Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 5 finale, “Safe.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of media exposure or cultural capital, with recent twists in the abortion rights battle generating regular references in progressive circles to the threat of America becoming Gilead, the repressive patriarchal society that appears in Margaret. Atwood’s novel.
The fifth season that concluded on Tuesday, however, only reinforced that the by-the-book series may have waited too long, and that extending its run to a sixth and final season was, in retrospect, at least a too much . Fittingly, the finale ended aboard a train, because while the show didn’t quite go off the rails, at times it seemed to come dangerously close.
Finally, the last episode, “Safe,” reunited the two characters whose bond—forged by pain and hatred—completely defined Season 5. Specifically, the story returned to June (Elisabeth Moss) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) in the context of what they will do, how far they will go and how much torment they will endure for the sake of their children.
Nothing speaks to this more than June’s interactions with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford, who has turned into a major asset), a sort of reformer who dangles the promise of reuniting June with his daughter in an attempt to win her over. . A gruesome attack in June and a failed military operation to retrieve the missing girls underlined that this is indeed a war, with casualties as an inevitable by-product.
The finale also highlighted the harsh realities of life in Gilead through Janine (Madeline Brewer) and her ill-advised moment of honesty with Naomi (Ever Carradine), further testing her and even Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), if anyone was. necessary, of the fragile nature of a maid’s existence.
The story, however, has become increasingly muddled by the three-way political dynamic between the US, Canada and Gilead, which has turned June and Serena into refugees, and June’s husband Luke (OT Fagbenle) into a prisoner of the Canadian authorities.
Before that happened, it fell to June to warn him of the danger they faced, in a line about how democracies can collapse that, as Moss did, had weight clearly meant to resonate beyond this fictional world.
“America wasn’t Gilead until it was,” he said. “And then it was too late.”
At the time, however, “The Handmaid’s Tale” offered a fascinating reminder of what made the series an Emmy-winning sensation when it first began. It’s going to take more of these kinds of moments to guide the series to anything approaching this level as the final season creeps toward its destination, which should be interesting, even if it feels like a little too much. late