'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 5, Episode 9, 'Allegiance's' Most Shocking Moments

A botched mission, a marriage proposal, and an important memory.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Yvonne Strahovski in 'The Handmaid's Tale'


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

The end of the eighth episode of The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 saw June (Elisabeth Moss), Luke (O-T Fagbenle), and Moira (Samira Wiley) singing the praises of Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) because he managed to restore a little faith in what was left of the American government when he created swift action (planning a raid) after the Bankoles received footage of their daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) in a Gileadian school for wives-to-be. By the end of the ninth and penultimate episode of Season 5, titled "Allegiance," though, the influence of America was back to the negative, as gunfire rang out during a memorial for those lost in the attempted raid.

The plan was for the U.S. government-in-exile's aircrafts to go into Gilead under the cover of night and remove about 30 girls from the school (only the ones who were stolen from their parents, Mark noted), but Gilead was prepared. Whether its officials were tipped off, just truly intuitive, or that footage was sent to June as a trap because everyone knows she takes action, Gilead was ready and shot down the planes, losing the men and women on board and keeping the girls in the school at least another day.

All hope wasn't lost, though. For as much as Hannah showed fear of her mother when meeting with her in the past in Gilead, she at least remembers who she truly is. Tucked away inside a book is a drawing she made, signed with her real name, not the "Agnes" her Gileadian guardians call her. 

Whether the shooter at the memorial somehow has ties to Gilead is unclear at this time, but simply stopping the mission without retaliating further would be a shocking behavior for that regime. While you wait for more answers and action in the season finale, here, Metacritic highlights the five most shocking moments in "Allegiance."

A proposal most bizarre

After Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) had Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken) executed, Naomi Putnam (Ever Carradine) was left floating, so to speak. As an unmarried woman who is tainted by her husband's crimes, she feared being sent to the Colonies. But instead, Lawrence and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) put their heads together and came up with the idea of a new union. 

Although Lawrence had no intentions of remarrying, entering into such a relationship with the former Mrs. Putnam could be seen as a "win-win" for both of them. 

"You need security, I need to represent traditional Gilead values, so you can move in here with the kid if you want," he says.

"As his wife," Lydia clarifies. 

Interestingly, Naomi asks if she has a choice, rather than just agreeing immediately, as it might be assumed many women in her position would do. After all, what is the other option? She is not allowed to live alone as a female widow raising a young child. Lydia explains that when women's husbands are alive, they are bound to them, but after death, women are "free to marry whom she chooses," citing First Corinthians. Though, she does nudge her toward accepting, of course, because of Lawrence's stature. Murdering her husband can be overlooked, of course! (Honestly, in this case, maybe it should be; Warren deserved punishment.)

June confesses yet another crime

After the mission to rescue Hannah and the other girls fails, Lawrence calls June to apologize, but it very quickly turns into just another pitch for New Bethlehem — this time dangling Max Minghella's Nick in front of her. They argue and the tension ratchets up so much that June finally spits out the fact that his wife hated him and she watched her die. 

"She was so broken and so ashamed by the man that she loved that she'd rather be dead," June says. "I watched her die and I did nothing."

Thus far, it was always assumed Lawrence knew she was involved somehow (and he confirms as much over the phone), but their exchange here is probably the most honest they have ever been with each other. Arguably, it is the most honest any of these characters have ever been with each other. Credit the distance created by the safety of phone lines, maybe, or maybe there really is just nothing left to lose.

"Eleanor would still want me to help you with Hannah," he replies.

They both have tears in their eyes as they come to an impasse, with her saying she wants Hannah "safe and free" with her in Canada, and he claims that's never going to happen.

June seems to have forgotten how fertile Nick is

June tries to make the case for Nick to leave Gilead by reminding him that now that he is married, a ceremony is forthcoming, and while his wife may like her life there now (her father is a top commander, after all), she might change her tune after she has to hold a woman down while he rapes her to conceive a baby. But Nick's family won't have to go through that because he got her pregnant all on his own, something June probably should have anticipated, given how he was used to get her pregnant so the Waterfords would stop their ceremonies.

So, despite Mark offering Nick a way out, he won't take it, saying he wants to do whatever it takes to protect his family, which, to him, means being a part of the change he believes Lawrence will instill in Gilead. He may be a realist for believing the change will come, but he's an optimist if he believes the change will actually be positive.

Wheeler doesn't abuse his powerful position 

Unhappy with the amount of access she has to her son Noah and to the public, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) visits Ryan Wheeler (Lucas Neff) in his office to make her case for why she should be at the event at the fertility center. Although Strahovski tells Metacritic that she wouldn't "put it past: Serena to do whatever she had to do to get her way, especially when it comes to things pertaining to Noah (hence being willing to live in the Wheeler household as their handmaid in general), it doesn't come to her trying to seduce him or barter a sexual favor.

But neither does he suggest that is how she try to convince him, although many men in Gilead certainly would.

"I see him as a person who's capable of abusing his power. I think he possesses the same appetites that a lot of these sorts of men seem to possess in this universe and in the universe we exist in. But, at this point, I think he's at this place where he really wants to show that he's a true believer and that he is living up to the code that she helped create," Neff says.

Instead, Ryan runs right to his wife, Alanis (Genevieve Angelson), to tell her about Serena's pitch. That likely would have happened in Gilead, where men in power regularly abuse their power, not only in their treatment of their handmaids, but also in the secrets they keep from their wives. (Can you picture Ryan cutting off Alanis' finger, for example? No. But I bet you can picture her cutting off his.)

"You can't just overnight make Serena Waterford a handmaid. Of course, that wasn't the intention necessarily to begin with — she was a house guest. But now, we're protecting the baby from someone who is now a known murderer living outside the law. We understand that this might be drastic, but we're doing all of this in service of the protection of this child," Angelson says. "She is a f---ing code red flight risk, absolutely. And I think this is where the tension and the difference with my husband starts coming in."

Click here for more on the Wheelers from Angelson and Neff.

Serena runs — again

Serena succeeds in getting what she wants in being allowed to go out in public and rub elbows with those learning about Gilead in Canada, thanks to Ryan, but Alanis is not happy about it and keeps a watchful eye over her the entire time. Meanwhile, Ryan has to keep an eye on his wife.

"The scene at the fertility center, he's a doof — he's a doof when his wife is present. And that's in the show's DNA: Proving that the men are absurd is in the show's vocabulary already, and the book too. They present themselves like they're the kings of Israel, but they're really just these dudes who are kind of pathetic, and a lot of them are impotent and won't admit it. There's something really classically comedic about a buffoon who doesn't know know he's foolishness but everybody else is side-eyeing them. All the women are side-eyeing the men constantly. So, in those moments with my wife, I can be a little funny as long as it's pathetic," Neff says.

While the Wheelers have some new tension between them to hide to their public but still distract them a little bit, Serena convinces them she should be allowed to spend some alone time with the baby in the bathroom. Only for her to take off again, this time with Noah, of course.

"I'm not sure that she's thinking through the consequences too much. It's just sheer desperation," Strahovski says of Serena's action. "She can't stand it, and that's the thing about portraying a mom: What would you do — what risks would you take to save your child, essentially, and be with them?"

Serena gets lucky in that when she steps into the street to try to force a car to stop for them, the woman driving the car actually does stop and also agrees to let Serena get in. Serena's plea of "help me save my son" certainly tugs at the heartstrings. But her luck may still turn once again if and when this woman recognizes Serena for who she is and what she stands for. 

The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 streams new episodes Wednesdays