‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season 5 recap: June and Serena take center stage as Hulu shows finale


“The Handmaid’s Tale” seems like it would come back at an opportune time, Roe v. Wade’s reversal has brought Margaret Atwood’s dystopian vision into focus. But this fifth season’s arc isn’t right for the moment, focusing more tightly on the bond of hatred between June and Serena, at the expense of almost everything else.

Commander Waterford’s (Joseph Fiennes) brutal and cathartic fate, as orchestrated by June (Elisabeth Moss) at the end of season four, left its mark on Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), his widow and Gilead partner in crime.

However, even in a patriarchal society, Serena is not without the political skills of a survivor. And while on the run from Gilead, June continues to be unable to let her anger burn (no one looks so fiercely furious as Moss), drawing her back again and again.

While it would be a practical move to get rid of old grievances, this is not in her, much to the chagrin of her husband Luke (OT Fagbenle). The season thus becomes something of an extended battle of the titans, even if the characters are separate, offering great showcases from Moss and Strahovski and a wide-ranging reflection on the sacrifice associated with motherhood.

With Moss once again wearing multiple hats as star, producer and occasional director, “Handmaid’s Tale” rarely fails to deliver poignant or poignant moments. At the same time, the final season (based on watching eight of its 10 episodes) feels all the more guilty for cramming in chapters that act as filler and, at best, push the story forward.

After announcing that the sixth season will be the last, the series should take advantage of the opportunity to build an endgame that almost no one can accuse of being premature.

The macro story explores Gilead’s relationship with the wider world, and the uncomfortable questions about what its residents face in their pragmatic pursuit of political accommodation. There are other subplots, including Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), and what the burdens of a conscience can be; Nick (Max Minghella), still longing for June, trying to chart his own path; and Bradley Whitford’s Commander Lawrence, whose belief in the goal of quietly reforming Gilead from within has become a central tension on that larger scale.

At its core, though, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has worked in a way that almost leapfrogged with the sheer urgency and striking imagery (all those flesh-and-blood capes, even at a Supreme Court protest) that made its Emmy-winning first season so memorable. off screen

The Hulu series obviously hasn’t lost its relevance, and in fact some themes resonate more acutely. Still, as this season continues its relentless march toward the end of June, it promises a future conclusion, but reinforces that the show’s best days are behind it.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” begins its fifth season on September 14 on Hulu.