After the incredibly intense ending to the fourth season of the Handmaid’s tale, it makes sense that the first episode back would focus on the aftermath of the brutal (some say deserved) death of Commander Waterford. We watch as June slowly spirals into some sort of madness, knowing that the man who had been torturing her for all those years was finally dead, and she felt as though that was the justice she and the others needed. The women who brought their wrath to Fred Waterford decide to go out for a nice breakfast in town, still covered in his blood. June seems happy with what she and the others have done. When it’s suggested that they now move on to the villains in the other women’s lives, suddenly, June isn’t interested in being a vigilante anymore. Sure, it would be challenging to hunt down all the awful people that ruined these women’s lives, but it wasn’t exactly easy to get one of the most influential men in Gilead either.
We bounce back from June to Serena Joy, where she first learns of her husband’s death. Although they were not on the best of terms for a good portion of season 4, this news completes her return to the faithful wife of the Commander. She is sent his finger and his wedding ring, along with the message that June had been using to keep her going “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” (mock-Latin for don’t let the bastards grind you down). June wanted Serena to know who killed her husband.
Still covered in blood, June visits Emily’s home to check on her after she wasn’t present the night before. She finds out from Emily’s wife that Emily has returned to Gilead to fight. This brings June back to reality as she finally finds a sink to wash off some of the blood still covering her. Either that or this sends her over the edge and past her breaking point. She finds a lake and has a complete breakdown, including flashbacks of her family as she washes the rest of her murder off her skin.
After her temporary lapse of reality, we find June in the police station, ready to face the consequences of her actions. She tells her husband that she cannot live always waiting for someone to come get her. Considering how she had to live in Gilead, it’s understandable to want to live without looking over your shoulder constantly. June feels that she still did the right thing but is somewhat disturbed by the brutality of her murder of Commander Waterford. She gets lucky, as the murder happened outside Canada’s border; therefore, she will face no consequences for her actions. Instead of being relieved, she’s upset at the lack of consequences. The absence of accountability is reminiscent of the brutality she saw in Gilead.
Serena finds out that there will be no charges in store for June, she lashes out at Tuello, and we are all shown Commander Waterford’s body as a testament to what June is capable of. Outside, Serena is met with Gilead supporters, all mourning with her. Their words refresh her allegiance to Gilead and what they stand for, giving her a second wind to assert whatever power she can hold onto. She requests (demands really) that she be allowed to return to Gilead with her husband to bury him there, and Tuello essentially gives in. It seems that any sliver character development Serena went through in season 4 is done.
At home, June and Moira finally have a conversation, and it seems that June is finally coming to terms with the weight of what she’s done. They both decide she shouldn’t take care of Nicole for the moment. Tuello stops by for a visit to essentially pats June on the back for what she’s done and also acknowledges how hard it can be to recover from doing something like murdering someone. Tuello also warns how dangerous Serena may be now that she has been backed into a corner.
We end the episode on a high note, with June able to comfort Nicole as she cries. The rest of the family seems to think that June is back to herself now as their previous concerns about her mothering abilities seem to fade away as she sits with her now calmed baby.