With political maneuverings good enough for Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 9 was filled with complexity after complexity. When the episode ended, I had to pause everything for a few minutes as I discussed all the implications of what I had seen with my husband, trying to determine just where the characters’ allegiances truly lie. The tightly crafted storyline was a perfect choice for the penultimate episode of the season.
This is a review for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 9, “Allegiance,” so there will be spoilers. If you don’t want to miss a single review, sign up for our e-mail list and choose “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
June’s Heart Is Broken Again, but She’s Not Giving Up
You have to respect June. No matter what the world throws at her, she will never, ever give up. It’s inspiring.
This week was no different.
Just before the planes were shot down by Gilead, we saw Hannah signing her real name onto a drawing in her little tent. This is huge. After Hannah’s last meeting with June, most viewers thought that Gilead had successfully brainwashed her. But Hannah still knows and finds significance in her real name, even if she has to keep that knowledge a secret. So this small moment gave viewers a lot of hope for the future.
Of course, June didn’t see that moment, so she’s having to move forward by relying on faith. What I really appreciate is that she’s determined not to go back to her idea of immigrating to New Bethlehem. Commander Lawrence overplayed his part and tried to push June too hard. And even though just last week she was saying that he was her friend, she’s now lost all trust in him.
Instead, she’s now standing up for freedom and helping a little girl at a memorial service while protesters shoot guns off all around them. She’s tough. (And by the way, are those protesters native to Canada or are they Gilead hires to stoke anti-American tensions?)
Lawrence is doing a great job of manipulating the people of Gilead. But I think that he’s forgotten June is a different force entirely.
Either way, June is not going to New Bethlehem and putting her life into the hands of Gilead. She finally sees that it’s a bad idea. I’m far more interested in the story of June fighting alongside Tuello than a story of June getting captured again.
Is Commander Lawrence Playing Chess While Everyone Else Is Playing Checkers?
I hate to say it, but right now it looks like Tuello is no match for Commander Lawrence. (Although I imagine that’s going to change now that June’s working with him more closely.)
Lawrence played everyone this week, it seems. I thought it was Nick who sent the video to June, but it looks like it was Lawrence. He knew the U.S. government would figure out where Hannah was staying, and so he had anti-aircraft artillery ready to shoot the planes down.
Lawrence may hate what Gilead has become, but he still doesn’t hate his original idea for Gilead, which was designed to save the human race. And I think he’s committed to keeping Gilead intact and changing it from within, which means fighting for Gilead’s continued existence and never letting Hannah go.
His one mistake was thinking he could use that win to pressure June into joining New Bethlehem and speaking out against America. That idea backfired.
But this man isn’t the type to just have one idea that he’s banking on. He has many, many different angles that he’s working. One of them is marrying Naomi Putnam. Yes, this gives them both more legitimacy within the government, but I feel like there’s even more to his plan than that. I’m just not sure what it is.
The plan also involves Aunt Lydia, but I’m not exactly sure how. While he’s been doing a good job of undermining her faith in Gilead, will it last? Or will she eventually snap back to the brainwashing she lived under before?
Serena Played Her Role Perfectly, But Will She Succeed?
Serena played the role of the dutiful Handmaid perfectly, and got her chance at revenge much faster than anyone had anticipated. Of course, Mrs. Wheeler’s mistreatment of her spurred her to perhaps work a little faster than originally planned.
At the end of the episode, she escaped the Gilead Welcome Center (or whatever it’s called now) and found a woman driving by who quickly took her into her car and sped away. I think Serena’s going to continue to evade authorities, I’m just not sure where her story leads after this point. She’ll probably have some interesting conversations with this woman who helped her escape, at the very least.
Nick’s Meeting with June Left Viewers with More Questions Than Answers
Perhaps most ambiguous (but also interesting) this week was Nick’s meeting with June. I’m never quite sure where Nick stands in all of the Gilead politicking, though it’s obvious that he’s in love with June and always put her first back when she was captured. But now that she’s safe, where are his loyalties?
He has a wife and a child on the way, but he’s not willing to partner with Tuello in order to try to get freedom for them and himself. Since his wife’s dad is a high-ranking Commander, he’s decided that’s good enough for a safe life. Of course, the little conversation about his wife’s disability hints otherwise, but he doesn’t seem attuned to that reality yet.
At the same time, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Nicholle being brought to New Bethlehem (which was Commander Lawrence’s idea.) So he hasn’t bought into Gilead completely.
I’m just not really sure what Nick is doing behind the scenes. On the surface, he seems to have the same goals as Commander Lawrence, but sometimes these two are at odds with each other. But is there something else going on with Nick beyond all that?
All in all, this was a fascinating episode with layers of complexity. How far will Commander Lawrence go to protect his dream of a future Gilead? Where are Nick’s loyalties now? Can Aunt Lydia’s heart be changed, or will she always be dedicated to Gilead? And what will June’s next step be now that she knows Nick has no interest in helping the U.S.?
There’s only one episode left… How many of these questions will they answer?
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