Reviews | Written by Rich Cross 14/11/2022

THE HANDMAID’S TALE, Season 5, Episode 4, DEAR OFFRED

Tensions simmer towards boiling point in Canada as Serena's attempts to build a Gilead bridgehead confront the determination of June and Luke to frustrate her. Desperate to find ways to connect with their daughter Hannah, held hostage in the dystopian state, the pair’s actions range from the reasoned to the reckless. In the process, Luke’s perspective shifts. No longer preoccupied with containing June’s righteous anger, his sense of indignant rage comes to align with hers, closing the emotional gap that had existed between them.

Eager to make the most of the opportunity, Serena leans in to the task of setting up a secure Gilead outpost in Canada. As she shuns the offer of asylum in the US, it’s a decision that emphasises how vulnerable and exposed she is. With only her new combined home and office, and a small staff and security detail at her disposal, she is effectively alone deep within hostile territory. Her liaison with Gilead is provided by the acerbic Commander Lawrence, who’s keen to limit Serena’s ambitions and dissuade her from overreaching herself. What offsets these constraints is the rising mood of pro-Gilead sentiment within Canada, evident not just in the candle-lit vigils outside Serena’s HQ, but in the willingness of local residents to challenge June personally.

This leaves June struggling to keep her anger in check, as she’s outraged that the authorities have abandoned her and the other opponents of Gilead. It feels entirely in character that June’s instincts in this situation are to act impulsively and alone. With no thought as to the consequences, she takes on the guise of the would-be assassin. But when the handgun she digs up from its garden hiding place jams, it triggers a moment of realisation and self-doubt. Could there be a better way to shut down Serena’s operations, without destroying June’s family?

Although it’s not mentioned at any point, it does seem right that June does not call on the assistance of any of the anti-Gilead militia groups, hunkered down on the border, to launch a raid on Serena’s premises. It’s obvious that bringing them into armed conflict with Gilead's enforcers on the streets of Canada would be disastrous, and put the future of Gilead’s asylum seekers in jeopardy.

June is initially frustrated when Luke proposes instead to use legalistic methods to close Serena down, scrutinising breaches in building regulations. It leads him to take on a solo mission, and a long-awaited one-on-one confrontation with Serena. He does his best to intimidate her, with a mixture of persuasion and threat, but he’s wounded by her barbed comments about his relationship with his wife and children. It seems to be a turning point for Luke. When counter demonstrations gathering outside Serena’s building erupt into violence, and June fires shots from her cleaned-up pistol, Luke’s instincts are to protect but not to condemn his partner.

Back in Gilead, Aunt Lydia continues to reflect on how the life experience of her handmaids might be improved. Now convalescing, Janine has rediscovered some of her independent spirit. She’s willing to challenge her Aunt, even as she’s offered the new role as an unofficial mentor to “her girls” - an invention of Aunt Lydia after Commander Lawrence has dismissed her concerns. It’s not yet clear where this storyline is heading, but it remains disconcerting that Aunt Lydia might be offered a route to redemption.

The highlight of Dear Offred is the chance encounter which leaves June and Luke face-to-face with Serena and her bodyguard as they leave for an undisclosed secure location. It’s a fantastically framed moment, and while it’s pretty clear that this is too early in the season for a final reckoning to play out, it teases the sense that this is a point in time certain to be replayed in the near future. It’s still a cathartic event in its own way, and the catalyst that allows June and Luke to reconnect in a moment of intimacy that the two of them so evidently need.

New episodes of THE HANDMAID'S TALE - SEASON 5 premiere Sundays in the UK on CHANNEL 4

Read our previous reviews of THE HANDMAID'S TALE below:

Season 5, Episode 1, MORNING

Season 5, Episode 2, BALLET

Season 5, Episode 3, BORDER