Every action has a reaction. June Osborne perfectly embodies the phrase, especially after the events of season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale. The sentence can, in fact, be applied to other characters in season 5, who find themselves in unfamiliar, oftentimes terrifying situations. But, whether we agree with their actions or not, the Hulu Original, in its 5th run, reveals that it’s not slowing down; on the contrary, it accelerates and evolves further. The creators again include what the audience loves most: more brutal, cruel twists and turns that will leave you thinking about them just as you thought the show slows down, basking in its tranquil pace.
When season 5 commences, Gilead is on the verge of collapse. Who would have thought that a former handmaid, along with others, would succeed and eventually murder Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes). As Gilead’s government desperately tries to pick their tarnished authority from the ground and prevent further upheavals, June (Elisabeth Moss) revels in the recent act, eager and hungry for more. She won’t stop until the country that violated her is buried in the ground. The habits brutally installed there are particularly difficult to break as the main character makes choices hard to comprehend. It also applies to other characters, such as Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), who mourns Fred but soon returns to her “Gilead poster child” era. The woman begins preaching the beliefs of the former United States in Toronto under the orders of Commanders, including Nick (Max Minghella) and Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). But all of this fades into the background as the creators concentrate on a long-awaited game of cat and mouse between Serena and June, both of whom are keen to kill each other.
After the events of the season 4 finale, the dust, tears, and blood had yet to settle. Fred Waterford was finally killed in what truly was a poetic justice moment. One would think that the creators couldn’t possibly come up with anything as intense as the aforementioned season 4, but they prove us wrong as the show concentrates on situations that have never been focused on before. While the audience watches the literal and metaphorical warfare between Serena and June, the season also discusses other character relationships. Still, most importantly, it illustrates the ugly, brutal side of people hating others, hurting one another, or not believing one another. Perhaps the show is trying to teach us a lesson, namely that we, women, are stronger together.
If you compare June from Season 5 to a popular fantasy character, it would undoubtedly be a hungry vampire ready to attack its prey. Serena is the prey in question, and she is terrified of the former Handmaid and what she’s capable of. The creators paint an entirely different picture of the former Wife, who faces a new reality full of loneliness. From a powerful, beyond cruel, two-faced woman, she transforms into a scared, confused individual. It isn’t easy to feel compassion and, even more so, warmth for Strahovski’s character. As I previously wrote about the works of karma regarding Mrs. Waterford, people will be more than satisfied with what’s in store for her. But when June’s behavior toward Serena changes and the audience discerns traces of compassion, it’s difficult to cheer for the widow’s misfortune. The seventh episode, “No Man’s Land,” written by Rachel Shukert and directed by Natalia Leite, largely discusses their battle while focusing on their love-hate, sister-friend-enemy relationship and offers commentary on the shift in power dynamics, detailing Serena and June’s emotionally charged psychological combat.
But that isn’t the only relationship depicted in a new light. Back in Toronto, Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and June’s relationship receives carte blanche, a chance to rebuild. As we watch them navigate their lives, their relationship gains more depth and layers. As the system fails them again, the Bankoles become great partners in crime, sometimes literally. The battle for freedom and Hannah (Jordana Blake) continues, fueled by ambivalent feelings, hopelessness, and a desire to take justice into their own hands. Janine (Madeline Brewer) and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) also venture into uncharted territory, where the need for protection outweighs Gilead’s vicious politics.
The five-star cast consistently raises the bar, delivering heartbreaking performances. McKenna Grace, known for roles in Ms. Marvel or Young Sheldon, is one of the Handmaid’s Tale’s new additions after initially appearing in the fourth season. However, the actress quickly catches up with her older colleagues. Grace gives an out-of-this-world, seasoned performance as Esther, a former Wife, who now trains to become a Handmaid. A young girl is subjected to torture and violence. In episode 6, “Together,” written by Katherine Collins and directed by Eva Vives. Grace seizes the spotlight in what’s one of the season’s most brutal, emotional scenes. The entirety is extremely triggering, disturbing, and thought-provoking.
When you think it’s impossible to raise the bar any higher, The Handmaid’s Tale comes back to prove you wrong. As in a previous season, the new chapter cuts deep, with more shocking twists, blood, and chaos. But, more importantly, the season’s creators invite the audience to a discussion about change. Is it possible for even the most evil person to change? If so, do they deserve to be redeemed? Furthermore, using the example of Gilead supporters in Toronto, the series demonstrates how dangerous religion and politics are and how easy it is to break and brainwash someone through misinformation and propaganda.
However, above all, season 5 of the show is a battle between two central characters of the story. Returning to the beginning and, specifically, scenes including interactions between the former Handmaid and Wife, it becomes apparent that Serena and June were meant to stand above others. Strahovski admitted that there is no Serena without June — season 5 showcases it and highlights the undeniable, peculiar bond between Moss and Strahovski’s characters.
I say it almost every year, and I’m not afraid to write it: you’re not prepared for what’s coming. Season 5 exemplifies masterful character development, with eye-catching direction and evenly paced, riveting writing. The new chapter includes scenes that will undoubtedly come back to haunt you as you contemplate the fate of The Handmaid’s Tale characters, cheering for them, crying with them, and waiting impatiently for the Gilead to turn to dust.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 premieres on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 on Hulu.