Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 1, Episode 7: “The Other Side”
Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Written by Lynn Renee Maxcy
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “A Woman’s Place” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Jezebels” – click here
We begin back before Gilead, as Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and June a.k.a Offred (Elisabeth Moss) flee with their girl Hannah. They crash their car, but Luke sends his wife and child off running while he gathers his gun and some ammo. In come the black SUVs and one fires on him, right in stomach. He fades out, thinking of June and his daughter.
When he wakes there’s an ambulance taking them elsewhere, until they flip off the road upside down into a ravine. He makes it out alive, though wounded. Packing up a few supplies, grabbing a gun, Luke heads alone out onto the road.
But he isn’t well, his gut holding that bullet. He makes it back to the car where he last saw June, then goes into the forest. Soon enough he comes upon the remnants of his family’s things, neither his wife nor his child are anywhere to be found. An impossible situation. Full of terrifying emotion. What does a person do at that point? Aside from fear the absolute worst, knowing where June is likely to get taken.
Unsure where to go, what to do, he concentrates on mere survival.
Flashback to before they fled and crashed. In the car, they try driving out of the city. Moira (Samira Wiley) already left crossing the border on foot and June wishes they’d left then. However, things take time. Passports, all that type of thing. They had to be sure, to try covering all bases. At a dockyard they meet a mane named Mr. Whitford (Tim Ransom); turns out June’s mother gave him a vasectomy after it was made illegal, so he feels he owes them. He’s helping smuggle them out of the county.
Whitford helps them out to the woods where he lives, and they’re safe. For the time being. Their trustworthy friend also shows Luke how to load and handle a gun. Furthermore, U.S. passport “doesn‘t mean shit” these days, so Whitford’s heading into Canada to get them passports. At a lake near the cabin a man happens across June, Luke, and their daughter. In this world they can never be sure if it’s just another friendly face, or if it’s someone who’ll alert the Guardians to a free woman roaming.
Then switch back to Luke alone, as he’s found by two women who first believe he’s a Guardian. When he explains himself one of the women takes a look at his gut wound, which will surely be fatal if he doesn’t get help. And they’re with a few people that are certainly helpful. He’s piled into their little school bus and they head off together in that dark, new world.
For a while in Whitford’s place at the cabin in the woods, life is okay. Not normal, but okay. All the more sad when Luke thinks back to it, now without his girls and cast adrift with strangers. Many of them with similarly brutal stories surrounding the search for fertile women, the patriarchy knowing it’s dying and attempting to secure the future for them and the world in the most misogynistic way imaginable. Luke’s friends are headed to Canada. He’s determined on going to Boston.
When the man from the lake comes back to the cabin at night, he warns them people are searching for them, they know the car and the license plate. So he offers further help, to get them over the border. “This is pretty fucked up,” he says; and boy, is that ever a huge understatement.
One of the women shows Luke what happened at a place where fertile women were being hid. The town was trying to fight back. When the Guardians found them all, they were strung up from the roof of the church. She makes Luke look, to see what’s happening. To understand the grave magnitude of the situation, the depths of the male, patriarchal depravity at play. This changes his mind and he decides on going with them across the border.
But suddenly they’re attacked by gunfire, though they manage to get on a boat and speed away into the night.
Cut to 3 years later. Luke is living in a city of relative freedom. He and one of the women that escaped, Erin (Erin Way), are drinking coffee. A far cry from Gilead’s authoritarian nation-state security. Then he gets a call on his cellphone, another luxury of this place compared with the rigid law in the city of the handmaids.
He goes to a place littered with posters of missing women, cards, drawings, et cetera. There he meets a woman who asks him about June, she has an envelope for him. Inside, a note: the one she wrote him and gave to the Mexican trade delegate. Although it’s only a short note, written three weeks prior, it is one major thing to him: hope.
Wow. While I care more about the feminine perspective and characters, it’s nice to see the other people out there, Luke included. Now I’m wondering what he’ll do, now that he knows for sure she’s alive. Will he and others go searching for June and the handmaids?
Next is “Jezebels” and I love the name of the episode.