The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5 Review: Chicago

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Chills, that's the only way to describe the final few minutes.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5 was the best installment of the season and not just because it delivered two or three insane twists back-to-back. 

Those twists were undoubtedly a big part of it, but what makes this installment so great is the possibilities of where the story can go from here.

June and Janine in Chicago - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

For most of the season, we've been in a holding pattern, waiting for June and the other fugitive handmaids to end up right back in the clutches of Gilead.

However, June and Janine's escape to Chicago offered us the first chance of hope, hope that the show was going to deviate from its tried and true formula of escape, capture, leniency, repeat.

Chicago was unlike any place we'd been to. It was a lawless war-torn city on the frontlines of a never-ending battle. 

It was exciting and overflowing with possibilities, and we got to see some of those play out.

June goes searching - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

For one, it was an interesting shift to watch June settle into a subordinate role while Janine became more comfortable vocalizing her thoughts.

June may have been unwillingly thrust into a leadership role in Gilead at first, but she's come to expect people following her orders without question, so it was a nice change of pace to see her get some pushback when she tried to take control.

Steven: Don’t do that again.
June: We could have taken them. What’s wrong with you?
Steven: What happens when they don’t report back? More patrols, more soldiers. It makes it harder for us to move around. It’s not worth it.
June: What kind of resistance are you?
Steven: The kind that survives.

June and Steven clashed from the beginning, and it wasn't just a difference in opinion they had; it was a difference in philosophy.

June was itching to get back on the frontlines and fight the good fight, but that's not how Steven and his band of rebels approached things.

Stranger meet - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 4

For them, it was about survival and making the smart choice, the choice that doesn't end with them dead in a ditch just because they were bored and wanted to kill some Gilead soldiers for fun.

No, Steven and the others were more cautious than June wanted to be, which led to friction between our protagonist and the rebel leader.

So, naturally, June jumped at the first chance to meet up with some like-minded freedom fighters and assumed Janine would accompany her wherever the wind may blow.

However, Janine had other plans, and it was great to see the former handmaid start to come into her own as a person.

Janine helps June out - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

Janine is still a little naive at times -- like, does she think she can raise a baby in the middle of a war zone? -- but good on her for speaking her mind and standing her ground.

Staying with the Chicago rebels instead of trying to find the Nighthawks was a reasonable decision, especially for someone who doesn't want to fight unnecessarily.

June: I think we should go tomorrow and find the Nighthawks. Come on, we came here to fight.
Janine: June, you came here to fight. I didn’t even want to come here. I wanted to go back to Boston.
June: There’s nothing for us in Boston.
Janine: Well, there’s something here. I can get pregnant again here. I can keep my baby. I’ll be like a real mom.
June: Janine, you can’t have a baby here.
Janine: Why not? Come on, we could be moms together. It could be like a normal life. I mean the world needs more baby Americans, right?
June: You sound like Aunt Lydia.
Janine: No, June you do. You’re so bossy and judgmental. I know what’s right for me.
June: He’s taking advantage of you. I don’t know why you can’t see that.
Janine: I see fine. It was my choice to start having sex. You need to stop trying to save me to make yourself feel better.
June: I’m the one who doesn’t want to see you get hurt, OK.
Janine: Maybe, you should have thought about that with Alma and Briana.
June: OK, well I’m leaving tomorrow. Come with me or stay here and be Ofsteven. It’s your choice.

Steven's group of rebels are more scavengers and traders than mercenaries, and if Janine couldn't go back to Boston, staying with a group who knows the area and how to stay alive is a decent enough fallback plan.

It may not have been the picturesque life in Chicago Janine imagined, but it would have been better than the hell she'd been in for the past few years.

June seeks - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

And it took a little bit of time, but June eventually realized that Janine's viewpoint was as valid as hers.

As I've mentioned, June has become accustomed to taking charge and assumes everyone will fall in line.

She's had to make some tough decisions to stay alive, but everything June has done has kept her and Janine safe.

It may not have always been pretty, but both of them are still alive, and that's primarily thanks to June.

Janine and Steven - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

If not for her, they would be trapped at some breeding colony, working the fields by day and being raped by night.

So it was an adjustment for June to realize that Janine is not some helpless little girl who needs June to protect her.

Janine: Hi.
June: What are you doing here?
Janine: I feel safer when we’re together. Handmaids always walk in twos, remember?
June: Yeah, come on.

Chicago is not Gilead, and Janine is capable of making her own decisions.

They may not be what June would decide, but that doesn't make them any less valid.

June and Janine run - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 4

It was a touching moment when the two of them parted ways, albeit temporarily, as June finally saw Janine has her equal for the first time in a long time.

Their separation didn't last, though maybe it would have been better if Janine had stayed behind.

It's understandable why Janine changed her mind, choosing to stand by her friend instead of letting June go it alone, but we still don't know what happened to Janine post-bombing.

We have no idea if she's alive or dead, safe or hurt, and not knowing makes it worse. Guess we'll have to wait another week to see if Janine made it out alive or not. 

Commander Lawrence address - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

Elsewhere, political alliances were made, but not everyone was a winner.

Commander Lawrence and Aunt Lydia are strange bedfellows, but their partnership has the potential to provide some much-needed direction to the Gilead-centric storylines.

Commander Lawrence: To what do I owe the pleasure?
Aunt Lydia: I believe I can be of service to you.
Commander Lawrence: Lucky me.
Aunt Lydia: I have sources, witnesses to your involvement in Commander Winslow’s disappearance.
Commander Lawrence: Is that right?
Aunt Lydia: In addition, I have testaments to your many abuses of power – black market activity, not to mention your collaboration with your handmaid, Ofjoseph.
Commander Lawrence: Unless…
Aunt Lydia: Unless you arrange for my immediate reinstatement.
Commander Lawrence: There it is. For a second I thought you didn’t have it in you.
Aunt Lydia: Is it that you didn’t hear me, commander?
Commander Lawrence: No, no, I heard you loud and clear. So what else you got?
Aunt Lydia: I beg your pardon.
Commander Lawrence: I get it. You can bury me. I can only imagine the goods you have on my illustrious colleagues, Commander Calhoun. What’s the dirt on him?
Aunt Lydia: I’m not one to traffic in gossip.
Commander Lawrence: You just tried to blackmail me.
Aunt Lydia: Hardly gossip.
Commander Lawrence: You want me to restore your position, I need my seat back at the table, and your information can help me get it. Let’s fix this country. Let’s make things right again together.
Aunt Lydia: I might consider a collaboration if I have your word that Ofjoseph would be put in my care to be disciplined, handled my way.
Commander Lawrence: I can live with that.

Having both characters on the sidelines has been rather dull, and now that they're both reinstated, there's such "fun" to be had.

And by "fun," we mean torturing more innocent handmaids and bombing the streets of Chicago, obviously.

Aunt Lydia Is Doing Her Job - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 10

Aunt Lydia has devoted her entire life to shaping and molding the next generation of handmaids, so it wasn't surprising that she went to such extremes to get her old posting back.

What was great was how Commander Lawrence managed to turn it around to benefit himself.

Commander Lawrence has always been one of the more fascinating characters because he's not evil per se.

He has a good heart and wants to help June, but his desire for self-preservation outweigh all of that.

Whatever else may happen, Commander Lawrence will always put himself first. If he needed to partner with Aunt Lydia or bomb the streets of Chicago during a temporary ceasefire to accomplish his end goals, then you'd bet he'd agree to it.

Nick talks - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

June probably wouldn't even fault him, as she understands sacrifice and compromises for self-interest, whereas Nick is more likely to want revenge.

He only backed Commander Lawrence's plan for a temporary ceasefire after learning there was a possibility June was in Chicago.

Commander Lawrence: You couldn’t give me a mercy vote?
Nick: I can’t support a ceasefire in a battle I’m leading.
Commander Lawrence: A ceasefire might have helped June. I’m trying to do the right thing here.
Nick: If she were near the border, I’d know about it.
Commander Lawrence: Oh that’s sweet. Would your heart glow or something?
Nick: That’s funny.
Commander Lawrence: It’s a big country commander. The eyes can’t see everything. Even the eyes of Gilead.

If Nick had known about the bombing, there's no way he would have agreed.

Nick loves June too much to risk her life, even if there was a one in a million shot that June was in Chicago, and would have done whatever he could have to save her.

Well, he may not have been able to stop the bombings, but maybe he could find a way to convince her to leave with Moira.

Moira aid trip - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5

Why? Oh wait, that's right, because spoiler alert, Moira showed up in Chicago after the bombing.

As soon as the bombs started raining down, there was a feeling of dread that turned to fear as we watched a grimy but mostly uninjured June get up amidst the rubble as fire, smoke, and flames raged in the background.

And as June stumbled through the devastated streets of Chicago calling out for Janine while Coldplay's "Fix You" played, my heart almost skipped a beat when the camera panned to Moira, who uncertainly called out the name of her best friend before the episode cut to black.

It was perfect and awful and everything in between.

June journey - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 4

But, most of all, it was a killer -- pun intended -- way to end the installment, and all I can do is wonder is what June's BFF is doing in Chicago.

How did Moira get to Chicago? Why is she here? Did she have any clue that June would be there, or did she just come to the city to help the injured?


Moira [to June]

There are so many questions surrounding Moira's appearance in the United States, but the biggest one is what this means for June and the show.

Has the time finally come for June to leave Gilead behind and make it to Great White North, or will the show cope out again and have June stay behind when freedom is within reach?

Moira's WTF Look - Tall - The Handmaid's Tale Season 3 Episode 1

Maybe that's a bit of a stretch because it's still unclear if June and the other Americans in Chicago can leave and go to Canada.

The assumption is they would if they could, so something has to be stopping them. 

Is it because they are physically unable to make their way to Canada without getting ambushed by soldiers, or are they just unwilling to abandon what's left of the United States?

If it's the former, then shouldn't Moira and the other aide workers be able to whisk them off to Canada? 

June plans to leave - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 2

They had to get to Chicago somehow, so wouldn't it stand to reason they could take June and some other Americans back with them?

It seems so easy, so there has to be a piece of the puzzle we're missing, which will surely be revealed next episode. If only we didn't have to wait a week to find out.

Janine: I’m staying.
June: Yeah, I had a feeling.
Janine: I guess this is it.
June: Yep. Well, that baby’s gonna be really lucky to have you.
Janine: Those rebels are so lucky to have you.
June: I need you to take care of yourself, OK.
Janine: OK, cross my heart. Wait, here. Something to remember me by.
June: How could I forget you?
Janine: Who can forget the girl with one eye?
June: I think you’re beautiful.
Janine: Me too. Bye.

For argument's sake, let's assume June can leave. The question then becomes if she will.

She's made it clear she's not leaving Gilead without Hannah, but will seeing her best friend again be enough to change her mind?

Emily appears - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 2

It'll be more challenging for June to ignore the reasons why she should leave with Moira standing right in front of her telling her why she should go: Luke, Nichole, Emily, Rita, and of course, Moira herself.

Nearly all of the people June loves are in Canada, so we'll see if that will be enough to tempt June. 

One way or another, it'll make for a spectacular hour of television, so at least there's that.

Unfortunately, we have to wait a whole seven days to find out.

Luke struggles - The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 3

Some stray thoughts:

  • Thank goodness not everyone in Gilead's drinking the June Kool-Aid. She may be the council's bane of existence, but Mayday has held her in such high regard that it was refreshing to hear a Martha say, 'F*ck June Osborne.' We love June, but she's caused so much trouble, so it was great to hear her allies acknowledge that.

  • How come Aunt Lydia was only stripped of her aunthood after the recaptured handmaids escaped again? Doesn't this seem like the sort of action that would cause more severe punishment than a simple firing, which was easily overturned?

So what did you think, TV Fanatics?

Were you surprised to Moira?

Will June leave Gilead?

Is Janine alive?

Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the latest episode, remember you can watch The Handmaid's Tale online at TV Fanatic.

Chicago Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (8 Votes)

Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 Episode 5 Quotes

Aunt Lydia: Have you seen the new girls?
Aunt Ruth: By his hand, we’ll replace the lost children in no time with that crop.
Aunt Lydia: Yes, very special class. Well, I am eager to be of service again, fully recovered by his grace. Back in fighting shape, as they say.
Aunt Ruth: There is no need to rush. God has given you this respite to heal.
Aunt Lydia: Too much to be done.
Aunt Ruth: Lydia, the girls are not your concern anymore.
Aunt Lydia: The girls have always been my concern. I have served Gilead with everything I have.
Aunt Ruth: Praised be.
Aunt Lydia: Aunt Ruth, perhaps you could speak to the commanders about my reinstatement. Intercede on my behalf.
Aunt Ruth: Lydia, I admired your devotion when you were still active, but now, it is your time to rest.

June: I hear you’re trading with another camp. I want to come.
Steven: No, fresh meat stays here.
Janine: You really should let June go. She got a whole plane full of kids out of Gilead. I mean I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for her. I mean literally.
Steven: You do what I say.
June: Yeah. Thank you.