The Handmaid’s Tale just dropped Episodes 1 through 2 of Season 5, and it didn’t take long to become thoroughly immersed in the show’s dark, heavily dystopian world. The two episodes were a whirlwind of activity, and so much happened that I’m still trying to process it all.
This is a review for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episodes 1 through 2, so there will be spoilers.
June’s Struggle Is Far From Over
To be honest, the way that Episode 2 ended really wrested me away from thinking much about Episode 1. The premiere was truly just a setup for the horror we were going to witness in Episode 2, as we’re reminded just how much power Gilead still wields.
Throughout Episode 1, I just kept thinking about how June is in serious need of PTSD therapy — something far beyond the talk therapy she attempted last season. She’s understandably dealing with flashbacks of the horrors she experienced, and it’s completely natural for her to revel in the death of the man who not only inflicted those horrors on her personally, but also helped form the country that took away all her rights.
So when she’s wandering through Canada covered in blood, I can’t help but think that Luke and Moira perhaps should have tried harder to stop her and help her. Of course she is glad Fred is dead. And of course she wants Serena dead too. But she also needs help dealing with all the trauma.
The first episode was more a story of the fallout of Fred’s death and how it affected Serena, June, and the relations between Canada and Gilead. June seems shocked that she’s not being put into jail — and a bit disappointed, unnerved about what she’s going to do with herself if she’s not in jail.
But Episode 2 is where things really start moving forward. In fact, it feels like most of what we saw in the trailer was just content from the first two episodes.
Serena Is Still Powerful
Despite being one of the founders of Gilead who committed war crimes, Serena is still being treated with kid gloves by Canada. She has a posh prison and is able to exert a lot of freedom of movement when it comes to dealing with her husband’s death. Although devastated by his death, she’s also finding renewed strength to fight back — and she’s discovered a lot of people, strangely enough, believe in her cause.
In the end, she gets her way and is able to get a huge, internationally-broadcast funeral for Fred. I can’t help but wonder how this is going to help Nick and Commander Lawrence’s plan to change Gilead from the inside out. Lawrence got on board with Serena’s plan pretty quickly once she presented it to the Commanders, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly why.
Serena was even able to exert her power play against June: standing and holding Hannah’s hand at the funeral for all to see. This was her silent message to June, and all it’s going to do is enrage June to fight back even harder.
And let me just comment, for a moment, about how brilliant it was to mix the ballet scenes with the funeral scenes. The directing for this episode was top-notch.
Esther’s Story Was Gut-Wrenching
Meanwhile, Esther’s story was perhaps the most gut-wrenching of all in these first two episodes. It was so hard to remember how strong she was, and see how they’re treating her now. The pure and utter creepiness of her scene with the Commander is going to be etched in my mind for sometime.
But this was all far beyond what Esther could handle. Based on the previews and the hints dropped in the episode, I had expected her to try to kill herself. But I had no idea that she was going to poison Janine and try to take her with her.
Will Janine live? Will this incident somehow change Aunt Lydia’s plans? I really have no idea what repercussions are going to happen from this.
The Explanation for Emily’s Absence Was Unexpected
And then there was the explanation for Emily being gone from the show. As we reported before, Alexis Bledel left the show before the season began filming. So I’m guessing the producers were left trying to figure out how to explain her absence, while leaving an opening for Bledel to come back if she ever wants to.
They wrote that Emily decided to leave Canada and return to Gilead to fight. I think the idea is that killing Fred inspired her to do more. It’s an interesting twist, and I think the writers made a good choice here. Emily’s decision is going to resonate in June’s mind, leaving her wondering if she is truly doing all that she can. It’s a good way to keep Emily always “present” in the show, even if the actor herself isn’t there.
All in all, this was a very good opening to the new season. While Episode 1 did feel a bit slow to me at times, Episode 2 truly picked up and left a whirlwind of destruction in its wake. I’m ready to see what’s next.
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