There are several pivotal moments that leave virtually the entire cast in different places and situations than they started the hour — most of them not great!
As always, “The Handmaid’s Tale” likes to leave things on a massive cliffhanger so you don’t know what’s coming next. Ahead of its final season, the Hulu hit left fans with half a dozen.
Basically, everything we’ve come to know and expect about the current state of this dystopic world began to change and by the end of this final hour of the penultimate season, no one was safe.
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The change has been building all season long, in particular with how Canada and Canadians have been changing and reacting to the presence of all these American refugees and this bizarre new country to the south.
We’ve watched the growing resentment to these refugees echoing American resentment toward refugees from its own southern border, culminating in outright violence in the last episode as June (Elisabeth Moss) and a little girl were nearly shot to death.
That violence only continued to escalate as it was quickly becoming clear that it wasn’t safe for any Americans in Canada anymore — and particularly June Osborne.
Another key moment at the end of Episode 9 was when the commanders told Joseph (Bradley Whitford) that maybe it was time to do something about this june Osborne problem. Was the shooting targeted at her, or just anti-American resentment?
And what about the even more heinous attack that set things spiraling quickly out of control in this episode? That appeared specifically targeted to June, but does that mean Gilead was behind it? There is never offered any clarity on that question, but it almost doesn’t matter. The results were the same, complete and total chaos.
Let’s take a look at what happened to each of the principal characters in this shocking finale so we can marinate on all these open wounds until the not-yet-scheduled Season 6 drops sometime in the future to wrap it all up — at least until sequel series “The Testaments” picks up the narrative.
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June & Luke
Preparing for another upcoming memorial, June bought a bulletproof vest to better protect herself. Unfortunately, the next danger to fly at her was far bigger than a bullet. We do find ourselves wondering why she chose to stay in the street.
It all went down after Mark (Sam Jaeger) came and told them that they’d apprehended the shooting from the previous episode. She walked Mark out to his car to say goodbye and in a panning shot around her noticed that so many of her refugee neighbors were packing to leave.
Then, she noticed a large pickup truck firing up and heading her way. Again, why she stayed in the street is a mystery, but the trick totally slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. But it didn’t stop there.
The driver proceeded to drive right over her, crushing her arm beneath one of its wheels. Then, as she was dazed and confused, the driver actually started backing up to run her face over with the tires. Thankfully for June, that’s when Luke (O-T Fagbenle) showed up, pulling the driver out and beating him unconscious.
Yes, just like the shooter, this was a middle-aged white man with a gun. Political statement about the growing problem of these angry white men? Who knows at this point, because we don’t know if this was general anti-American sentiment or a targeted attack through Gilead.
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What we do know is that things went from bad to worse. Luke gave his statement, June was patched up and sent home, but then the driver died. That lands on Luke, an American refugee killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. Do the details even matter?
Remembering how they waited too long to leave America before Gilead rose, and seeing the rising problems in Canada, June decided they needed to leave right now. Mark showed up in time to tell them not to go to the airport, as authorities are already looking for Mark.
Instead, he sends them to a train going west to Vancouver. From there, they can catch a boat to Hawaii, one of the last two American territories, along with Alaska. Only when they arrive, it becomes clear they’re looking for Luke here, too.
In a heartbreaking scene, Luke convinces June to go ahead of him and then calls her moments before giving himself up, telling her to get on the train. He knew they’d never let her leave if they were together. Now, he’ll either get a trial, or execution — it depends on the state of Canada, we suppose.
As for June, she found herself along with Nichole heading on “an adventure,” as she told her daughter. She also found herself completely alone again, just as she’d started her fight. She told Luke that it was about staying alive, but untethered and on the run, she has no idea even what the fight looks like right now.
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Janine & Lydia
While June is trying to figure out what her future looks like, Janine (Madeline Brewer) seems to have started to figure out hers, and it’s a familiar template. After being absent for a bit, we check back in on the long-suffering Handmaid as she continues to work at the Red Center under a somewhat gentler Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd).
When Lydia is advised that the protecting of Janine is starting to get noticed, she realizes she can’t keep the fertile Handmaid unposted any longer, but she comes up with a possible solution that would be for the best.
Joseph is trying to be a different kind of Commander and evolve Gilead. He’s just agreed to marry Naomi (Ever Carradine), the “mother” of Janine’s child, Angela. A posting at the Lawrence household would allow Janine to see her daughter, and Joseph to have the complete Gilead picture.
All seemed to be going well, with Naomi laying down a strict list of rules and revealing that Angela is away for this “trial period” summer. It looked as if Janine was going to go along to get along … at least, until Naomi called her “Ofjoseph,” the Handmaid moniker of naming them after their Commander.
“That’s not my name,” Janine said fiercely, looking directly into Naomi’s eyes — she had been demure and looking down so long, that one-eyed look was piercing. Naomi had suggested they could even be friendly, but Janine was ready for some truth.
“We’re not friends,” Janine practically spat at her. “I think that you are one of the worst people that I have ever known. I am not your friend. I hate you, Naomi. How can you not know that?”
We never see Naomi again, but the next time we see Janine, she’s back at the Red Center getting a dressing down from Aunt Lydia. But, as with Naomi, Janine’s eyes aren’t down. She looks directly at Lydia and tells her she won’t be debasing herself or begging for anything.
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At that moment, the Eyes arrive to take Janine away, much to Lydia’s horror. She is completely impotent to do anything to stop them, even getting roughly pushed to the ground. She threatened to call Commander Lawrence, but the Eyes said he ordered this.
Our last shot of Janine is her consoling a Martha in the truck with her, just as June used to do.
She’d gotten word at the Lawrence household from a Martha (possibly this same one) that June had been hit by that truck. “They never let anyone get away,” the woman said, and the exchange seemed to resonate and empower Janine.
The template she’s following in these final scenes is June’s spitfire defiance in the face of Gilead authority balanced with compassion for the fellow women suffering alongside her. Her own suffering is nothing — and certainly Janine has already endured so much.
It’s an interesting arc for Janine, and one that could bear wonderful fruit within Gilead. Yes, her fate looks dire right now, but if she’s got June’s resolve, she may yet rise up and become as big a thorn in Gilead as her predecessor.
Our last shot of Lydia is her picking herself up after Janine is taken away with a look of disgust and rage on her face. Lydia still buys into the system, but she’s been trying a gentler approach with the girls.
She remains fiercely loyal to them and we’re not so sure she’s on board with senseless cruelty for the sake of patriarchal power trips.
It doesn’t help that she’s reminded at every turn that she, too, is a woman and therefore almost beneath consideration. Could Lydia, too, be ready to become a bigger problem for Gilead on behalf of her girls?
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Nick & Rose
After rejecting June outright in the penultimate episode, Nick (Max Minghella) realized that he just can’t quit her. When he gets word of the attack this week, he completely changes his mind, agreeing to a deal with Mark in order to come see her.
He visits an unconscious June in the hospital and even signs the verbal agreement he and Mark made. It’s not made clear what it is, but it’s an ongoing arrangement, as Mark said he looks forward to working with him.
Clearly, though, seeing June left Nick a little unraveled, as he made his way to Joseph’s house on the day of his wedding and hit him right across the face. Joseph said it wasn’t his decision, indicating that there is a hit out on June.
The next time we see Nick, he’s in a prison, presumably by Joseph’s doing. We don’t see much of Joseph this episode, but the moments we do get he seemed irritated. Has he turned completely evil, arresting Janine and Nick for slighting his wife and assaulting him?
Nick’s wife Rose (Carey Cox) called him out for not being able to get over June, and Nick admitted that he can’t seem to let her go. When Rose said that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, he told her, “You can’t leave.”
Was this a plea to his wife, or just a statement of fact that she doesn’t have that kind of autonomy as a woman in Gilead? Either way, Nick has basically blown up his life in Gilead for love of June. Will he be stripped of position? Can he honor his arrangement with Mark? Will he try to escape and find June?
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Joseph & Naomi
Joseph and Naomi were more than likely wed in this episode, as we got fleeting glimpses of the big day through Janine and Nick’s involvement at the Lawrence household. But it’s certain not to be a happy marriage.
Naomi was attempting to connect with Janine, even after dressing her down about Angela, because she is desperately lonely and sad after Joseph and Nick had her husband killed in front of her. Now, she’s married to one of them.
Joseph remains an enigma himself. Did he really have Janine arrested, and if so, where is he sending her? Did he have Nick arrested, and if so, what are his intentions there? Joseph had said he wants to change Gilead from the inside, but he’s taken some pretty dark steps this week.
After June rejected his attempt to convince her to move to New Bethlehem, he seems nonplussed that the other commanders appear to be trying to have her killed. He seems to want Gilead respected across the globe, but is he willing to sink back into its full depravity?
Certainly, arresting people for personal slights is pretty heinous and totalitarian. All props to Bradley Whitford for keeping Joseph as enigmatic now as he was when he first met him. Of all the characters on the show, his motives always remain the most mysterious.
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Moira & Rita
It was Rita (Amanda Brugel) who came to the house and told the family that the truck driver had died and the police would likely be working up a warrant for Luke. When it was decided that June and Luke would flee, that left Moira (Samira Wiley) alone in that house.
We saw already the mass exodus of refugees, and yet we know that Moira, Rita and even Sylvia (Clea Duvall) are likely still in the neighborhood. With Canada becoming less hospitable, where do they go?
We get that the situation with June and Luke was an emergency, but Mark and the U.S. government know that it’s becoming untenable to keep refugees in Canada. Will they be ushered onto another train heading West?
Moira hasn’t had as much to do in recent seasons, but she’s been a tight part of June’s life for many, many years. Then, after what they endured together in Gilead … that’s not a relationship you cast aside, so we can’t imagine we’re done with Moira’s story.
More than likely, she’ll be involved in Luke’s trial in some way, but that is likely only to increase the likelihood that neither of them are welcome in Canada, nor are any other Americans. Will Gilead ideals take root more firmly? Canada is a powder keg, and there are a lot of key people still there.
One of those people is Mark himself, who seems to hold a pretty key position in this portion of Canada as a representative of the United States. Is the U.S. considering a full pullout of all refugees in Canada? Is he working with the Canadian government to try and avoid a GIlead-like revolution?
How safe is Mark himself, as such a prominent U.S. figure? Like Moira, we can see him taking part in Luke’s trial, but we also fear it may be more of a sham trial to pacify Canadian citizens and justify the forced removal of all American refugees from Canadian soil.
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Not seen at all through the bulk of this episode, they actually crafted a pretty good surprise at the end when we cut back to June on the train. Hearing another baby crying, she made her way to the back and came face-to-face with Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and her baby.
June had just told Luke she didn’t want to be alone, but is this what she meant? We know she’s beyond that point where she wants to kill Serena, and Serena seemed to be interested in actually trying to be friends after June saved her life in the barn.
Obviously, it’s not as simple as all of that. This is easily the most complicated relationship in the entire show. Both women have been to the dark side and back — well, we’re not sure Serena ever fully came back from it, but she’s definitely gone darker.
Serena now has some understanding of the life that June lived in Gilead, having experienced a shortened version of it since leaving U.S. custody in Canada. Now, they’re two women all alone — save for one another — heading into unknown territory.
They’re both powerful figures in their own right. Is it possible that the fear of the unknown and facing it alone will be enough for them to consider working together? Has Serena fallen so far as to consider helping to free Hannah, or even try to take down Gilead?
Is it weird that we’re kind of happy to see them together because June so didn’t want to have to do this alone again. Sure, she’d probably choose almost anyone other than Serena, but it’s someone.
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