Bradley Whitford directs this stunning penultimate installment as the characters all make their own specific allegiances very clearly known. The show continues to mix heartfelt emotion with tense action, leading up to a truly surprising finale.
We recap the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 9, “Allegiance,” which contains spoilers and details of the ending.
It’s a well-known fact that everybody is out for themselves in Gilead and, to a lesser extent, in Toronto too. With so many power moves and political strategies at play, the penultimate episode of the season explores exactly where our main character’s allegiances lie as we move toward the eagerly anticipated finale. June wonders if she can trust Commander Lawrence, and Serena continues to battle her captors at the Wheeler household.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 9 recap
After the previous instalment’s gripping finale, June and Luke are updated on Tuello’s plan of attack. They walk through a large hangar bay as he explains their scheme to evacuate Hannah and the other stolen children from the Wife School they have located. Tuello has a task force launching that very night with three aircraft at the ready to fly under Gilead’s radar and swoop in to save the children. June states how grateful she is for this opportunity, but implores to be able to watch the live feed of this significant event.
Serena and baby Noah have their picture taken for the new and improved Gilead Centre. Alanis Wheeler mentions how this photograph will be there to greet people in the reception area, but Serena wants to do this job in person and asks to attend the official grand opening. The controlling Mrs. Wheeler rejects Serena’s offer, stating that the germs and the interactions with complete strangers would not be good for the baby. Serena is then ordered to keep making bottles and following June’s advice she submits. Later, she asks Commander Wheeler the same question, with her unsubtle attempts at buttering him up actually working. She talks of recruiting more followers and presenting her miracle story to the supporters. Mr. Wheeler says he’ll think on it.
Commander Lawrence and Lydia meet with a broken Naomi Putnam. She’s just witnessed her husband being brutally murdered before her very eyes and looks like a shell of the woman she once was. First we felt sorry for Serena, and now Naomi too. Lawrence wants to discuss her future and she immediately pleads not to be sent to the colonies. In the weirdest marriage proposal of all time, Lawrence asks if she will move in with him. Whilst Lydia is there for moral support and to add to the persuasive argument. Naomi doesn’t seem particularly pleased with this offer, but is given time to consider it further.
June and Luke arrive to watch the live feed footage of the evacuation. We see an aerial shot of the school and many screens presenting complex military intelligence. This scene is then intercut with one of Hannah reciting a chant within the school, now in real time. She then goes to bed and writes her name next to a drawing she has hidden inside a book. Surprisingly, she doesn’t write Agnes on the paper, but Hannah instead. Is this a fantasy in June’s head or a reality? Has Hannah clung to her old life for all this time? As the tension builds, you get the sense that something is going to go wrong, my money was on an explosion of some sort destroying the school. The planes cross Gilead’s borders and all data is suddenly lost. Tuello informs the couple later that the girls are safe, but that the three planes were all destroyed by Gilead’s military – there were no survivors.
Lawrence calls to try one last time to get June to move to New Bethlehem. He keeps provoking her with prospects of seeing Nick again and with talk of the old couple even being neighbors. June is offended by Lawrence’s blasé attitude to this tragic event, people are dead because of his actions. She retaliates, hitting him where it hurts. June says that his wife secretly hated him and that she watched Eleanor die without interjecting. Lawrence doesn’t bite, although there are clearly tears in his eyes. June begs for Hannah to be returned to her home and Lawrence admits that this will never happen. Enraged, she screams down the phone and then attacks her garden, utterly succumbing to the anger within.
A smug Serena is granted permission to attend the Centre’s opening, yet Alanis is furious by her husband’s sudden change of heart. She slaps Serena twice across the face for her deceitful ways, demanding that she stays away from her man. Alanis labels her a w***e for this betrayal and tags along for the opening. There, Serena is adored by her awestruck followers, who all crowd round to see the precious baby and her mother. Serena states that Gilead helped her to produce this little miracle, thanks to the clean environment and her devotion to God.
Alanis stands to one side, itching to intervene. She tells Serena that she will be attending tomorrow alone with Noah and then asks for the baby’s bottle. Serena seems to have forgotten the bottle though and asks to go and breastfeed in private. This excuse makes for the perfect getaway and she rushes out onto the streets via an exit door. She jumps in front of moving traffic and persuades a driver to whisk her away. What is she going to do now?
With Tuello’s latest plan failing immensely, he offers June the chance to speak with Nick in person as a peace offering of sorts. He wants her to persuade the man to defect, which hopefully would provoke other Commanders to do likewise. June meets with her ex and they discuss their options, but both individuals are stubbornly matched. Nick refuses to leave Gilead, now that he has a wife and a child on the way. Whilst June refuses to move to New Bethlehem for obvious reasons. They stand perilously close to one another, saying that they love each other, but Nick pulls away before embracing June. She asks him to set a good example for his child and they part ways, possibly for the last time.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 9 ending
The episode ends with the Commanders meeting at Lawrence’s house to celebrate the previous night’s attack. Mackenzie gushes about protecting Agnes and the other children, whilst the act has strengthened their alliances with other powerful nations across the globe. Lawrence admits that this victory has proven to be a huge success, but they still want June dead. The men return to be with their wives, and Lawrence stands next to Naomi, placing a hand on her shoulder. Mackenzie congratulates Lawrence on his hosting duties, adding that they are impressed with his commitment and vision. He is now one of them.
June attends a candlelight vigil for the victims of the attack. This peaceful and emotive vigil is overshadowed by chanting and jeering from the protestors, who have crashed this event. Tuello struggles on with the vigil, trying his best to ignore the shouting and abuse. A daughter of one of the victims steps forward to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. June walks over to help her finish the verse, but then she is shocked to hear gunfire in the distance. June protects the girl and dives onto the ground as bullets ripple past their target and hit the flag instead. I don’t know about you, but that twist ending caught me totally off guard, coming out of nowhere – what a dramatic conclusion indeed.
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