Get in, loser: We’re going to subvert a theocracy?
OK, that’s not exactly the gist of what happens at the end of this week’s very exciting Handmaid’s Tale. But we do have Serena killing someone who was about to kill June, then ordering June to hop in a car with her and drive. So, until next week’s episode proves me wrong, I’m going to live in a fantasy world in which Mrs. Waterford and the Artist Formerly Known as Offred pull some Thelma & Louise-type shenanigans.
Seriously, though: that cliffhanger?! Read on for the highlights of “Together.”
‘I SURVIVED, RIGHT?’ | We pick up with the captured Luke and June in the back of a van, where he’s desperately trying to break out of his restraints until she advises him to save his energy. After all, this isn’t her first time at this messed-up rodeo. They’re brought to a facility and photographed; June questions their captors about who they are and what’s going on. After all, they’re still in No Man’s Land, and they’re refugees with rights. The guy she’s talking to is unmoved, and when he asks her name, she replies, “June Osborne.” He notes her ear cuff and responds that he meant who she was OF, and she expresses my sentiments exactly when she tells him to eff off.
June and Luke wind up getting thrown in separate, chain-link cells next to each other. The contrast between how each of them are reacting to their imprisonment is striking: Luke paces, talks ceaselessly, can’t stop wondering who’s holding them captive. June is quiet and still, and she advises her husband to sit down, because panicking wastes precious energy. Much like when someone tells me to calm down when I’m agitated, it only amps him up more, and he wonders how often she’s been in this situation. “A few,” she says. He continues to go off until June, who is near tears, demands that he stop. “I survived, right?” she says. “I survived. So just…” He apologizes and says he wishes he could have saved her, or at least been with her. “You were with me. You were,” she reassures him.
Their time in the cells is punctuated by fingerprinting for June (during which she demands that the guards call Nick and/or Commander Lawrence) and a beat-down for Luke, which is truly painful to watch and which ends with him unconscious. When he wakes up, June apologizes. “You didn’t know how bad it could be, and I did. I should’ve told you,” she says. (Side note: THIS is the type of thing that never fails to destroy me — June and Luke apologizing to each other for things that are so wildly out of their control. See also: Their reunion in Season 4, Episode 6.)
He’s sure that when they get to Gilead, they’ll be executed, and he doesn’t want a repeat of when they weren’t able to say goodbye during their escape attempt years ago. But she has a different idea. “Last time when we were apart, no matter what happened, I never gave up hope. And you never gave up hope,” she says. “Because we knew. We just knew that we would find each other again. So we’re just gonna do that again, right?” They exchange “I love yous,” and man, this episode is making hamburger of my heart. “We are gonna do that again, you understand?” she says, smiling and crying as they reach their hands through the wires to touch.
PUTNAM’S JUST DESSERTS | Let’s skip over to Gilead for a moment, where Aunt Lydia has just had a huge shock: The doctors were about to harvest Esther’s uterus when they realized that she’s about three weeks pregnant. Lydia immediately realizes that the baby is Commander Putnam’s and was conceived during that terrible encounter in his study, when he asked her to leave him alone with the young girl. Also? Esther is awake, handcuffed to her bed and at rock bottom.
Even though Lydia is horrified, she can’t stop terrible things from coming out of her mouth as she approaches Esther’s bedside, such as when she asks, “Did you behave in a way that even unwittingly might have invited his attention?” The teen isn’t having it. “I didn’t do anything,” she replies. “He raped me.” Lydia seems stricken as she apologizes, but Esther definitely does not want to hear that from the very woman who left her alone with her rapist. Plus, she adds, her anger rising, none of this is a surprise! As Lydia draws nearer, it’s too much for Esther, who loses her stuff and starts thrashing against her restraints, crying and screaming.
A shaken and livid Aunt Lydia goes straight to Lawrence to let him know what she’s learned. “He violated that girl!” she cries, but the commander says The Ceremony isn’t any different, and she’s supported that for years. She maintains there’s a difference (though you can see the gears turning in her head), then demands justice for Esther. “Watch your tongue,” he warns her, dismissing her summarily.
Later, we see Commanders Blaine, Lawrence and Putnam toasting to Putnam’s new baby. (Sidebar: Gross.) Putnam is preening and cocky, and he can’t stop himself from glorying in the fact that Lawrence’s “New Bethlehem” idea about amnesty for those who’ve escaped Gilead seems to be dead. BUT WAIT. Later, Commander and Mrs. Putnam are out to eat, and everyone in the restaurant is staring at them in disgust. Naomi wonders what’s up, and he merely says he did something “you will be thanking me for.” Nope, dude. All of a sudden, Guardians seize him and bodily hustle him out of the restaurant, throwing him on the ground before Lawrence and Nick. A special, overnight session of court found him guilty of apostasy and “the rape of unassigned property.” Putnam cries, “I have a baby on the way!” and they’re his last words: Nick pulls out a gun and shoots him on the spot. As Naomi shrieks in horror, Nick wipes the commander’s blood off his face.
When he returns home, Rose is waiting for him. “I’m worried about the kind of person this makes you,” she says. “It makes me the kind of person who’ll do whatever it takes to make Gilead a safer place for our child,” he counters. She puts a hand on her obviously pregnant belly and asks if he’s sure that’s who he did it for; he says yes. Uh, congrats, Nick?
Commander Putnam’s corpse winds up on the wall, and Aunt Lydia has her handmaids look. “I wish I could’ve watched,” says Janine, whom you’ll recall was stationed in his house and had his kid.
‘GO TO YOUR ROOM’ | Meanwhile, over at the Wheeler estate in Canada, the bloom is off the preggo rose. They’ve got an obstetrics suite set up in house’s upper level, and that’s where Dr. Landers examines Serena. There’s just something so undeniably creepy about his suggesting that she engage in perineal massage WHILE he has his hand up her hoohah. Then he suggests some rest to combat her elevated blood pressure and wraps the whole thing by asking her out to dinner. Even better? HE GOT PERMISSION FROM ALANIS AND RYAN WHEELER FIRST. “That’s an interesting proposal,” she says as she contemplates sticking some forceps where the sun don’t shine.
Downstairs later, Serena and Alanis arrange flowers and talk about the proposition. The widow Waterford says she’s not going to date her gynecologist (fair) and muses that she might not marry again, at least not for a while. Alanis is SHOCKED. “It’s not really Gilead, is it?” Serena says, but honey, for you? It kinda is. Mrs. Wheeler gets madder and madder; when Serena tries to go for a walk, she won’t let her. She eventually angrily orders that Serena go to her room. So she does, sitting on the edge of the bed and crying with her hand over her mouth. The shot’s framing, the action, Serena’s body language — all invoke June in her spartan bedroom in Season 1.
Later, she’s called to Commander Wheeler’s study. (“This man is evil Play-Doh,” I wrote in my notes right around this point, which is not terribly germane to the scene, but I still want to put out there.) He informs her of June’s capture — her assailants are “one of my teams in No Man’s Land,” he says — and that he’s going to send Ezra in to “have him deal with her there.” He doesn’t want to send her back to Gilead because he fears she won’t be dealt with “properly;” Serena adds that she has too many sympathizers there.
She asks to accompany Ezra, but Wheeler says no. Serena begs. “She’s taken so much away from me. I need to see it,” she pleads. “I need to see the end.” He relents, and she tearfully thanks him.
ANSWERED PRAYERS | So when Ezra pulls June off a transport full of detainees, Serena is standing there in the road as the bus drives off. “Are you f–king serious?” June says; the annoyed tone of voice Elisabeth Moss uses is hilarious perfection. Serena comes out swinging. “As serious as you were when you told me you wanted my baby to die inside of me. Do you remember that?” she spits. “Yeah,” June shoots back. “It was the best day of my f—king life.”
They’re in the middle of nowhere, an important detail to note for the future. Serena tells Ezra to cut June’s bindings, because “I want her to be able to pray on her knees.” June rolls her eyes (HA!), saying, “God’s sake, Serena.” As June bows her head and waits for the shot, Serena asks the Wheelers’ thug to let her fire the kill shot, because “God is giving me a chance for justice.” He hesitates but eventually hands over the weapon, and Mrs. Waterford aims it squarely at her former handmaid’s forehead.
June’s all outta jokes as she asks Serena not to kill her. “Pray,” Serena commands. “OK. I pray for our children. I pray that my daughters live a life of peace, a life without all of this hate and violence. Give them a life,” she says as tears course down Serena’s face. “And dear God, may they do better than we did.” Serena reponds, “Amen,” pulls away… and SHOOTS EZRA IN THE CHEST INSTEAD.
“Serena, what the f—k are you doing?!” June yells, while Serena trains the gun on her once more and orders her to get in the car. A bewildered June climbs into the driver’s seat. Then Serena slides into the back and orders June to drive.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!