'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 5 Episode 3, 'Border's' Most Shocking Events

It's finally time to meet Mayday, Serena tries to make moves, and more.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

From left to right: Samira Wiley, Elisabeth Moss, and Christine Ko in 'The Handmaid's Tale'


Warning: This story contains spoilers for the third episode of The Handmaid's Tale Season 5, titled "Border," . Read at your own risk!

The two-episode Season 5 premiere of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale covered a lot of ground in terms of setting up the continuing conflict for the season as it pertained to June (Elisabeth Moss) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), but it also teased changes to come for June's daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake), and it delivered a whopper of a cliffhanger when Esther (Mckenna Grace) shared poisoned chocolates with Janine (Madeline Brewer), leaving them both at death's door. (Read all about the shocking Season 5 premiere episodes here.)

The third episode, written by Aly Monroe, directed by Dana Gonzales, and titled "Border," wastes no time pulling at all of these threads, from June so determined to make her way back to Hannah she ends up working with a Canadian faction of Mayday, to the reveal of Esther and Janine's fate. (Spoiler alert: They're both alive but extremely worse for wear and not with equal support.) Also, Serena decides to move back to Gilead, but, as she should know, women don't get to decide anything about their lives under Gileadian rule.

Read on for the five most shocking events of "Border."

June finds Mayday and, in it, a woman she saved

From the start of this show, June and the audience by extension heard tell of Mayday, the secret resistance group that tries to bring down Gilead. Since June was in Gilead at the time (and for the majority of the series so far), only those inside the system who were opposed to the system were seen partaking in the secret code (dropping "may day" into casual conversation) and working to pass along messages and items. And it wasn't clear what the outcome of passing messages or items was, which led June to admit that she thought Mayday was real: something they made up "because we had to."

But now, Moira (Samira Wiley) reveals she knows about a group working along the Canadian border and just didn't tell June about them because she considers them to be "suicidal." Maybe the most shocking thing here is that Moira admitted that to June because of course her friend would be upset she didn't know sooner and would immediately set off to meet with the group, whose leader Lily (Christine Ko) welcomes them to Mayday.

Lily was once part of the resistance within Gilead, expanding it in Boston, especially around Jezebel's. But the Eyes caught her and she was set for an untimely demise — until June made a deal to trade survivors for Fred (Joseph Fiennes). Lily was one of the survivors, and she's now continuing to fight the good fight from the outside. And more importantly, "Mayday's everywhere," she tells June and Moira. 

And Mayday is also unafraid to get violent, as current plans include collecting arsenic to take out another commander, nor are the members afraid to potentially sacrifice themselves for the cause, as a man June encounters is heading into Gilead because his wife and child are still there.

Serena hits on Lawrence

This sounds so crazy we have to back up to the beginning: Serena and Mark (Sam Jaeger) head to Commander Lawrence's (Bradley Whitford) for dinner, where Lawrence promptly keeps Mark out in the cold because of a "no spies allowed policy," which is just cheeky coming from him. But among the couples Serena is faced with are Nick (Max Minghella) and his new wife Rose (Carey Cox), as well as the Mackenzies, who are raising Hannah. She and Lawrence are the only singles there. While the point of the dinner is to discuss "cutting out the cancer" that they consider June to be, one of the more interesting, seemingly smaller threats that gets dropped is in Lawrence's direction. He mentions that he does not plan to remarry now that his wife has died, and he is told "a single man has no place in [Gileadian] leadership." Although Lawrence has big ideas and has been making quiet moves along the way, he actually may need to make some changes (or just make those moves bigger and faster) if he wants to keep ahold of the power on which he has come to rely. Serena clocks that, and she has been feeling her own power dwindle in the wake of her husband's death, so when dinner ends she hangs back and makes the only kind of proposition a woman in Gilead can make: "A boy needs a strong father to guide him in this life," she says of her unborn son. 

Lawrence may still need to make some changes, but this does not appear to be one he is willing to entertain, as he tells her that "marrying for power doesn't always work out well" and later on asks her point blank if she has expectations of him, making it clear in his tone that she shouldn't.

June confronts Serena face to face

Although Serena's plan is to move back to Gilead, she is not allowed to do so. Instead, the men who actually make the rules of that society decide to keep her in Canada, where there is a growing amount of support for their way of life. Never one to show she is hurt, Serena attempts to make new demands for accepting this assignment, including a staff, a "substantial" budget, and protection. She is told "leadership is very invested in making this a success," but that doesn't mean she gets what she asks for. Because when she touches back down in Canada, June is able to find her and threaten her through her car window. "Never touch my daughter again," June repeats firmly. Sure, Serena is safely behind glass and has a driver who could run June over if he wanted to, but the implication is that Serena is not nearly as safe as she thought or hoped she would be. 

Lydia is growing and changing?

After what Esther did (trying to kill herself and take another handmaid with her), it's no surprise Lydia is extremely upset with her. But one of the reasons is because of how much she has come to care for Janine, and Janine is the one Esther harmed. 

When Lydia found both women, it was Janine she ran to and Janine whose name she called out. As both women languish in the hospital, Esther is unconscious and handcuffed to the bed, and Lydia still slaps her hard on the face. Lydia sympathizers (are there any!?) may say she was just trying to wake the girl up, but her anger and seeming disgust at Esther's actions is palpable. By contrast, she weeps over Janine's bedside, literally calling out to God and telling him she will do things differently if He stops hurting Janine, and even having Mrs. Putnam (Ever Carradine) bring Janine's biological daughter to see her in case the energy helps her heal.

"Very, very slowly it's the idea of these girls individually have value — that I care about this one more than that one, and that's not something that she's supposed to do," creator and showrunner Bruce Miller tells Metacritic. "This is a season of change for Lydia, absolutely. She hasn't necessarily been thinking she wants to do good, but thinking Gilead is corrupt and needs to have a reformation. Almost everybody thinks that: 'If it just ran away I like, it would be perfect.' But she's realizing that she has regrets about how she acted in the past compared to how she feels like she can act now: She can act more compassionate now she doesn't have to beat them; they're scared of her most of the time and that works; she's allowed them to build their own little community, which on the one hand, she thinks is very supportive, and on the other hand, she's building an army and there's no way around it. She doesn't know that, but that's absolutely what she's doing."

Gilead is preparing Hannah for marriage

The third episode begins with June commenting on the purple color her first born was wearing at Fred's funeral, with both she and Moira saying they didn't know what it was and hadn't seen it before. Over the phone, Nick reveals to June that it means "she's ready" to be married off. Presumably she and Moira had not seen that color around Gilead before because they were not allowed to encounter young women entering into wife training.

June asks Nick to transfer districts to watch out for Hannah, which he can't do because of his own family to worry about. Naturally, June isn't going to let this go. Add together what she has learned about what Mayday can do regarding crossing borders, a likely adrenaline shot from threatening Serena, and a ticking clock on her mission to get Hannah out of Gilead, and surely things have barely just begun to heat up.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 streams new episodes Wednesdays