Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 7 are included.
The tangled relationship between June and Serena took a new turn in the eighth episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 5 of the show.
These two women are irrevocably linked to one another in ways that are particular to each of them because of their shared experience in the totalitarian state of Gilead. Their shared hostility and odd understanding of one another are one of the few constants in their lives while other significant fixtures come and go.
Just in this season, June defied orders to shoot Serena when she could have easily eliminated the threat the woman provided to her family. Serena then made a startling U-turn in episode 6 by deciding to shoot June’s planned executioner.
This may come as a surprise for two women who have long been antagonistic toward one another, but there has always been more to June and Serena’s relationship than meets the eye. We discover a little more about why these two never seem to completely write one another off despite everything they’ve cost each other through flashback scenes told during Serena’s birth procedure.
The two of them are seen driving through the countryside in a stolen automobile as the latter goes into labor in June’s near-death experience in episode 6 and Serena’s unexpected moment of defiance. Serena won’t be able to escape alone, so June guides her to the abandoned barn where much of the episode is situated despite her initial attempts to flee.
We are then transported to a time not so long ago when Serena’s husband Fred is scheduled to appear at a council meeting, while a Handmaid Ofclarence is in labor in a different area of the home while being attended by spouses and Handmaids.
When Does the Flashback Take Place?
The flashback sequence doesn’t say precisely when it takes place, but since Serena introduces June to the Ofclarence family as our new Handmaid, we know it does so before the first season.
We observe that Janine is still carrying the child who will soon be known as Angela. She is not yet wearing the eyepatch Aunt Lydia later gives her, but her eye has already been stolen and is exposed, showing that Gilead’s cruelties toward her are already underway.
Although Janine’s physical condition serves as a timeline marker, June’s anxious, traumatized conduct also teaches us a lot. She is apparently still getting used to Gilead because she struggles to speak when she is supposed to reply to a greeting.
She does, in fact, just communicate with her eyes as she hesitantly takes in her surroundings. Aunt Lydia rallies the women with the fervor of a political speaker as Ofclarence struggles.
The Return of Alma and Brianna
She is noticeably missing from the gathering due to Emily Malek’s on-set departure played by Alexis Bledel. Longtime viewers will be happy to see Alma and Brianna, two Handmaids who have been with us since the first season but met a tragic end in season 4’s The Crossing, where they were killed by a train after making a last-ditch attempt to escape their fate as condemned inhabitants of a Breeding Colony.
Alma and Brianna were particularly powerful illustrations of Gilead’s injustice since they both refused to stone Janine when Aunt Lydia demanded it and was thus sent to a mock hanging as punishment.
Their arbitrary killings after such adversity remain one of the most heartbreaking sequences in the series. The two were steadfast allies to June and the resistance. This scene is made even sadder by the fact that they have so much room to run.
Clarence s Real-World Resonance
Although it isn’t stated officially, it’s possible that the name Ofclarence is a nod to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the most conservative politicians in American history who had a significant role in overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
It adds another dimension to the reality that people of all genders are facing in the United States today, where people are increasingly defined by their reproductive organs over who they are, to show Ofclarence’s body with Aunt Lydia concluding that this gruesome end is actually a moment of triumph as she fulfilled her only purpose in life.
The outcome is obvious: a lady is gone, barely mourned, and her entire life has been offered up as a sacrifice to a greater power, whose motivations seem curiously to align with those of an authoritarian state. Tellingly, Aunt Lydia orders Offred to pray for the child’s survival as medical professionals struggle to save the infant. She spares no words of encouragement for the Handmaid who has died as a result of Gilead’s brutal regime.
Serena the Outsider
The unusual link between June and Serena is even more obvious because they play absolutely passive, largely non-speaking parts in the drama of this flashback. Serena laughs and rolls her eyes so delicately that only June could see them during the birthing, in which Ofclarence’s mistress pantomimes labor pains on a specially built two-tier birthing chair (Gilead is nothing if not well-branded). June smirks in response.
The women later rejoice at the birth of a new child after Ofclarence had passed away. While the Handmaids are left to deal with the bloody reality of the birth, the group is gathered in a bright nursery.
Serena stands apart from the group with her hands folded and a somber expression on her face. Through the window, June turns to face her, and they exchange another glance that is filled with regret for one other.
We are compelled by this reminiscence to comprehend June’s sympathy for Serena throughout this episode. Serena has never quite fit in with Gilead’s power structure, and her apparent spontaneous rebellion in the most recent episode against a system that is becoming more and more unfriendly to her as an unmarried woman makes sense.
Even though she assisted in the destruction of Serena’s husband Fred, June had always sensed the torment that Serena was going through. Without liking her or forgiving her, June nevertheless manages to comprehend her, which enables her to perform one of her greatest acts of bravery for the woman who ought to be her sworn foe.
Season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale premieres on Channel 4 and Prime Video on Sunday, October 23, in the UK, and streams on Hulu every Wednesday in the US.
What the No-Land Man’s Flashback Really Tells Us from The Handmaid’s Tale first appeared on Den of Geek.