June Osborne, Our Lady of Perpetual Can’t a Girl Catch a Frickin’ Break?!, gets run over by a car in The Handmaid’s Tale’s Season 5 finale. And somehow, that’s the least painful development in her life during this week’s episode.
By the time the hour goes to black, June has once more lost her husband and is moving farther away from her daughter in Gilead. But she’s gained one hell of a travel partner: Serena, who winds up on the same refugee transport as June and Nichole.
Read on for the highlights of “Safe.”
‘SHE’S NOT A TARGET’ | Since June nearly got swiss-cheesed by bullets at the end of the previous episode, I’m on high alert at the start of this one. So when a package is dropped off on her stoop, I fully expect it to explode as she picks it up. (It doesn’t.) The box contains a bulletproof vest, which she tries on in the bedroom; we learn that she’s scheduled to lead a prayer at another memorial service that weekend, and she’s taking the necessary precautions. “I hate this world,” Luke says as he watches her in the vest. “I love you, though.” She returns the thought and then, after he leaves the room, sits in the window seat and contemplates how deeply effed everything is.
Around the same time, Nick gets a private moment and tells Commander Lawrence about the shooting. Of course, the older man already knows, and he parrots some line about anti-refugee sentiment, quipping, “I can understand. Americans are particularly grating.” Nick is in no mood for levity (though, seriously, is he ever?), and he gravely points out that June was present at the shooting. “The Eyes do see,” Lawrence says in response.
“She’s not a target,” Nick says gravely, repeating it after Lawrence points out that June could be. He adds that Gilead’s current policy doesn’t target anyone outside of the country, but he reminds Nick: “She had a choice, Commander. She had a thousand choices.” When Nick counters that June is just fighting for her daughter, Lawrence is unmoved. “This is what happens in a fight,” Joseph says. “Everyone gets bloody.”
WE’LL GET THERE FAST AND THEN WE’LL TAKE IT SLOW | Back at the house, June gets exactly one moment of peace with her morning coffee before there’s a knock at the door: It’s Mark Tuello, who brings news that the gunman, a 56-year-old bakery worker, was apprehended that morning. “He’s an angry man with a gun” but no clear ties to Gilead, Tuello adds. Then June accompanies him outside to walk him to his car.
Tuello has been to 19 funerals in five days, and you can see every one of them in his face. June is sympathetic. “I know what it’s like, you know? To be responsible for people and lose them.” It’s one of the rare instances where these two have dialogue and she’s not yelling at him/he’s not apologizing. I like it. I also like it because it’s pretty much the last moment of quasi-normalcy we’ll have for the rest of the season.
As Tuello gets in his car and drives off, June takes a look around neighborhood. Nothing seems amiss, except we get the feeling that she’s a little uneasy. Understandable, no? Given the events of the preceding days/weeks/months/years? When she turns to walk back to the house, a truck that’s parked down the road starts its engine. The vehicle is blasting The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.” She’s suspicious of it — the car, not the song, though John Stamos on conga drums DOES deserve a raised eyebrow. We soon see that June’s wariness is on point: As she turns and starts to hustle back to the house, the truck speeds up and runs her down from behind.
It gets so much worse. As June lies on the pavement, the driver backs up and RUNS OVER HER AGAIN, crushing her forearm. We get a tight shot of her face, eyes wide with shock immediately after. She grips her arm and rolls over, dazed. The driver seems intent on killing her, so he puts the truck in reverse and comes at her hard. Just before he hits her, though, the vehicle suddenly stops. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a Gilead flag sticker affixed to the bumper.
Luke is screaming at the driver and drags the guy out of the truck. The driver has a gun. They fight — we see it from June’s perspective on the ground, which means we don’t see everything — but eventually Luke wrests the weapon from the driver and knocks the would-be killer down, hard. He gets June to the hospital but quickly gets pulled away by the police, who want to question him in the man’s beating. And that’s our first indication that, even though June literally just got HIT BY A TRUCK, there’s far more agony to come for the Bankole/Osborne family.
NICK MAKES A CHOICE | While Luke is at the police station and the driver is in the Intensive Care Unit, Nick arrives at the hospital on a Tuello-aided, clandestine visit. He sits by her bedside looking very troubled, then kisses her on the forehead before he leaves. She stirs but doesn’t wake, and Nick tells Tuello, “It’s probably better if she doesn’t know I was here.”
Turns out, seeing June was Nick’s condition for signing the deal Tuello floated earlier in the season: He’s now America’s inside man in Gilead. “I’ll keep my end of the deal. You just keep her safe,” Nick warns, standing with Tuello on the bridge at the border, and he’s not reassured when the American repeatedly says he’ll do his best. So Mark points out that Nick could’ve run away with June when he was a driver/Eye. “She has people who care for her. She doesn’t need me. I’m nothing,” Nick scoffs. “No you’re not, Commander. Not to her,” Tuello says. Aw, guys! When Nick turns to return to Gilead, Tuello bids him go in grace.
IT GETS WORSE | Back at home, June’s arm is in a sling, and she’s uneasy that they now have a gun in the house. Luke points out that the police hate refugees, and they’ve got to protect themselves. “This is not going to be like Boston,” he vows. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. Promise.”
BUT. That night, Rita gets a heads-up from a friend who works at the police department: The driver died, which is very bad news for Luke. “You killed a Canadian on Canadian soil,” Moira tells him. “There’s a whole bunch of people who are not going to wait for an investigation. They’re just going to want you dead.” Rita adds that the cops are likely going to arrest Luke. He rails about how he was just protecting his wife — which is TRUE — but the louder he gets, the calmer June gets. Finally, she speaks: “Luke, we have to run.”
Her reasoning: Last time they waited too long, and they lost Hannah and got captured and separated. And Canada is changing in very troubling ways. “Canada is not Gilead,” he counters. “America was not Gilead, until it was, and then it was too f—king late,” she points out. “We have to go. We have to run. NOW.” And then it’s decided: They pack up, grab Nichole and plan to fly to Anchorage and then Hawaii.
Tuello pulls up to their driveway just before the family leaves, and he’s got some bad news: They’ll be flagged at the airport, which makes leaving Canada a whole lot harder. “We’re not safe here anymore,” June says, and it’s heartbreaking when Tuello — always a level head — agrees with her. He says the United States is putting new refugees on trains going west, and “I can get you on one.”
JANINE TAKES A STAND | While Luke and June weigh their options, let’s see what’s going on in Gilead. Janine is relatively happy at the Red Center, which of course is anathema to the country’s way of doing things, so another aunt not-so-subtly suggests that Lydia get her favorite handmaid assigned to a new commander “or they’ll find another use for her.” So Aunt Lydia lobbies Naomi Putnam, soon to be Naomi Lawrence, to take her former handmaid into her new home. “That’s insane!” the bride-to-be says, but as Aunt Lydia lays it on thick about how Naomi will be seen as a model of forgiveness and grace, she starts to consider it. Similarly, Janine is not excited about the idea, but Aunt Lydia points out that the assignment would let her see a lot of her daughter Angela.
On the morning of the wedding, Janine accompanies Lydia to Lawrence’s house. She’s crestfallen to learn that Angela is with her grandparents for the summer, so her first months of living with Commander and Mrs. Lawrence will be a “trial period.” And when the girl returns, Naomi makes sure to say in cruel, crystal-clear terms, “Angela is MY daughter” and to suggest anything else is “heresy.”
Lydia is clearly relieved when the mercurial Janine endures all of that without losing her mind. And Naomi is pleased, asking Janine to be in some of the household wedding photos. But then a martha sidles up to Janine and privately relays the news that June was hit. “They want to kill her in Toronto… They never let anyone get away, f–kers,” the woman whispers.
Not long after, it’s almost like you can SEE Janine handmaid-Hulking out when Naomi tells her, “It’ll be nice to have a friendly face in the house, Ofjoseph.” Janine’s hands curl into fists. “That’s not my name,” she grits out., “We’re NOT friends.” I don’t know what’s more delicious: the stricken look on Naomi’s face, or how Janine finishes by saying, “I hate you, Naomi. How can you not know that?” and then climbing upstairs, smiling like the badass she is. ‘
Of course, badassery is not a virtue in Gilead, and Aunt Lydia knows the future is not bright for her mentee. She begs Janine to ask for Naomi’s forgiveness, but Janine won’t budge. And then the Eyes show up and haul her away, a move about which Aunt Lydia had no prior knowledge (and which Commander Lawrence ordered). “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine,” Janine insists as she’s cuffed, muzzled and thrown into the back of a van. Lydia protests loudly and is pushed to the ground, sitting there in shock as the transport takes off.
Inside the vehicle, a martha is sobbing. Janine takes her hand and serenely comforts her without saying anything. Outside, Lydia stands and — oh boy, it looks like The Testaments just might have officially begun (in Aunt Lydia’s head and heart, anyway).
Meanwhile, back at the Lawrences’ wedding reception, Nick causes a stir when he stalks in and punches the groom. “You could’ve killed her,” he repeats as Joseph says it wasn’t his decision. Hannah’s dad-mander Mackenzie watches the whole interaction very closely, which likely is part of the reason that the next time we see Nick, he’s in a cell.
His wife, Rose, enters, and he immediately apologizes. “Why did you ever pretend that you loved me?” she wonders, angry. He maintains that he does, but she’s not hearing it. “You will never let go of her, will you?” she asks. “I tried. I really tried. But I can’t,” he says, honest and broken and OOF THIS SHOW. Rose is horrified and says that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore; he reminds her that women’s lib went the way of the dinosaur about six years ago. “We had a good thing, and you had to go and ruin it,” she adds before she leaves. Then he folds his arms on the table, puts his head down and likely contemplates his seriously not-good prospects.
‘COME FIND ME’ | Back to Toronto! The new plan is to get on a refugee train to Vancouver, then a boat to Alaska or Hawaii or SOMEWHERE. Tuello advises Luke and June to toss their official refugee documentation, then hands them new cards. In her final moments with Tuello, June asks him to get a message to Nick that she and Nichole are safe; he says he will. Then she thanks him, and she, Luke and Nichole join a massive crowd of people waiting for the trains.
As they shuffle through the station, Luke realizes that it’s a good idea to split up: That way, if he’s recognized, it won’t affect June and Nichole’s ability to get aboard. “I’ll be right behind you,” he promises, but June is very uneasy with this idea. She and Nichole pass the checkpoint with no problem, but before she can climb onto the train, she hears authorities asking people if they’ve seen Luke Bankole — his luck has run out.
From where he’s standing across the platform, Luke calls June and tells her to go ahead without him. Of course, she refuses. He calmly points out that the train won’t leave until the officials have him in custody, so she’s got to go. “You know you and Nichole are not safe if I’m with you,” he adds. “I don’t want to do this alone anymore,” she cries, but he’s firm that she needs to move forward without him. She realizes he was never going to get on the train, because he knew what a liability he’d be. “Luke, come find me. Come find me. I love you,” she says into her cell. “I love you, June Osborne,” he says before hanging up. Then he puts his hand in the air and makes a spectacle, and he’s immediately handcuffed by law enforcement officials. He watches as June gets on the train and it pulls away.
ALL ABOARD! | On board, June takes a moment to cover her mouth with her hand and cry. True story: I had to pause the screener several times during this scene, because bite-size nibbles of June’s anguish were all I could handle. How many times must you destroy me, Handmaid’s Tale? HOW MANY TIMES?
Eventually, she pulls herself together enough to make her way through the car with Nichole, looking for a seat. (Side note: This ALSO brought me to tears, as it should have anyone who’s ever had to maneuver a stroller through a crowded form of public transportation.) June is kind of mindlessly babbling to Nichole about how they’re going on an adventure to a “beautiful island,” and then they hear the cries of another baby on the train. (Please know that this is where my tears turned to gleeful cackling in an instant, because YEP, THEY DID THAT.)
June reaches the end of the car and realizes that the cries she’s heard are coming from Noah, who is on the train with his mama, Serena Joy herself. I love the wholly banal way the women greet each other (“Hi June,” “Hi Serena”) — because of COURSE they’re up a creek together — as well as the episode’s final line, courtesy of Mrs. Waterford: “You got a diaper?”
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? How about the season as a whole? Grade both via the polls below, then sound off in the comments!