The Handmaid’s Tale Recap, Season 5 Episode 7: No Man’s Land


Photo: Sophie Giraud/HULU

Until Serena believed that giving birth to Noah was going to be her last act on this Earth, she never really saw herself as just a vessel. That was what Handmaidens were for. Like all great purveyors of internalized misogyny, Serena never reckoned with her own hypocrisy. How Is someone, as a woman, writes a book arguing that it’s not a woman’s job to do things like write books? But that’s a question for people like Phyllis Schlafly or Judge Amy Coney Barrett. June Osbourne has run out of patience for this, and she’s sure she won’t let Serena die of sepsis just so she can martyr herself on the altar of womanhood.

Hello again girls, gentlemen, gender traitors, non-women and all other Gilead misfits. This is the June-Delivers-Serena’s-Baby episode. Sure, June probably wasn’t on the list of people Serena would have liked to help her through labor and delivery, but she desperately lacks alternatives. And anyway, who would she prefer? Dr. Handsy? Aunt Lydia? Serena should be grateful, to be honest, because not only did June give birth herself (once in the middle of nowhere and all alone), but she also delivered many babies au natural in Gilead as a servant, like Serena well knows. Plus, it gives those Eternal enemies several hours of bonding time, which is all “No Man’s Land” is.

As soon as June realizes that Serena is literally giving birth, she takes it for granted that she’s going to have to deliver that bitch’s baby because she just can’t take a fucking break. A woman’s work is never done, for real. “Are you fucking giving birth?” she asks Serena, who is still shakingly pointing a gun at her. “Has your water broken? How far apart are your contractions? Serena just moans and says she can’t go to the hospital because “they’ll find me there.”

So June carries a whimpering, recalcitrant Serena to an abandoned barn that looks promising – “Maybe there will be a nursery” – but as soon as she tries to check on Serena’s cervical progress, Serena panics. She thinks June is trying to murder her son, which isn’t an unreasonable fear. But if June really wanted to kill Serena and her child, all she would have to do is walk away and leave them there, which she momentarily stomps on and considers doing. She doesn’t, of course, though whether Serena would have done the same for her remains an open question. But just coming back when she could have easily left is enough to convince Serena that June doesn’t have homicide on her brain this time.

Between two deep breaths, Serena and June also share moments of connection in flashbacks. Apparently, their relationship didn’t start out totally hostile. Or at least Serena wasn’t too resentful yet to shoot June a sympathetic eye during one of those creepy Gilead birthing ceremonies. As the Servant in labor breathes heavily through real contractions, her mistress straddles her from behind and theatrically screams in fake agony at the same time. Serena meets June’s gaze and rolls her eyes in recognition of their shared understanding that this is nonsense.

The jokes stop when the delivery has complications. The wives are hustled, but the servants are forced to watch the emergency C-section which saves the baby but leaves Ofclarence dead. Aunt Lydia tells the girls that Ofclarence had served her purpose and so she was sacrificed to please God, but Serena has a real human moment. While the brides coo happily over the baby, Serena alone stares sadly outside the glass doors where the maids pass. June notices and stops to shake her head sadly – ​​Ofclarence didn’t survive.

On the other hand, thanks to all those horrific childbirth ordeals that Serena & Co. forced her to endure, June is no slouch when it comes to midwifery. Heroically, she leads Serena through the process of pushing her baby out of her body, gathering the newborn into her arms, and ensuring his safe entry into the terrible world his mother has created for him. Serena names him Noah, after “the savior of mankind”.

June asks if it was worth it. Serena honestly replies that right now, yes, it is. But June seems to understand this. She tells Serena about Hannah – her difficulty breastfeeding, Hannah’s colds, wishing she didn’t have to stay home from work to take care of herself sometimes. As long as we’re being honest, why didn’t June kill Serena when she had the chance? “Why Fred and not me?” June says she didn’t want to. For these two, it’s basically a declaration of love, but June won’t let Serena go without a reprimand. How Noah turns out, she warns, depends on what Serena teaches him is “up to him.”

After a few hours of rest and lactation, it’s time to go. But where? Serena is now a woman without a homeland. She can’t return to Gilead for obvious reasons. But she doesn’t want to go to Canada either, lest the Wheelers find her. When June points out that if she stays here, she and Noah will both die, Serena decides she may just be a vessel. Maybe June was meant to be the mother and Serena was the one who was only put in here to give birth. Like the Servants do, she tries to give her baby to June. And she makes solid arguments. She knows Noah would be safe with June, to begin with. For two, she knows June’s husband is a good man who could teach Noah to be someone who would never do the things she and Fred did. Her speech drops slightly, however, when she begins to compare June to an avenging angel.

Two problems here. Un: June is a person, not an angel with a sword. DOCTOR June obviously isn’t just going to let Serena die. She had so many opportunities! June is unable to let Serena die. So she starts talking Serena: “Look at your baby. You are the only person in the world he knows. You are the only familiar smell. You’re the only voice he recognizes. Babies aren’t stray puppies, you know. “It’s God’s will.” Attagirl.

They return to Canada and take Serena to the hospital. She doesn’t like doctors putting antibiotics on her and she’s suspicious of the NICU, but everything seems to be fine. June has even made contact with Luke, who immediately rushes to the hospital to pick her up. But before June can tell him about her connection to Serena (pulling a baby out of another woman’s birth canal with her bare hands tends to do that), Luke reveals he’s once again harnessed the power of the local government. He arranged for Serena to be held by immigration while child protection takes her baby.

I don’t know what any of you think of this moment, but June and I are, to our surprise, a little horrified.

• Serena’s reply to June: “It’s as if I were their Servant. It’s like I’m you,” that’s all the chastisement for this woman I think I need, to be honest.

• Luke is not only safe, he has also passed this USB key containing all of Hannah’s information to Tuello, who is “working on it”.

• How will June convince Luke and Moira that they have to take care of Noah until Serena gets out of prison? Because that’s definitely where it’s at, isn’t it?

• I notice a general theme this season of women, even bad guys, coming together, and I’m not against it.


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