Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale.
In the latest episode of The story of the maidJune (Elizabeth Moss) and Luke (OT Fagbenle) affectionately touch each other’s healed gunshot wounds. These two may have more in common than audiences give them credit for.
Towards the end of season four, June and Luke seemed doomed. Season 5 picks up right where the finale left off, and things aren’t looking good for June. Covered in blood, she flees the house, completely ignoring her husband as he begs for answers. Indeed, Luke has spent many previous episodes encouraging June to just move on now that she has found asylum and is back with her family and friends. However, seven years apart and unspeakable horrors have driven a wedge between the pair, and they find it hard to see eye to eye as they once did. This week’s episode, Dear Offred, offers new insights into the couple’s mutual understanding that may offer a glimmer of hope. Nonetheless, there is mounting evidence that a happy ending in the Toronto suburbs will never be in sight for June and her family.
A marriage on trial
In this episode there are significant callbacks to issues that tested their marriage in earlier scenes. Her relationship with Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), as a united couple, has changed, as has her evolving search for Hannah (Jordana Blake). It is also remarkable that directly after Nick (Max Minhella) June says he has “new commitments” to his wife.
One of the most dramatic changes is June and Luke’s sex life. Since reuniting with her husband, intimacy has been a challenge for June. Surrounded by guilt and secrecy, a dark cloud hung over their long-awaited first meeting in Season 4’s Home.Joseph Fiennes) Arrival in Canada. When she learns that Serena is pregnant, her obsession begins to take hold.
As they discuss, Moira (Samira Wieley) comments, “We all left this place because we have sex.” While some of the women in her circle are tired of being intimate with their partners again, June shows this warped relationship to sex in a very different way . She has used sex with Luke to release herself from a trauma that is difficult for her to come to terms with. In one case, an awkward and discouraging scene unfolds in which she ignores his objections and holds him down. This follows her first chilling encounter with Serena, where June unleashes all of her pent-up anger and sadness on her. She returns home with all of this raw pain bubbling on her surface for the first time, and uses sex with her partner to get away from those feelings. On another occasion, she tries sex to avoid his attempts at communication. Since her return, Luke has been unable to get June to openly talk. He pushes her away and insists that she speak to him instead. She can’t bother with that command, so in she storms off instead. She doesn’t want anyone to understand her. She wants an accomplice.
What ultimately drives June to have an honest conversation with Luke is a safe space to express her anger. In her support group, she asks, frustrated, “Why does healing have to be the only goal? Why can’t we be as angry as we feel?” When some of the other women agree with her, it is as if she is being given a safe and secure outlet for the way she chooses to grieve. Only then does she make progress toward her version of healing and communication. Though Luke couldn’t offer his wife that affirming experience at the time, he was able to do so when she confronts Serena in Dear Offred. Since he hasn’t judged her for her behavior, she feels safe enough with him to reignite a true, mutually passionate rekindling of their physical love.
United for a common goal
June and Luke bond through their search for Hannah and their love for Nichole. The question that constantly looms is whether this love for her children is enough to keep them together. At first, it put a tremendous strain on their reunion. They both felt like they went into their first meeting empty-handed, neither of them having any clues as to how to get Hannah to safety. While June searched for Hannah locally, Luke used every means at his disposal to track her down from afar. After years of fighting for Hannah in vain, they know they need each other to move on.
Serena stands in their way as a political and emotional block on their family ever being able to reach closure. When Luke learns earlier this season that June sent Serena Fred’s finger, he makes it absolutely clear that he’s not on board with extreme behavior that puts her family at risk. It’s only when he witnesses Serena’s funeral spectacle with Hannah that he relinquishes his position that June should just move on, he’s now ready to act on her side.
As they prepare to take Serena down, their methods collide, but we see how Luke’s strategic thinking and June’s audacity complement each other. When Luke says, “I guess we just have to trust each other,” he gives June permission to channel her anger in any way she sees fit, but he also leads by example. He needs their support if he wants things his way, and it’s working. He successfully barred Serena from the only sanctuary she has in Canada by going through the proper authorities. However, it’s unclear if any progress on Hannah’s return will satisfy June, or if this pursuit is a stop on an endless quest to break Gilead and Serena. Luke’s newfound understanding that June is operating out of sheer bloodlust comes shortly after his own interaction with Serena, where she slightly crushes him under the weight of her words and takes aim at his guilt and insecurity regarding Nick.
But don’t forget Nick
Nick must never be underestimated as a valuable presence in June’s life. Even after June’s departure from Gilead, he tries to take care of her, protect her, and get her what she wants and needs, often in ways Luke cannot. When Luke first suggests in the final season that they involve Nick in the search for Hannah and use his information, it’s obvious that he’s testing his wife by sending her to see her former lover. This interaction is filled with subtext as June must contain her excitement. Immediately after meeting Nick, the difference between their two relationships becomes abundantly clear. Her banter with Nick is effortless and physically they can’t get enough of each other. They share a tender kiss but continue the affectionate body language long afterward. They long for the days when escaping together was an option, but when Nick puts his hidden wedding ring back on his finger, it signals that this romantic double life June is leading may need to end.
The new revelation that Nick’s wife takes precedence over June is made clear when she last speaks to him on the phone. His cool detachment is a different picture of Nick from when they last met in Season 4. He seems firmly committed to his agenda in Gilead, even turning down an opportunity to visit his and June’s daughter, Nichole. He might elude as a romantic option, at least for now. In Moss’ words, Nick is June’s only choice. “They say one of the most important things in a relationship is that what’s important to you is important to the other person. Luke isn’t going to hand Fred over to her to tear him to pieces, and that’s important to her.” However, when Luke walks into Serena’s office and warns that June will likely kill her, and that he will most certainly allow it, it marks a tremendous shift in what Luke is willing to do for his wife.
June’s goals extend beyond seeking revenge on her abusers or even reuniting with her daughters. She now considers herself a soldier, and her need to provide a safer world for her daughters to grow up in replaces her responsibilities as a mother in the traditional sense. In Dear Offred, Luke and Moira ask June not to use violence against Serena, as it would only mean tragedy for her family. However, June coming forward for Fred’s murder shows that she is fighting a bigger fight on behalf of all the women and girls of Gilead. Struggling with that path, she asks Moira, “What if I’m like this now?”
Luke embodies the family-centric vision she carried in her heart as she struggled to save Hannah and escape Gilead, but she now stands at a crossroads where she must ultimately decide whether to settle into a more passive role or Gilead will burn to the ground and perish with him. She can’t have both. Luke goes through a small transformation in this episode that could induce a more rebellious, angry attitude that fits June’s worldview, allowing them to fight side by side. Alternatively, June can leave the domestic sphere altogether and continue on the lonely warpath she has been on for years.
https://collider.com/handmaids-tale-will-june-luke-marriage-survive-season-5/ Will June and Luke’s Marriage Survive Season 5?