Yes, indeed. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 9 had a lot of balls up in the air — a rescue gone terribly wrong, truthful words between June and Joseph hitting like bullets, Joseph going with the grain, and an angry, out-of-control mob.
Oh yeah, and Serena’s in the wind.
“Allegiance” tees up The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 finale with many moving targets.
Generally, we’ve been in the dark when it comes to the Americans. Mark is the sole ambassador for what’s left of America, and he’s left on his own, working on behalf of the refugees in Canada.
Saying he’s got a lot on his plate would be an understatement.
Obviously, other American representatives are helping to coordinate whatever it is the Americans have been doing since the war started.
But when June and Luke were walking through the hangar, seeing the preparations for the rescue mission, I got a sense of foreboding.
First of all, the odds that Hannah would be rescued without fuss were nonexistent. Second, when you have never seen another American and suddenly meet heroic guys, you get the feeling that you’re only meeting them so that a catastrophe will be more meaningful.
It didn’t take long for the mission to go south. When Mark and June subsequently met, they both blamed bad intel. But the reality of it is that Gilead has been ruthless and on top of things since the beginning.
This version of America seems to hold onto the “it can’t happen here” sentiment, which, in this case, led them to believe that Gilead wouldn’t be using every available asset to protect their regime.
Commander MacKenzie: With the force and the fury of God, we kept my dear Agnes and the other girls safe.
Commander 2: Praise God. Not to mention, we strengthened our alliances.
Commander 3: The ambassadors from China, Russia, and North Korea have all congratulated us for sticking it to the Americans.
Commander 2: I guess we’re playing with the big boys now.
Joseph: Yeah, what’s the old saying? Uh, any club that would have me as a member?
Listening to the commanders patting themselves on the back for receiving kudos from the three most ruthless regimes in the world said it all. They are just as intent on holding their citizens hostage as they are keeping the rest of the world out.
That’s why, despite all of Joseph’s planning to the contrary, New Bethlehem was never going to work. Once you create a totalitarian regime, going back is virtually impossible.
Joseph was leaning on blackmail to get America’s Joan of Arc to return to Gilead, tail between her legs, with the understanding that her daughter would never be free. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. What a dumb phrase.
It took another decisive Gilead victory to remind June that Gilead will never be embracing freedom, even in New Bethlehem’s hollow sliver of white clapboard bliss. It’s oppression, no matter how pretty it is to the naked eye.
There’s no going back now. Everyone must hold their positions and plow forward, come what may. That much was clear after June and Joseph had a tense and emotional phone call.
Joseph: Um, I’m sorry, June. I really am. All this bloodshed, it’s, it’s exactly what I was trying to avoid.
June: Soldiers are dead; you fuckin’ slaughtered them.
Joseph: They invaded my country.
June: To save our children.
Joseph: Citizens of Gilead.
June: They were stolen from us! You know that!
Joseph: I gave you the chance to be with Hannah. You threw your lot in with the Americans!
June: Is that why you called, to blame me?
Joseph: No. I, I called because you can still come to New Bethlehem.
June: Why would you let me do that?
Joseph: Hannah’s a symbol now. Like it or not, so are you. So, after last night, it would be even more effective if June Osborn chose to return to Gilead to be close to her child, close to Nick, too.
June: What do you mean?
Joseph: Nick will be there. You’d be neighbors, you could buy cups of sugar from each other, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
June: Do you think you can just dangle Nick in front of me, and I’ll just do whatever the fuck you want??
Joesph: I think it’s a good deal, and I think you should take it. But there’s one thing. Uh, I need you to go public. Call the failed mission a foolish act of aggression.
June: What? No, I’m not gonna say that.
Joseph: Why not? It’s the truth. The Americans did what they always did. They put Hannah, they put all of those girls in real danger.
June: I cannot make Gilead look like the victim here. Joseph, it is an evil fucking country. I can’t do that.
Joseph: I’m trying to fix it from the inside.
June: You are still part of it! You are one of them. It’s even worse cause I know you know better.
Joseph: I’m doing what I can, step by step. It’s what I promised Eleanor.
June: Eleanor hated you. She couldn’t stand the sight of you. She was so broken and so ashamed of the man that she loved that she’d rather be dead. I watched her die. I did, I watched her die, and I did nothing, nothing.
Joseph: I knew, I knew you had something to do with it, but Eleanor would still want me to help you with Hannah, help you come back.
June: I want her here! I want my baby here. Safe and free. Please.
Joseph: It’s never gonna happen.
June: THEN GO FUCK YOURSELF!
Whatever ground they once walked together is gone.
June knows that she’ll never be satisfied until Hannah is free, and she knows that Joseph will never be able to hold back the bloodthirsty commanders he stands alongside. It’s unclear if he’d even want to anymore.
That phone call between them set them both in new directions. Finally, Joseph knows that if he is to be the leader he wants to be in Gilead, he’s got to embrace their ways.
He’ll never help someone like June again. It’s full speed ahead into darkness for Commander Lawrence. His first stop is to put the memory of his wife behind him by forcing Mrs. Putnam’s hand in marriage.
Naomi: He had Warren killed in front of me.
Aunt Lydia: Which he’s willing to overlook. So should you.
She’s not in a position to say no, even if Aunt Lydia and Joseph act as if she has options. If Joseph doesn’t have options, he sure isn’t going to allow Naomi to have them, either.
Mark: Nick was an eye. He’s a commander now. Someone like that defecting from Gilead? Big impact. You can make one, too. You could. You know that. After Angel’s Flight, after your testimony against Waterford, you should step up, put your power to use.
June: I don’t feel comfortable doing that right now, Mark.
Mark: Fair enough. What about Nick? I could set up a meeting. I could set it up today. Be nice to have a win.
June: Yeah. Yeah, set it up.
Mark wanted June to consider using the power she’s attained after her many successes to further the cause. She didn’t feel comfortable with that, but she wasn’t above asking Nick to reconsider working with the Americans.
They are the Romeo and Juliet of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Nick: Gilead’s changing. There’s progress. Under Lawrence, we’re making it better.
Nick: I have to do whatever it takes to protect my family, just like you.
June: I want what’s best for both our families. [long pause] Well, this is a fine mess, isn’t it?
Nick: The world’s a mess.
June: Yeah. Do you know what I wish, though? I wish the world would just go away, just for a little bit.
Nick: It’s going to be hard for us to see each other.
June: I don’t want to make trouble for you.
Nick: Do me a favor, and tell Nichole that I love her. Tell her I love her and I miss her all the time. Will you do that for me?
June: Of course, I will.
Even though June has Luke (and Nick Rose, of course-ish), you can see during their brief meeting how their love for each other shapes and defines them.
It just didn’t feel like that goodbye would be their last.
Despite his words of love for Rose, when Nick returned home, neither of them appeared to be what could be called happy, and I don’t see how Nick will be able to stand idly by while the commanders talk of addressing the June Osborn problem escalates.
That situation is reaching a boiling point, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the commanders used their astute understanding of the world outside to their advantage.
The shooting at the end of the hour could have been the other shop dropping on the angry Canadian mob, or it could have been Gilead using the increasing unrest to address their problem without taking any heat.
Either way, nobody seems safe in Canada anymore, but there aren’t many options available to them to get out, either.
Serena was on an entirely different plane, trying her damndest to play the game June urged her to play.
Serena: Praise be.
Mr. Wheeler: Oh, yeah.
It’s her good fortune that Commander Wheeler doesn’t seem all that impressed with his overbearing wife. Toying with Serena amuses him as much as his doing it angers Alanis.
Serena finagled her way to the opening of the fertility clinic and used the opportunity to disappear. Her future in Canada isn’t any better than June’s or the other refugees, but at least she’s free — for now.
The sliver of hope that permeated this hour came from Hannah. She may have been on her own for too long, but she hasn’t forgotten her family and hasn’t caved into the pressures put upon her.
She’s holding on tight to her individuality and her name, and she’s got a defiant glint in her eye. She’s a chip off the old block, and June would be so proud.
And here we are at the finale already. Where will this season end?
What are your thoughts on what unfolded here, and how might it act as a prelude to The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 10?
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.