The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 5) Episodes 1, 2 – Recap: In 2021, season four of The Handmaid’s Tale found the hearts of those who still have one and stepped on it. After being tortured and witnessing the death of many allies, June Osborne joined the resistance movement in Chicago. Daylife on the frontline is full of corruption, but she faced it until a bombing put her in the path of Moira Strand, an old friend who was back to support the victims. She took the protagonist to Canada, not knowing she was disturbed to the point of leading a deadly hunt for Fred Waterford in a no man’s land and ending up as a proud fugitive.

The new chapter deals with the consequences of that crime. Elisabeth Moss directed the first two episodes, this time more confident in exploring new possibilities. Although the drama for which the series is known remains strong, its fifth season indicates that it will leave the rise and rebellion structure in the background to focus on internal conflicts. If dystopian America was once a jungle where lionesses turned against their king, now it has become a place where they tear each other apart, and it will take more than a loud roar to find out who gets the crown.


The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 5) Episodes 1, 2 – Recap

Episode 1 – Morning

The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 5) Episodes 1, 2

In the opening shot, June is in her bathroom having flashbacks of the brutal act she led while All You Have to Do is Dream, a classic 50s ballad, covers the scene changes. In the lyrics, a male speaker in the voice of The Everly Brothers regrets his lover’s absence and daydreams about a scenario in which they are together again. When applied to the plot, it implies that Fred’s murder was nothing but heroin’s lustful desire, but the close-ups of bruises and fresh blood on her skin tell us otherwise. After cleaning up on a baby’s dip, reality hits back. Osborne gives her daughter Nichole a last kiss, then tells the truth to her husband Luke and Moira before leaving home again.


The following two sequences update the viewer on the supporting characters. In Gilead, Nick talks to his spouse about the last time he saw June. The conversation implies that she already knew about their plan and has not been opposed to it. Meanwhile, local Police move the prisoner Serena Waterford to a more secure facility in Canada, but she is informed that her partner was found dead on the way there.  

At a roadside dinner, Osborne joins her accomplices for breakfast when some of them propose an act of bloody revenge against Mrs. Waterford. The conversation continues in the on-site parking lot, where they show their leader a bunch of guns in a car’s trunk. She feels reluctant concerning their idea of scaring the Commandant’s wife; hence the group turns against her. Danielle says that many lives were risked to defeat her monster, and now it is time to move towards a new target. June counterpoints this argument by discussing how they could be hanged on telephone poles if caught. Finally,  Vicky points a gun at her asking for loyalty but backs off as soon as she gets a dubious response, shooting into the sky.


Mark Tuello meets Serena in her new accommodation. The widow demands to see her husband’s remains, along with an explanation of what may have happened to him. He responds that the Commander was actually involved in a prisoner exchange on the border as part of a deal made by the United States, but instead of being sent to Gilead, he was caught and assaulted. As she gets upset with the news, Tuello gives her Fred’s wedding ring that was sent to the detention center, along with the man’s severed finger and a picture of the crime scene. The writings “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) can be read on the wall behind the man’s hanged body, and Mrs. Waterford immediately relates it to her former Handmaid since that saying was found at the couple’s home when she was still living there. 

Once at Emily Malek’s place, June finds out she went back to Gilead. Taken by the guilt, the main character literally and metaphorically realizes blood is still on her hands. Thus, she rushes to wash it off in a lake where memories of her daughter Hannah conduces to an insight. It was time to surrender. In the following scene, the woman is in a Canadian police station with Luke unsuccessfully, trying to convince her otherwise. She confesses the crime anyway, taking all the blame for the statement, though an official informs her that she can be arrested because the murder occurred in a no man’s land. In the end, they just imposed a fine of $88 for transporting a finger and letting her go.


Serena discusses with Mark again, this time in the morgue. He says Osborne could not be punished and advises her to focus on building a new life for the upcoming child. On the other hand, Mrs. Waterford does not take it very well, arguing that is no way to be safe in front of such a threat. She leaves the building to be greeted by dozens of supporters outside, although before entering the car, she tells Tuello that her man deserves a proper burial in Gilead.

Moira catches up on the news about Emily and June’s failed attempt to surrender at the police station. The woman expresses concern about her friend’s current state of mind and proceeds to bathe little Nichole. At that moment, Mark arrives to update the family on Serena’s reaction but ends up greeting Osborne for giving her abuser what he deserved. When they are finished, the others give her some time alone with the baby in the bathroom so that she can cuddle her. The basic instinct of caring for the offspring had prevailed over the predatory, at least for now. 

The Handmaid’s Tale — Season 5 (Photo by: Hulu)

Episode 2 – Ballet 

June is lying in a bed, having flashbacks of the past abusive moments that Waterford’s wife subjected her to. The whole sequence is covered by the same song played in the previous episode, All I Have to Do is Dream as if the two moments mirrored each other. If she was daydreaming about the man’s hunt on the first occasion, now it is time to plan a similar act of revenge worthy of his missis. The protagonist then gets the gun she was given by her allies and buries it in the yard.


Mark Tuello discusses security details with Serena during their flight to Gilead. When they land in the country, several Commanders welcome them, including Nick Blaine and Joseph Lawrence. They drive to a modest church selected for the funeral service, and the widow decides to pressure those present about who might have helped the killer the other night. Finally, she focuses her attention on Lawrence, challenging him to give Mr. Waterford a proper ceremony to prove his innocence and loyalty. 

Aunt Lydia appears for the first time in this season. The middle-aged servant gives final advice to a group of Handmaids, counting on Janine Lindo’s support this time once she was sent back to Gilead after surviving the bombing in Chicago. Since then, she became responsible for fitting Esther Keyes, the rebel who poisoned her spouse, within the theocratic standards. Lydia recognizes that effort and hence allows her to accompany the girl to the funeral at Putnam’s house in the hope that they will choose her.


During the service, Mrs. Waterford gets back to Joseph about her previous request. He answers that the council does not want to change the plans since her late partner is now seen as a traitor. June reunites with her inner circle at home as the morning continues for them in Gilead. The flashbacks involving Serena’s abusive behavior trigger the main character to talk about her with Rita Blue, an ex-Martha who is also sheltered in Canada. Osborne wonders about what the woman may have been planning, not hiding the rage. Blue, on the contrary, wants to forget the matter but ends up annoyed when her friend remembers the domestic violence she suffered not so long ago. Finally, Moira arrives to appease the mood, and June apologizes to Rita. 

At the Putnam’s, Keys is introduced to the housewife, and Janine has a brief encounter with her daughter Angela, who has lived there since birth. In the next moment, Aunt Lydia leaves Esther alone in Warren Putnam’s room, where they talk for a minute before she begrudgingly accepts a candy he offers. The scene cuts to a conversation between Osborne and her man in their home. She tells him about the envelope with Mr. Waterford’s finger and expresses concern about his widow’s next steps. Despite this absurd act, Luke’s only interest is to keep his lover closer to the family, so the pair agrees to forget the consequences for a while.


Serena decided to try her luck and convince a group of powerful men that Fred deserved more than they intended to grant. She proposes his funeral to be a broadcast event in which the nation would earn the world’s respect and acceptance by showing its grief. Lawrence and Blaine immediately support the idea in their attempt to deflect the suspicion she had directed towards both. However, Mrs. Putnam appears reluctant, although he agrees to discuss the subject.


Their approval appears in the following sequence. Mrs. Waterford and Mr. Tuello have reunited again when Joseph comes up with the information. The duo began discussing the guest list, which should count on people from the entire country. In the meantime, Canada’s representative meets Nick by the roadside to update him about June and Nichole. He also offers assistance in exchange for visibility and amends, as long as the Commander keeps playing his part as an insider.


After the service, Keys brings some mushrooms to the dorm and starts eating them with Lindo as they start a conversation. She tries to convince her ward about the advantages of having a baby in Gilead even though they are taken away to be raised by another family. Esther then rages against her colleague, accusing her of being helpful just to get close to Angela at the Putnam’s. The youngest one starts coughing blood but still laughs and talks about making Osborne proud. Just a moment later, Janine has the same reaction, but by the time Aunt Lydia gets to the room, they are both unconscious on the floor. 

The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 5), Episode 2 Ending, Explained

The last sequence of the episode intercalates takes from the broadcasted funeral and a Ballet spectacle. On the one side, Serena advances down the street alongside her late husband’s procession while simultaneously, June and Luke concentrate on a stage in front of them. The song covering both actions is from the first act of ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ a ballet composed by the Russian Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovski in 1890. It is based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of the same name in which a princess is bewitched to fall into a deep sleep until a chosen man appears to awaken her with a true love’s kiss.

After the prologue, a hooded stranger shows up and offers Princess Aurora a spindle. As she analyses the object, her parents desperately try to intervene because of an old occurrence that happened when she was born. A  wicked fairy named Carabosse got mad after being left out of the Princess’ baptism and placed a curse upon her that anticipated she would prick a finger at the age of 16 and die. In the end, Aurora only fulfills part of the prophecy since the skilled Lilac Fairy intervenes by keeping her asleep for a hundred years. 

Back in the series, the widow, dressed in black attire, plays the role of Carabosse, while her opponent, wearing a white dress, is the Lilac Fairy. In the final shots, June goes to a trailer with her companion for a coffee, and to their surprise, the Commander’s memorial is exhibited on giant screens spread across the street. A wave of fury possesses Osborne at the sight of Mrs. Waterford receiving a bouquet from her teenage daughter Hannah. The girl, by the way, represents Aurora, the innocent Princess involved in a power struggle between two sorceresses. When the spell over her is finally cast, it remains to be seen whether she will succumb to the one who showed her the darkness or embrace the other who once brought her to the light.

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The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 5) Episodes 1, 2 External Link: IMDb
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer
Where to watch The Handmaid's Tale

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