Another season of The Handmaid's Tale has come to an end, and with it, there was expected heartbreak, violence, and danger for beloved characters, but also one very important reunion.
The 10th episode of Season 5, titled "Safe," begins in the aftermath of "Allegiance" before it, when June (Elisabeth Moss) threw herself over a young girl when a gunman opened fire during a memorial. They were both physically fine, even if emotionally worse for the wear, and June ordered a bulletproof vest because she was scheduled to speak at yet another memorial later on.
That event never comes to be — or, at least we don't see it — because too many other things of importance occur. Namely, the former Mrs. Putnam, Naomi (Ever Carradine), accepts Commander Joseph Lawrence's (Bradley Whitford) marriage proposal and they wed; Janine (Madeline Brewer) almost gets posted at their home; and June gets hit by a car, which sets off a chain of events in Toronto that include Nick (Max Minghella) making a deal with Mark (Sam Jaeger) after all, Luke (O-T Fagbenle) becoming a wanted man, Janine ruining her chance at that post, and June fleeing yet another former democracy before Gilead can sink its hooks too deeply in.
It's going to be a long wait until the sixth and final season of Hulu's dystopian drama premieres. Until then, read on for the most shocking moments in the Season 5 finale and click here for what creator and showrunner Bruce Miller has to say about it all.
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) has been on quite a roll this season, trying to finally instigate change, and her latest plan is quite a doozy: When told she has to find Janine a new post or "they will find another use for her," she goes to Naomi Putnam, who is soon-to-be Mrs. Commander Lawrence, and asks that she accept Janine as her handmaid. It's a particularly big ask, of course, because Naomi is raising Janine's biological daughter, and the idea of having Janine, who has tried to see her daughter before, under her roof scares her when it comes to mother-daughter bonding. (And she doesn't even know what's happened when Serena lived with Noah in the Wheelers' house in Toronto!)
But Lydia is steadfast in her drive to help her favorite handmaid, and her reasoning to Naomi is somewhat sound: She tells her that Lawrence is looking to set an important new tone for what Gilead can be, and that includes having everyone in their place but treating them with grace and respect.
Naomi ends up agreeing, because the little girl will be out of town for the summer, which will give Janine a chance to prove herself to the newlyweds before regaining (limited) contact with her daughter. Janine resigns herself and says all of the right things, and Lydia is noticeably overjoyed.
However, Naomi's Martha tells Janine about June (see below), which sets Janine off, and she snaps at Naomi that they are not friends and that she hates her and she doesn't understand how she doesn't know that, which, of course, changes Naomi's mind about having her in her home.
Lydia tells Janine to beg the Commander and the new Mrs. Lawrence for forgiveness and mercy, but Janine says she won't. Before they can really get into it, the Eyes come for Janine, on Lawrence's order, and Lydia, who was starting to break down at the mere thought of what would happen to Janine if she didn't apologize and beg, fully unravels.
Maybe this shouldn't be surprising — after all, after all June lived through in Gilead, some of the religious rhetoric had to have seeped into her subconscious — but it still elicited a, "What!?" from this writer when heard.
Mark stops by to tell June that the gunman from the memorial was apprehended, and after she asks him how he is doing, he tells her he is tired because he has been to 19 funerals in the past five days. She reminds him that she knows what it is like to lose people she is responsible for and ends up saying, "May God grant them rest. And you too." He smiles in return, but it's a moment that likely leaves viewers scratching their heads: Is it just a subconscious slip, or does she have more spirituality than she has been able to show in fight mode all of this time? Or, is she playing a part with him because she's cooking something else up?
We don't get to find out because...
Mere seconds after Mark gets in his car and drives away, June looks around her neighborhood and sees many empty and emptying houses, as people are leaving the neighborhood because Toronto is changing. As she begins walking back down her block, a big Gilead-red truck follows her, and in a surprising twist — because she's June Osborne and she has seemed pretty invisible this whole time — it hits her, then runs over her hand while she is on the ground. Rather than playing dead, she flips herself over, the driver knows she's still alive, and he backs up to run over her once again. Thankfully, Luke comes out of the house just in time to stop him, pull him out of the car, and beat him up — despite the fact that the man also has a gun.
June is bruised and shattered on the ground, but she also knows her warning from Episode 8 ("It's only going to get worse") has officially come true. Because the flag sticker on the truck's bumper is a new one: a combination of Gilead and Canada, meaning that fascist regime is officially alive and thriving in the North.
To recap what happens after June is hit by the car, Luke is taken into questioning (off-screen) for the harm he caused the driver of the car and he begins carrying a gun. He and June also finally talk about their past in Boston, with him saying, "This time it won't be like" that and her assuring him it was not his fault that the family was captured and separated. But, she notes, that time they waited too long, and they have to flee Canada now while they still can. Luke isn't convinced that Canada is Gilead yet, but she reminds him that neither was America — until it wasn't.
The problem is, their names have been flagged, and if they go to the airport as they plan, they will be arrested — Luke for his assault and June for aiding and abetting him. But Mark offers them another plan: to get on trains going West with hundreds of other American refugees that Canada no longer wants. He also provides them with alternate refugee cards in case their names are flagged, even within this system.
At the train station, Luke tells June to go ahead with Nicole in case anyone recognizes him, and it's a good call because there are police walking by with his photo on their phone, asking if anyone has seen him. But it's more than that: He was never planning to get on the train with them because, as he explains, she and Nicole are not safe if he is with them.
"I don't want to do it alone anymore," she tells him, but he replies that "we always find each other" and whistles so the police can grab him while she steps onto the train and the doors finally close.
The penultimate episode saw Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) flee the Wheelers (Genevieve Angelson and Lucas Neff) with her son Noah. She literally ran out of an event at the fertility center and a random woman stopped her car and picked them up when Serena pled with her to help her save her son. The finale opted not to check in on Serena or the Wheelers after that moment, leaving a lot of questions up in the air, especially considering we know there was a passage of time between then and the events of the final episode.
Did the woman who picked her up recognize her, and how did she feel about harboring an architect of Gilead? How long did it take the Wheelers to notice she was gone? What was their move? (Alanis certainly seems like a, "scorched Earth" person, doesn't she?)
None of that mattered more than telling June's story, as the show is still and always will be from her perspective, but that doesn't mean Serena was completely absent from "Safe."
As June carries Nicole through the train cars, looking for a place to sit down, she hears another baby crying, only for the mother holding him to turn around and be Serena. Their eyes meet across the crowded car, and June actually continues her walk to where Serena is standing — two women who started in very different places but ended up in the same. Serena is perhaps a little too excited to see her, smiling as she asks if June has a diaper, and June just can't deny the irony in the situation and smirks right back.
The episode ends on the two of them staring at each other, babies between them, as the train rolls on. So when June told Luke she didn't want to do it alone...maybe she should have been more specific.