June and Luke make a desperate gamble in their efforts to rescue Hannah from Gilead that blows up spectacularly right in their faces.
Serena is finding no joy in the new home she's found herself in on "The Handmaid's Tale," but she's still doing better than June and Luke by the end of the hour.
With Serena's voiced echoing in his head, Luke decides to make a desperate gamble when an opportunity to learn more about where daughter Hannah may be. Meanwhile, Serena is settling into her new life with the Wheeler's after things went horrible wrong at the Gilead Information Center.
Throughout the episode, these stories dominate the narrative, with the typical bleakness we've come to expect from this series, as well as the strong social commentary about how women are generally treated in our society, and our unending thirst for freedom, even if we've never really known it.
It's an interesting development, with Gilead having existed long enough now that there are younger characters coming of age who have very little real remembrance of life before this totalitarian regime stripped them of almost all of their rights and much of their humanity.
A Dangerous Journey
After getting a tip about a Guardian who has intel about the wives-in-training, of which Hannah has recently been revealed to be, June, Luke and Moira decide to make the trek to their contacts at Mayday to find out what they can.
Once there, they're hit with the bad news that due to uncertainty in the No Man's Land region between Gilead and Canada, the Guardian is not able to make the crossing. In fact, Mayday has decided to uproot themselves and relocate, as hostilities exist on both sides now.
As we saw when the trio were heading to their rendezvous with Mayday, Canadians are more adamantly protesting the immigration of Gilead citizens, taking it so far as to blockade roads. It's likely a response to America's growing resistance in some quarters to immigration from our own Southern border, despite knowing some of the horrific conditions they're fleeing.
Last week, when Luke maneuvered to get the Gilead Information Center shut down via code violations and confronted Serena about it, she got in his head about the fact that he'd stayed in Canada and not done anything to try and save his daughter. So when he heard the Guardian couldn't cross, he decided to go.
June, of course, committed to going with him. Never mind that she's Public Enemy Number One in Gilead. When these two declared that neither was sure they could refrain from killing Serena if they saw her again, it was clear that (at least for the time being) Luke is in lockstep with his extremely unstable, damaged and dangerous wife.
And yet, it's still so abstract to him, as evidenced when they came across a "Rapist" hung from a tree in No Man's Land. Luke was horrified and mesmerized by this, but June has seen this and so much worse already through her time in Gilead. They are not the same.
They couldn't even bring themselves to trust the young Guardian Jaeden when they met him, though we can't blame them for that. We can count the number of good and kind people on this show with one hand!
It was a fascinating encounter, though, with Jaeden leading them to an abandoned building, with both extremely suspiciuos of him the whole way. But, as it turns out, it was just a private hideout that he enjoys spending time in ... and a working bowling alley, to boot.
This show has us so jaded when he stepped back to the bar to get some beer from a cooler, this is where we, too, were expecting the other shoe to drop and him to have some nefarious motive.
At one point, he revealed to the couple that he only had fuzzy memories of life before Gilead, prompting June to ask him why he's working with the resistance to tear it down, then, if it's all he knows and, as he put it, "It's not so bad."
His reasoning was pretty simple. People should be able to talk to each other and see their families. In other words, he believes in personal freedom, which Gilead does not offer at all. It's such a powerful call that even someone who really doesn't remember life with it craves it.
We kept waiting for that proverbial other shoe to drop, and it never happened... it blew up instead!
After waiting until the relative safety of nightfall to attempt a return trip through No Man's Land to Canada, Jaeden took a wrong step in rebel territory. The haunting click of a landmine being activated was just the first horror, as it wasn't long before it exploded.
Jaeden survived the explosion, but lost his foot in the process. Even worse, the noise was so loud, the rebels (we assume) were upon them almost immediately. At Jaeden's urging, June and Luke were off and running.
Close to the spot where they entered, they wound up in a foot race with people from a vehicle -- a foot race they did not win. The episode ended with both of them captured and being dragged away from one another. Exactly who has them, though, was not made clear.
Have they been captured by Gilead, in which case things are about to go very bad for them. Or are they captured by rebels living in No Man's Land, which means their fate could be quite different. A Guardian they would want to take out, but the June Osborne, maybe not. We'll have to wait and see.
Perhaps Serena has been a bit drunk with the power and influence she enjoyed when her husband was alive, and even her importance in the immediate aftermath of Fred's death and her nascent pregnancy.
On top of that, despite being a political prisoner of the United States government in exile, she was actually afforded the same treatment and rights as her husband and any other political prisoner.
While she's still in Canada, her new home with the Wheelers is very intentionally similar to the one she lived in with Fred. The liberal use of flashbacks show how Serena had to slowly settle into Gilead life in the first place, and now she's being faced with it again.
In what certainly appears to be a statement on the current state of adoption in this country that is working to remove a woman's right to choose, we see these desperately barren Wives looking at children taken from difficult homes.
Even though they want babies of their own, neither Serena nor Nami were really all that interested in these older kids, and boy were there a lot of them there. It's impossible to not think of older kids sitting in our current foster care system because there are not enough homes for them.
In that moment, both women agreed, though, that they were not interested in this Handmaid protocol. Cut to however much later, and Serena is looking at the options laid before her. She's agreed to do this, but the fact she rejects a Handmaid Fred showed some interest in indicates how on board she truly isn't.
After feeling some modicum of success and power when she spoke to the Commanders in Gilead, Serena continued to get knocked back down to her station with one indignity after another. First, Commander Putnam had his way with her verbally on the phone.
Putnam, who clearly doesn't trust Commander Lawrence anymore, was present for Joseph's call with Serena, and he was quick to chastise her and almost blame her for June and Luke's actions to get the Center shut down.
She then suggested that the Gilead Information Center is a bad idea, anyway. They should instead focus on fertility and conception and babies; the parts of Gilead this world of reduced fertility would be interested in.
As a matter of course, and because she is a woman, Putnam shuts her down hard by saying they'll take her suggestion under advisement and hanging up on her as she speaks. It's not that her suggestion is a bad one, but that she has the audacity to have it while being a woman.
Putnam then tore Lawrence apart for Joseph's New Bethlehem idea to welcome back "traitors" and "criminals." He believes Gilead can just shut its borders and keep total control. Lawrence says that will be the death of their nation.
While the men are talking, Serena does find joy in the other Wives treating her almost as a messianic figure for her pregnancy, but Serena has always been more than a wife. She was, after all, one of the chief architects of Gilead. Unfortunately, she created a power structure that removed herself.
Even though she's in Canada, the Wheelers appear to have fully embraced the Gilead way with, and they're not the only ones. They don't appear to be officially affiliated with Gilead, but Gilead did agree to have Serena set up there, so there is some kind of existing relationship.
Serena quickly finds out that she's basically been confined to the grounds, unable to leave or even talk to all those local people who'd been welcoming her with candlelight vigils while she was in U.S. custody.
When she finally met Mr. Wheeler, he shares with her that the Commanders are going to move forward with her idea. But they'd also decided to remove her from any involvement becuase, after all, her pregnancy is the most important thing.
This is, again, a thinly veiled commentary about America once again reducing its own women to their wombs with some of the anti-abortion laws that are being passed or proposed. The baby takes priority over the mother and everything else.
We felt the humiliation when Mr. Wheeler brought her neonatal vitamins and then poured her a glass of water so he could watch her take them. Had she refused or said she would do it later, we can only imagine how that would have gone over.
Already a citizen with reduced status and input, Serena is finally getting a sense of what it is like to be a fertile woman in Gilead. She has been reduced to her womb and the baby inside of it. She is just the vessel and the men will even be in control of this journey.
Her request for a cell phone was also denied. Wheeler was in contact with Putnam after that disastrous phone call, so it may well be that Serena is on the verge of becoming a persona non grata and essentially a prisoner in the Wheeler household.
Serena has been a savvy and ruthless woman throughout "The Handmaid's Tale" but there was also a time where she was on the verge of willingness to revolt against the system she helped build. Serena is self-serving above all, so as long as she could make that system work for her, she was okay in it.
Now that it appears to be working against her, and she appears to have been stripped of her own freedoms, alone in a foreign country with strangers who are essentially holding her captive, the system is definitely not working for her and she is not okay.
The question is, what will she do about it?
"The Handmaid's Tale" continues with new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.