Aptly named, “The Other Side,” the most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale shows a glimpse of what life is like outside Gilead. Following last week’s revelation unveiling that Luke (Offred’s husband) was alive, this episode explains how he survived.
In the first episode, a flashback shows June (Offred) taking their daughter Hannah and running into the woods away from the Guardians chasing their family. The sound of three gun shots led her (and the audience) to believe that Luke (her husband) was dead. I should have remembered a cardinal TV rule: No one is dead unless you see a body.
Low and behold, Luke was shot once and taken by a state-controlled ambulance only to regain his freedom when the ambulance crashed. By a spot of luck, he’s rescued by some new friendly faces making their way to the Canadian border.
Through a series of flashbacks the audience discovers what happened the day they (June/Offred, Luke and Hannah) tried to escape Gilead. Leaving later than June would have liked, they met a man in a parking lot who took them to a safe house. After feeling compromised at the safe house, they made a break for it — and we’ve already seen the rest. (Car crashing, June and Hannah being taken, Luke shot, etc.)
I thought it would be nice to take a break from ladies-being-treated-horribly for one episode of flashback fun, but then I realized this episode showed me 100 times over something I’m embarrassed to admit: I would never survive in this environment.
Luke had to: hide in a trunk, get shot, survive an ambulance crash, run away in the snow — still shot, convince new people they could trust him, decide to trust new people, have impromptu-surgery in a moving vehicle, walk into a church full of hanging bodies, escape again on a boat while being shot at. At every point in this episode I was like, nope, would have stopped back there, and back there, and back there.
I’m curious if anyone else watches television like this and feels the same way. I’m a happy person — and I love living my life — but if I was in this situation I sincerely don’t think I would have it in me to say, “Oh, true, I’m shot but, nah let’s keep hiking through the snow because just maybe I’ll find some people that don’t want to kill me in the wilderness.”
I would like to think that I could sword fight with the best of them on Game of Thrones, but I cut myself almost every time I use a new razor and proceed to have a four minute panic attack over the blood. If a news story broke that Zombies were coming, I’m drinking 12 margaritas and sailing away and not fighting people in a Walmart for batteries.
The end of the episode brings us to Toronto (or “Little America”) in present day, which we discover is three years since June was taken. It’s a quick glimpse, but you can tell Toronto is not the same metropolis it once was (but still a far better place to be). Luke gets a call on his cell phone (yes, that’s a good sign, too) and goes into a building that has the most heartbreaking visual of the episode: A long hallway wallpapered with pictures and letters of missing people. It was instantly reminiscent of the missing person’s walls that went up in New York City after 9/11: handmade pleas for information on people that were lost.
The note from Offred is finally delivered to Luke, who after this episode I feel invested in, which says: “I love you. So much. Save Hannah.”
With Luke in the mix and a possible Northern-rescue mission at hand, I’m even more excited for the final three episodes of the season.