The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 Episode 7 Review: No Man's Land

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The Handmaid's Tale is firing on all cylinders.

It's always a notch above when it becomes more singularly focused, and The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 Episode 7 was beautifully written and acted, with Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski reminding us of how June and Serena are deeply intertwined.

This also reflects on the power of motherhood, which Gilead has both resurrected and torn asunder.

Away in a Manger - The Handmaid's Tale

Keeping the fire alive between June and Serena has been imperative to the series, and Moss and Strahovski do some of their best work sharing scenes.

"No Man's Land" took the two women on a full journey, and for the first time, Serena began to understand, if only a little, what she had helped perpetuate with Gilead's insanity when it comes to motherhood.

Beginning with June's exasperation that Serena was in labor, "Are you in fucking labor? Of course, you are," and joking about Serena's displeasure that she might have to give birth in a barn, "Maybe it'll have a manger," set the right tone and allowed June to mellow as the episode progressed.

Woman to woman, June would do anything to help another give birth. Motherhood is at June's core. Everything she has done as been to protect Hannah and try to rescue her.

Just like Serena, we've wondered why June didn't kill her when she had the chance.

It was an incredibly complicated answer to an even more complicated question.

There's definitely no love between June and Serena, but there is respect. Still, when egos flare, and things get angsty, it's hard to maintain your cool. When Serena lashed out at June, June's first instinct was to leave her behind.

Instead, when her herculean efforts freed the car, as she started to leave, she looked down at her hands, covered in blood. June didn't want more blood on her hands.

Serena: June, why didn't you kill me?
June: I don't... you've been the one waving the gun around.
Serena: Not today. At the information center, the protest. You had a gun.
June: Yeah.
Serena: Why didn't you kill me? Why Fred and not me?
June: I didn't want to. [She smiles]
Serena: I imagined this moment so many times. I always imagined that he would be here, Fred. He looks like him.
June: They say that they always look like their dads at first. It's evolutionary so that the dads don't kill them, you know?
Serena: Evolution? Do you think he's gonna be like him?
June: Depends.
Serena: On what?
June: On who raises him. And what kind of person they want him to become. And what you teach him. And on what you tell him is his to take.
Serena: I want him to have everything.
June: We all want that for them, Serena.

Throughout the episode, June remembers the first time she accompanied Serena and her fellow handmaids to a live birth. She and Serena connected a few times, first amused over Aunt Lydia's theatrics and then painfully after the death of OfClarence, who died during childbirth.

Those weren't one-off encounters, which is why viewers remain so fully invested in their relationship. Their commonality as women in a patriarchal society, even if Serena had a hand in creating it, binds them, and we can't understand why Serena has been unable to recognize the harm she's done.

What Serena has realized is that she's damned lucky to have June Osborne in her life. June's initial answer about why she didn't kill Serena was simple. She didn't want to.

But once Serena compared June to an angel sent from heaven to care for her and her child, June was more direct.

Serena: June, I think God sent you to me today.
June: You came after me.
Serena: What if he guided my hand to save you so that you can save my baby like an angel?
June: Bullshit.
Serena: There are avenging angels that rain down sulfur and fire from the lord. Rejoice with him, oh heavens, for he will avenge the blood of his children and take righteous vengeance on his adversaries. There are still angels. Maybe that's what you are for me.
June: [shakes her head] Is that what you think of me?
Serena: And when she could no longer hide him, she built for him an arc of bullrushes and placed this child therein. Maybe I'm the arc, June. Maybe I'm the vessel. I carried my baby and delivered him, and I held him. Maybe that's all that was meant for me in this life. Maybe it's God's will. [June takes Noah]
June: God's will. A vessel. That's what you thought I was. We were. Who we were, where we came from, what we wanted, none of that mattered to you, to any of you.
Serena: I'm so sorry.
June: I don't care that you're sorry. We mattered. We were, we are people. We have lives. And that's why I'm gonna save yours, Serena, because this isn't Gilead, and I am not you.
Serena: I don't deserve to be saved.
June: It's not for you. It's for him. Look at him. Look at your baby. You are the only person in the whole world that he knows. You are the only familiar smell, you are the only voice he recognizes, you love him, and you wanted him so much. You're his mother, and he belongs with you. That is God's will. Do you understand me?

It was hard not to understand June. In a matter of minutes, she provided an overview of Gilead's failure and Serena's part in it.

There is no greater bond than that between a mother and a child, and when there is no reason for them to separate, to force the issue is a torture unlike any other for both the mother and the child.

Serena is getting her first taste of that bond, and June needs to know that if she's asked again, Serena won't see the handmaid system as the world's salvation.

Pulling children from a mother perceived as having less to offer than an affluent, influential family isn't the way to go. For the first time, Serena is a mother, and she has less than her peers, the very people she once ensured would have their pick of others' children.

By the time they left the barn, it seemed as if they had come to an understanding that would be beneficial for June's fight and for the handmaids left in Gilead.

And then Luke arrived at the hospital, immigration services in tow.

At last, she knows what it feels like. Justice.

Luke [whispers]

To have come so far and through so much, only to see it scuttled hurt both women.

June looked at Luke as if he had horns growing out of his head. She simply could not understand how he could be so cruel, but he believed he was getting payback for what Serena and Fred rained down on June.

It's hard for Luke because he isn't a mother, and he hasn't gone to the ends of the earth for his daughter, or his wife, for that matter. There is a part of June that still questions how he could have stayed behind and hoped diplomacy would save them.

This story is blowing up as it focuses more sharply on motherhood and what has gone wrong with Gilead.

What happened will definitely affect Serena's future. She's got no allegiance to any country, and that will work against her. The synopsis for The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 Episode 8 finds Serena desperate to find allies.

That suggests that June won't be around to lend another hand.

I expect June to return to her full-time task of reuniting with Hannah. That's been her driving force, and seeing how Luke acted, June will realize that nobody other than her can turn the tides and get Hannah out of Gilead like she can.

Luke couldn't process that June was there with Serena and helped her get through childbirth. He doesn't see how she can put aside what Serena did to her to help at all.

But that's the difference between a father and a mother. A mother will never want to see another child or their mother suffer, and it wouldn't surprise me if this drives another wedge between June and Luke.

Frankly, I'm kind of at a loss for words. This was such a powerful episode of television, and the dialogue speaks for itself.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

No Man's Land Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (50 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 Episode 7 Quotes

Maybe it'll have a manger.


Are you in fucking labor? Of course, you are.