‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Recap: Season 5, Episode 5 — ‘Fairytale’
Pro: The Handmaid’s Tale’s June and Luke have their second date night this season in Episode 5, which is good for their relationship and shared sense of well-being! Con: Said date night takes place so physically close to Gilead you can smell the sanctimony, and the evening ends in dismemberment and capture. But hey, there’s also bowling…?
Read on for the highlights of “Fairytale.”
NO MAN’S LAND, HERE WE COME | June is having a happy dream of being at an aquarium with Hannah in the beforetimes when her phone rings: It’s Lily from Mayday, who’s letting them know that a Guardian is coming into No Man’s Land, and he’ll have information on Wife Schools like the one Hannah is in. Before we know it, June, Luke and Moira are on their way to Lily’s camp, passing a pretty intense anti-refugee protest on the way. When they arrive, things are chaotic: Gilead has just stepped up its border patrols as June & Co. were driving over, meaning there’s no way they can safely cross out of Canada to meet with the Guardian.
Luke doesn’t care. “Everything we want to know about Hannah is there,” he says. And soon, June announces she’s going with him. (Moira, meanwhile, thinks they are insane to risk so much.) They take bags of supplies for exchange and get a map and a code word; they should reach the meeting spot by morning. Moira hugs them and they walk into the woods, holding hands. A stone marker they pass indicates when they’ve officially exited the Great White North.
After nightfall, they come across a hanged man festooned with a sign that reads “Rapist.” “Is that Gilead?” Luke says, shocked. “Gilead doesn’t use words,” June says plainly. Please note what will become a recurring theme in this episode: Luke is (of course!) horrified by the violence they’ve encountered, while June (unfortunately) has seen it far too often.
WHO’S UP FOR BOWLING? | Eventually, Luke and June meet up with their contact — the code phrase is “Raspberry Beret” (ha!) — but they balk when he immediately says they need to go somewhere else to chat, because being out in the open isn’t safe. The whole thing smells like a trap, but they are desperate for info on Hannah, so they eventually decide to follow him into an abandoned bowling alley he sometimes holes up in during especially cold patrol shifts.
He reports that the “plums,” aka the wives-in-training who wear purple, are treated very well as they learn “to run their households.” They pass through the schools pretty quickly, he adds, so they can be matched up with husbands. “She’s TWELVE,” Luke says. The Guarian shrugs. “That’s just how it works,” he replies. The good news: If she’s still at the school, she hasn’t been married yet. And he gives them a thumb drive full of related intel. But when June and Luke go to leave, the Guardian protests, saying it’s not safe to cross during the day. If they can wait until after sunset, he’ll lead them back. And even though this is feeling more and more like a Very Bad Idea, Luke and June agree to stay.
They take very different approaches to biding their time with the Guardian. Luke chats and bowls with the guy. June stays on guard, wondering how no one ever hears him knocking around in there and being suspicious of how he was able to get the beer he offers them from a cooler. He’s relatively young and was a kid when America fell. “Eeverything from before is foggy, you know? Like a dream,” he tells them, oblivious to the knife in their hearts as they think of how Hannah must feel the same way. He says he doesn’t hate Gilead but is working to bring it down because “people should be able to talk to each other.” When he’s out of earshot, a flummoxed June tells Luke, “I’ve never seen anyone in Gilead who’s pure like him.”
With her guard slightly relaxed, she listens as Luke plays Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” on the alley’s organ, singing along. And then Hannah’s folks slow-dance without any music while the Guardian turns his flashlight on the disco ball, giving them ambiance.
CAPTURED! | Hope you liked that sweet interlude, because things are about to get bloody. After dark, when they’re almost back to the Canadian border, the Guardian steps on a landmine. He goes flying; when he lands, one of his legs is no longer attached to his body. He gasps for June and Luke to run, but June insists on tying a tourniquet on his leg in an effort to save him. But when she and Luke hear the kid’s fellow Guardians approaching, calling for him, it’s time to run.
June and Luke haul buns to the border, and they’re SO CLOSE when a truck pulls into their path, blocking the way. Armed men jump out and grab them, pulling them apart as the episode goes to black.
WHEELER FAMILY VALUES | While all of this is going on, Serena is settling in at the Wheeler house. Breakfast with Alanis Wheeler is an intense affair; she’s definitely a 15-outta-10 on the Gilead Fan Meter. Later, Mrs. Wheeler throws a little get-together in which her friends swing by and look at Serena’s pregnant belly with a very creepy awe. The affair makes Serena flashback to a time during Gilead’s early years when she and Naomi Putnam toured an “orphanage” (aka a repository of kids who had been separated from their parents) and decided that they didn’t want to raise someone else’s baby, so maybe they’d consider getting handmaids.
The party with Alanis and her infertile friends does serve as something of a brainstorm session for Serena, who later tells Lawrence and Commander Putnam that focusing the Toronto center on Gilead was a mistake — it should be set up as a fertility center, instead. “It’s about the babies. That’s what people want to hear,” Serena says. “People will be clamoring to keep the doors open.” Commander Putnam is disinterested but he’s also dumb; Lawrence knows a good thing when he hears it, and he’s intrigued.
We also learn that Lawrence has a plan he calls “New Bethlehem” that would welcome back “terrorists” who’ve harmed and/or escaped Gilead and offer them amnesty. He has very little support. “If we keep the walls up and the borders closed, this country will die,” he reasons. “All of this will have been for nothing.”
IRON-WILLED | At the Wheeler house, all signs point to things getting much more bleak for Serena, and very soon. When she wants to “commune” with a supporter who’s arrived at the property, Ezra won’t let her, because Mr. Wheeler left instructions for the wrought iron gate to stay closed.
She’s praying in her bedroom later when Ryan Wheeler (played by Raising Hope’s Lucas Neff) finally shows up. He tells her that Gilead is going to move forward with her ideas for the center, calling it a “real stroke of genius.” She’s psyched, and wants to jump into the work, but he says nope. “Your baby’s needs come ahead of any plans or ambitions,” he patronizingly informs her, then he pours her some water and kinda menacingly makes her take her iron supplements while he stands there and watches. Just before he leaves, Serena asks for a cell phone, but he says no, citing “security concerns.” Sucks to be pregnant, cut off from everyone you know and left to the whims of crazy people, doesn’t it, mama?
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!