Today’s episode was written by J. Holtham and was directed by Eva Vives
Episode 505 – Fairytale
“June and Luke embark on a dangerous quest. Serena gets to know her new hosts.” (Fairytale, Season 5, Episode 5)
June is asleep, dreaming of Hannah at the aquarium, pre-Gilead. This is a memory she tends to go back to often, and many of her memories of Hannah are near water. She wakes in the middle of the night to a phone call from Lily with Mayday. June, Moira, and Luke all drive to the outpost after learning that a guardian is coming across the border with information about Wife Schools. On the way there, they pass a large protest of Canadian nationalists holding signs saying, “End All Immigration” and “Yankees go home”. The refugees continue to face more and more opposition in Canada as time goes by.
Over at the Wheelers’ home, Serena Joy is silhouetted in a window, eerily like shots of June as a handmaid in the Waterford home. As she looks out the window and then heads down the staircase, it is almost shot for shot the same as we’ve seen June descend the stairs years ago, and this is no accident. The crew is incredibly intentional about every detail that goes into this show, so let’s pay attention to the parallels between June’s experience as a handmaid and Serena’s as a guest in the Wheeler household. Serena joins Alanis in the dining room for breakfast where Serena points out that she doesn’t need the extravagances they’ve been providing, but Alanis is clearly starstruck by her and insists. And to top off the mirroring of June’s time as a handmaid, Serena is even drinking a green juice/smoothie that looks identical to the one June was forced to gulp own while pregnant. YIKES.
June, Moira, and Luke arrive at the Mayday outpost where Lily lets them know that the person that was coming across the border can’t make it across now. As they contemplate this news, Luke shocks everyone and says, “I’m going across…Everything we want to know about Hannah is just there: where she is, how to find her. I’m not gonna go home and watch Hannah turn up on TV again with Serena. I’m not doing it, I’m going.” I love that we are finally seeing Luke take more action this season; this is one of my favorite character development lines. June looks at him proudly and decides to go along with him. Lily equips them with supplies and gives them all the information they need to venture into No Man’s Land to find a meeting spot and an unnamed person that supposedly has information on Hannah. As they make their way through the woods, late into the night, June begins to flashback to the woods when her family was separated while attempting to flee. The use of flashbacks this season and the way they help illustrate June’s mental state is fantastic.
Back at the Wheeler home, Alanis is hosting some sort of bizarre get together of Gilead sympathizing women who struggle with fertility. They are all in awe of her and are desperate for the chance to touch her pregnant belly. Serena has a flashback of her own, but to being with Naomi Putnam viewing recently kidnapped children in the early stages of Gilead’s takeover. The children are being held in rooms with large windows for the Wives of Commanders to essentially shop for children; it’s horrific. Naomi asks Serena “Can you see any of these in your home?” Serena and Naomi discuss being offered handmaids, but Serena is against the idea and plans to continue trying to conceive with Fred.
It’s daylight again as June and Luke make their way through the woods when they finally find the meeting point. They encounter a young guardian that tries to take them further. When they resist, he points out that it isn’t safe there. They debate it but agree and follow him.
Serena calls Commander Lawrence but finds that Commander Putnam is also on the call. Putnam is not pleased with Serena’s progress at the information center. Serena proposes an idea to shift the focus of the center. She suggests that they shouldn’t focus on Gilead, but instead should open a fertility center, since that is what people are most concerned about. Joseph agrees that it’s a genius idea, but Putnam, who can’t stand to see a woman exert any sort of power, ends the conversation, and hangs up. He tells Joseph that they have to “yank her leash from time to timed.” They then refer to some plan of Joseph’s called “New Bethlehem” which Putnam also tries to shut down. It seems to have something to do with bringing people back into Gilead and is part of Lawrence’s efforts to improve Gilead’s economy and global position.
June, Luke, and the young guardian arrive at an old, abandoned bowling alley, of all places. The guardian shows them around his hideout, and June and Luke are floored. He begins to give them information about the school Hannah is in and refers to them as “The Plums”. Luke asks if the schools are like prisons and is told that they’re treated like princesses and are completely taken care of. When he says they try to match them off quickly, Luke points out that Hannah is only 12 years old. The guardian says, “that’s just how it works.” He hands them a flash drive filled with all the information Mayday has on the schools. When they turn to leave, he tells them that it’s not safe to leave at night, so they decide to stay the night.
The guardian and Luke start to bowl, shouting and having a great time. The guardian starts talking about pre-Gilead times but doesn’t remember much. “Everything from before is like foggy…like a dream.” He’s young enough that Gilead has become normalized for him. When June points out that he’s working with Mayday to bring it down, he says, “People should just be able to talk to each other…see their families…do whatever they want, like this.” He finally tells them his name, Jayden, but as Lily has said, “names are dangerous.” This is the moment I knew things wouldn’t end well for him. He brings them some beers, and Luke starts to play the keyboard and sing a bit. It’s this beautiful moment of humanity at an abandoned bowling alley in between Gilead and Canada. Luke begins playing and belting out “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. It’s one of my absolute favorite moments between Luke and June of the entire series. They even begin to slow dance, as he sings softly in her ear. Seeing them come together this way while on a mission to help Hannah just melted my heart.
Serena attempts to walk out the front gate to speak with a well-wisher, but Ezra and several guards stop her. Mr. Wheeler gave them orders to keep the gate closed. We even get a shot of Serena in the background, with the bars from the fence in the foreground, illustrating Serena’s imprisonment. She begins to flashback to the moment she was selecting their first handmaid with Aunt Lydia. When she picks up the folder of her first choice, Lydia notes that the handmaid also caught Fred’s eye, and Serena quickly puts it down to select another. Back in the present, Mr. Wheeler pays Serena a visit in her room, and they are finally able to meet. He has come to follow up on Serena’s call with Commander Lawrence & Putnam and her proposal of the fertility center. He notes that it’s a stroke of genius, but when Serena begins discussing the work she’ll need to do, Mr. Wheeler shuts it down immediately. Even though it was Serena’s initiative, she will not be permitted to work on it. Her only purpose is now to take care of herself so that she’ll have a healthy birth. She at least tries to ask for a cell phone, and he shuts down that idea as well.
The guardian begins to escort Luke and June back over the border but stops short when he realizes he stepped on a landmine. It quickly goes off, hurtling him through the air, even severing limbs. Luke and June try to help him, but he urges them to leave now after hearing shouting in the distance. They finally give in and run off. Someone is chasing them with flashlights as they get closer to the bored. They’re eventually caught and split up, as Al Green’s original track “Let’s Stay Together” plays into the credits.
We have no idea who has caught June and Luke and where they are from. This episode is aptly titled, “Fairytale”, and it truly felt that way for these two characters up until this final scene. I loved seeing them come together and finally fight alongside one another. I can’t wait to see where Luke’s arc takes him this season. And what will happen to Serena Joy? They have really been driving home this idea of her being a sort of pseudo-handmaid for the Wheelers with all the buildup of this episode. What will happen to her child? I loved every moment of this episode; it’s my favorite of the season thus far!