Janine has had a rough start in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5. After forging a connection with Esther, the pair seemed to have found a support system in each other, but that was quickly undermined when Esther poisoned Janine and herself. Fortunately, Janine survived, but the incident left Aunt Lydia rattled. Janine is slowly recovering, and her survival seems to have inspired a new kind of fervor in Aunt Lydia, one that sees her more fiercely protective of the Handmaids in her care than ever before.
Janine has seemingly had nine lives since the beginning of The Handmaid’s Tale, but now more than ever it seems to Aunt Lydia that she may have a divine purpose beyond what she’s already been doing.
Screen Rant caught up with Madeline Brewer to discuss Janine’s journey in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, her relationship with Aunt Lydia, and her future on the show.
Screen Rant: Janine’s journey has obviously been a wild one. But this season, in particular, she’s kind of really asserting her agency with Aunt Lydia. What would you say her emotional headspace is going into these new episodes?
Madeline Brewer: An anxious one. She’s very nervous about getting posted. But I think she’s also feeling some level of purpose in taking care of the girls specifically asked her. So I think that she’s feeling a level of comfort in that and feeling useful. Feeling purposeful.
Do you think that’s a result of her journey with June last season and her interactions with Esther?
Madeline Brewer: I think that Janine can definitely feel the void of June’s absence. And I think Janine knows very well that the way to survive in Gilead is to have a June because that’s how she survived, was her June. And I think that she recognizes that she needs to be there, a version of June for these girls. They need someone to be brave, they need someone to lean on. They need someone to take the risks.
Janine is kind of implementing change from inside Gilead in a way, speaking to Aunt Lydia in the way that she does and playing into kind of the theme of this season showing different ways people cope with trauma. So do you think it’s almost kind of more important that Janine is staying in Gilead to do this?
Madeline Brewer: I think right now, yeah. I think that it’s really interesting – what kind of change can be effected? You know, in poker, you don’t play the cards you play your opponent, or is poker like that? Whatever it is, the game I don’t play, I just know that. But you don’t play your cards, you play your opponent. And in this case, I think Janine, in a way, kind of playing Aunt Lydia. Not playing her. I think that there is a genuine – there is an earnestness to what’s going on with them. But I think that she’s not just being a good, pious little Handmaid anymore.
Her relationship with Aunt Lydia is so interesting to me. They both have this care for each other, but they’re both constrained within the hierarchy of Gilead. And so I think going forward, it’s going to be really interesting to see how Jeanine develops. Can you tease anything about how she changes over the season emotionally, how she maybe grows into this role?
Madeline Brewer: She definitely grows into the role of being a leader for the girls. But it’s also almost entirely just due to her own desire to not be posted. If I’m purposeful here, maybe I won’t be posted. So then I guess… I don’t know if I’m revealing too much. But there’s talk of her being posted. And like a bunch of information is all shared at the same time. And Janine, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. But not in the way that you think for Janine. She doesn’t do what you think she’d do. Yeah, she surprises you.
June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Nick and Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.
Check out our other interviews for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5:
The Handmaid’s Tale airs new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.