The Handmaid’s Tale has just premiered Season 5 Episode 4, “Dear Offred,” and there’s a lot to unpack from this episode. Amid numerous tension-filled scenes were moments where it felt like justice might finally be closing in, albeit in a skewed and unexpected way.
The MVPs for this episode were numerous. From Madeline Brewer’s phenomenal performance when Janine found her voice again, to O-T Fagenble’s portrayal of Luke’s newfound desire for violence, the cast really outdid themselves this week.
This is a review for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 4, “Dear Offred,” so there will be spoilers.
Luke Has Found a Way to Help June & Bond With Her
We’ve talked before in our reviews about how June is suffering PTSD, but doesn’t seem to be getting much help. (Although, understandably, healing would be next-to-impossible while Hannah is still in Gilead.) This week started out with a pointed portrayal of June in therapy, letting us know that yes, her loved ones are trying to help her. And yes, June is trying to curb her need for violent retribution. But it’s far easier said than done, especially when the source of her abuse seems to be walking free and clear again in Canada.
June is trying to get a grip on her desire to kill Serena when someone sends her an invitation to Serena’s “Gilead Center” opening. Of course, this sets June off entirely and she drives in the middle of the night just so she can get out of her car and stare at Serena in her new home.
Fascinating to me was how Luke is truly empathizing with June, because he’s just as angry about how his daughter is being treated. He’s not looking down at her for her anger, he’s understanding her and reaching out to her right where she is. He urges June to give him a chance to go about things legally, because if she flies off the handle they will lose their chance at getting Hannah back.
Moira also makes a good point when she reminds June that they are refugees, essentially, and anything she does might hurt the fragile United States government that’s operating within Canada.
Luke actually had a pretty smart plan. Before even entertaining the idea of getting rid of Serena, he wanted to try to use her to get Hannah back. But the moment he realized she would never help them, all bets were off. He wasn’t even that angry when June almost shot and killed Serena. In fact, he told her that he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t do the same. And while June felt helpless, Luke was able to exert some power and get the Gilead Center shut down for code violations, essentially rendering Serena homeless.
I really enjoyed seeing June and Luke connecting on a deeper level again, and seeing more of Luke’s personality shine through during this episode. He’s figured out how to relate to June and how to help her, while still not giving up on the fight for Hannah.
Is any part of Luke and June’s deeper connection a result of Nick telling June that he’s married now? I really don’t know, but the timing is interesting.
Commander Lawrence Is an Enigma
Meanwhile, I’m still not certain of Commander Lawrence’s endgame. He doesn’t like what Gilead has become, but he’s being very subtle in how he tries to undermine the country. That’s smart, since people watch him so closely. But his interaction with Aunt Lydia was interesting.
She feels guilty about how the Handmaids are mistreated, and she wants to make things easier on them. But Lawrence wanted nothing to do with that idea. Instead, he took their conversation as an opportunity to undermine Lydia’s faith in Gilead. He tore away the last shred of hope she was clinging to, hoping that only some Commanders were abusive to the Handmaids and were the exception. Instead, Lawrence forced her to see that the abuse was built into the system from the beginning. Gilead isn’t just about producing babies. It’s about giving these “pious” men a way to further abuse and mistreat these powerless young women.
Janine Found Her Voice
Janine has, understandably, allowed herself to be brainwashed by Gilead just to survive. But now that Aunt Lydia is becoming gentler with her, she’s able to find her voice again. Her near-death experience seemed to be the push she needed. It seems that “old Janine” made an appearance in this episode, and we haven’t seen her in years.
Aunt Lydia wants Janine to help her help the other Handmaids. She doesn’t want to be violent towards them anymore, and she wants Janine to let her know when things are going awry. I’m not really sure how that will work out, however, because the existence of the Handmaid system is abusive. How can they be taken care of when they’re in a system designed to hurt them.
Is Tuello More than He Appears?
Then there’s Tuello. I have at theory about him that might be completely wrong, but is intriguing to me. I think his hands are tied by his role with the government, but he’s working behind-the-scenes to further undermine Serena. We got a glimpse of his true feelings when he told June that he wanted Commander Waterford to rot in hell. But he puts on a mask around Serena.
I can’t help but wonder if he was the one who sent June the Dear Offred letter, wanting it to set her off and endanger Serena’s life. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit. Maybe he’s not a “Littlefinger” type character creating chaos to sow discord in Gilead. But he was pretty quick to tell June about Serena’s new deal, knowing that she’d go after her. And it certainly seems strange that Serena would send an invitation to June, now that she’s back in Canada and terrified of being near her. Maybe I’m forgetting a scene. But I sure would enjoy a plotline where Tuello is scheming behind-the-scenes to bring Serena down.
Is Serena Going to be a ‘Handmaid’ of Sorts Herself?
And finally, there was Serena’s last scene in the episode. An unknown benefactor takes her in when she’s kicked out of the Gilead Center building. This woman is “Mrs. Wheeler,” a rich and powerful wife who is more staunchly pro-Gilead than Serena herself. She showers Serena and her unborn baby with a level of adoration we only see Gilead Wives have toward their Handmaids’ pregnancies.
Serena’s drive up past the gate with the “W” on it and her approach to the large home was so reminiscent of June’s arrival at the Waterford home in Gilead. I can’t help but wonder if Mrs. Wheeler will end up trying to take Serena’s baby as her own. After all, we are continually reminded that Gilead women who aren’t married have very little power.
All in all, this was a really great episode. The pacing was so much better than some of the previous ones (especially the first episode), and many characters had quite a bit of development and growth. The episode also ended on a unique cliffhanger that has left me eager to see what happens next.
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