood and freaked out, and now June is trying to leave. They try to stop her and figure out what is going on. But June is still dazed and euphoric. She doesn't seem to know or care how upset they are. She just ignores them and keeps walking.
Finally, they stop her in the front yard and June admits what she did, pressing her forehead against Moira's in an awkward gesture of platonic intimacy. Moira inspects June's hands and realizes that June didn't just kill Fred. She tore him to pieces. It disgusts her.
Again, June doesn't seem to notice. Instead, she declares, 'By her hand. By her fucking hand.' She then jerks away and jumps into the car, driving off before Luke and Moira can stop her.
June's Inner Circle Can't Stomach the Murder
What we see in the coming two hours is a household that cannot accept June's actions. Moira doesn't want June anywhere near Nichole. She says that June scares her. She seems impressed that June wasn't taken to jail after confessing her crimes to the police, but she can't understand how June could commit such a heinous act. It's a knee-jerk reaction to gore and violence. When Samira Wiley, who plays Moira, is interviewed for the behind-the-scenes take, she says that Moira can't have June in her safe space. It's just too much.
Luke is shaken almost as much as Moira is. He understands what June did, and he gets why she did it. He even tells June that she didn't do anything wrong. He tries to stop June from turning herself in, and nearly drags her away from the police when she does. But this is a man trying to stay close to his wife. He spent roughly five years pining after. She was imprisoned, forced to become breeding stock, and he found it nearly impossible to live without her. He's not going to give up on her. In my opinion, he is shoving down his disgust and just trying to salvage his relationship. He's still shocked and disgusted, and it shows.
Rita, who is a household regular, can barely look at June. She is a pacifist, focused solely on healing and moving forward. In the fourth season, she showed signs that she didn't want anything to do with the Waterfords or June's efforts against them. That has carried over into the fifth season. She won't discuss the past. It's too much for her. She'd rather live like none of it happened at all, which some would consider unhealthy.
Any Reasonable Society Would Put Fred To Death
Not that long ago, we saw flashbacks of Fred telling Serena that the Sons of Jacob were going to slaughter congress, a measure which he proposed to the council himself. He helped them refine the idea of handmaids while sitting in a limousine with the other commanders.
In the novel, he was responsible for branding and propaganda. He was the reason handmaids would gather to collectively execute dissidents. He was the one that had them tearing people apart with their bare hands. Isn't it fitting that Fred should die by the methods he instituted?
Fred wasn't the leader of Gilead, but we can't forget his place in the founding of the nation--a nation that brought back slavery and massacred a significant portion of the United States. The war he was instrumental in starting led to the irradiation of a third of the continent. The commanders of Gilead put Hitler to shame. He himself had more blood on his hands than any man alive today.
Would we balk at killing Hitler? Stalin? No, we'd put them to death. Fred had to die. In many cases, June would be lauded as a hero. But the creators of the show decided that this world was too tame for that.
June Prevented Serious Crimes
Fred was a slaveholder in a modern world. He compulsively forced his handmaids, along with a harem of Jezebels, to have sex with him and listen to him talk about his life--playing out mock romances to satisfy his compulsive need for affection and attention.
He toyed with their heads, bent on proving his dominance because he doubted himself. That is the kind of complex that lasts for a lifetime. Predators like him do not give up on their deviant tendencies. They cannot be reformed. Instead, we jail them, track their movements, and watch their every move. We have to because we know that they will re-offend. Had he been released from ICC custody, he would've hurt somebody else, and June knew that. At the very least, she stopped him from forcing himself on another woman.
Moira's Hypocrisy is Unfair and Unrealistic
When Serena started the campaign to pressure Canada into deporting Nichole, Moira and Emily confronted the Canadian Prime Minister in the streets. They were shocked that he would even consider Gilead's proposal. The police came and arrested them, and they shared a moment together in jail.
Emily talked about how she poisoned a wife in the colonies. She felt guilty, but Moira shrugged it off, admitting that she herself killed a commander who posed no threat to her. She comforted Emily and told her that it was OK. They did what they had to do.
Flash forward a few years later, and Moira can barely look June in the eye. Her biggest gripe was that Gilead was already going to execute Waterford. She said that June killed him just so she could have the satisfaction of doing it herself.
Moira is being a hypocrite. She killed a commander for her own satisfaction just like June did. If she can accept Emily's crimes and her own, she can accept June's.
We're Ignoring What These Characters Have Been Through
Moira has gone soft in Toronto, and it's not believable. People don't forget holocausts. They don't forget the irradiation of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. They don't forget being turned into breeding stock, and they don't move past being forced to work in a violent brothel. That kind of trauma sticks for life.
The sense of normalcy and isolation we see in Canada isn't realistic. This is a world where Gilead bleeds through the border. It would've stuck in their minds, and they would have seen the remnants of their wartorn country all around them. Flashbacks and obsessive thoughts would've been the least of their trouble. It's a wonder Moira is capable of holding a job and completing basic daily tasks. Some people with her level of trauma would be stuck in a hallucinatory state. There are padded cells filled with people who have been through less.
Instead, the show's creators have decided to make Gilead disappear as soon as you cross that invisible line. That does not make any sense. It is my only gripe with the show in 5 years.
June is Mentally Ill But That Shouldn't Bother Anyone
The first two episodes portray some of the best examples of chronic PTSD we'll ever see on film. June is stuck in Gilead. She might be in Canada, but she can't stop thinking about Serena and Fred and everything that happened to her. It's almost impossible for her to do so. This is called ruminant thinking, and it's one of the most common symptoms of the disorder.
She also has flashbacks. When she is in the grocery store, she sees a group of Muslim hijabis and panics, believing them to be handmaids. So it's obvious that June has a legitimate illness. The signs are there. It looks real, and it makes sense that she would experience it. What doesn't make sense is Moira's reaction.
Moira has been working with refugee trauma victims for years. When it comes to the reintegration process, she is an expert. She has no business acting shocked by what June did. She should be perceptive, not shortsighted, patient, and not hysterical.
This is a woman who was angrier, more rebellious, and more willing to act out than June could ever be. We're talking about the person that held Aunt Elizabeth prisoner and stole her uniform. She's seen it all. She's done it all. This should be nothing for her.
We Needed To Hear From Tuello
A lot of the episode was dedicated to guilt and shame. At a certain point, it became obvious that the writers were building tension, forcing the viewers to confront these feelings, even if it made them feel ill at ease. It was such a relief when Tuello showed up at their house near the end.
Out of everyone, he seemed the least likely to understand June's actions. He had a crush on Serena in the earlier episodes, and he was conned into taking part in the murder. He didn't seem very happy to go along with June's plans even before he realized that she was going to kill Fred.
But surprisingly, he understood. He told June that she did a horrific thing, but it had to be done. This was after he saw that Fred's pectoral had been ripped off. He also understood that her actions came at a cost, seemingly referencing the shock that June was facing at home.
June's relief must've been felt by the audience as well. In the end, she did the right thing, and it seemed as though she needed to hear that to move on. Whether or not the dynamic in the household will change is yet to be seen. In the trailer, we see Rita warning Moira about June. So there's bound to be some type of conflict going forward. At least we know June will be at peace with what she did. That matters.