The Handmaid’s Tale S5E7: “No Man’s Land” and Karma

Is Serena having justice served?

Serena looks on solemnly
(Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

The following contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale S5E7, “No Man’s Land”

S5E7 of The Handmaid’s Tale brings us new life… and, of course, new challenges.

After their unexpected getaway, June (Elisabeth Moss) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) drive away from the (still breathing!) man Serena had shot. June is very confused about what Serena is doing, but springs into action all the same, as Serena knew she would. However, things are complicated when she goes into labour. June reluctantly helps her under shelter and begins to prepare for the birth. Giving birth in a barn in the middle of nowhere is something June can relate to, after all, she had Nichole under similarly unideal circumstances. The fear that Serena must be feeling is an emotion that June recognises, and despite her lack of care for Serena her care for the child and her care as a human override some of her hatred. June’s desire to prove that she is nothing like Serena leads her to help her through the birth of her son. This decision was clearly not without mental torment and doubt, but, ultimately, June knew she couldn’t allow the child to suffer.

Serena in a black veil in The Handmaid's Tale Season 5
Courtesy of Hulu

During the labour scenes we are also shown flashbacks of a birth the pair attended together in Gilead whilst June was the Waterfords’ handmaid. They went to the Clarence household as part of a birthing ceremony, and at times caught each other’s eyes—even Serena seeming to ridicule some aspects of the process. It was in moments like these that, whilst the two could never come close to being friends, they did form a bond rooted in their femininity and shared traumatic experiences. On this particular occasion, the handmaid did not survive the birth. Aside from their own labours, both June and Serena have seen first-hand how savage and brutal labour injuries and complications can be on mothers. Serena’s terror is plain on her face throughout the early stages of her labour.

After the birth, Serena is delirious. She tells June to take her baby, return to Canada, and give him a good life. She explains that she no longer cares for her own life, and that the only thing mattering to her in these moments is her child. Whilst I am sure that her feelings toward her child are strong, I imagine a lot of this sentiment also comes from Serena knowing that her life is irreparably damaged by her own actions. She is no longer respected enough in Gilead to return there, and she knows she can never live happily in Canada, and would be persecuted there for her ‘beliefs’. Part of this selfless display may well come from her own knowledge that there is very little left for her now.

June hunches forward
(Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

After eventually persuading Serena to go back to Canada because she desperately needs hospital treatment, June is appalled to learn that Luke (O-T Fagbenle) has called the Canadian immigration authorities and informed them of Serena’s return and whereabouts. June had just gone to great effort to prove that she is kinder, fairer, and more rational than Serena, and now her husband—who I am very sure thought he was helping and doing the right thing—has undone this. June watches Serena wail as she is taken away from her child. The suffering on her face is everything that she deserves, but June never wanted to see this suffering again. In order to be better than Gilead, June wanted to do better than Gilead.

Luke calls this justice. It is hard to disagree with either of them, they are just on very different pages.

Luke stands in the woods wearing a knit cap
(Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

It will be very interesting to see how this decision affects the couple moving forward. They seem unbreakable, after everything, but this action might take a toll. Seeing the couple re-unite in the hospital was bittersweet. There was joy over seeing each other again, joy over Luke successfully handing the USB over to Mark (Sam Jaeger), and joy over each seeing the other healthy; but there was also betrayal. June saw Luke’s actions as betraying her inner truths, and Luke saw June’s response as betraying of his decision to commit to what he believed was what she wanted. This will be complicated to unpick for the couple moving forward.

What an episode this has been for Serena. She had set out to give June a dose of karma—she wanted to chase her, shoot her down, do to her what she did to Fred. But, instead, she ended up with some karma of her own—giving birth in similarly horrific conditions as June had to due to the cruelty of Gilead.

So there you have it—the best way to reconcile your hatred toward an enemy is to watch them give birth in a barn.

Written by Anna Green

Politics graduate based in the UK. I'm passionate about writing so I can usually be found buried in ink and paper. Proud writer for 25YL!

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