WARNING: Contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.
In The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 8, Hannah’s rescue from Gilead looks imminent, but the sequel novel The Testaments reveals that this may be a major fakeout. June’s journey to rescuing Hannah has been an arduous one that has seen her make numerous sacrifices at the cost of her own safety and others. Upon her arrival in Canada, June worked through bureaucratic channels to attempt to rescue Hannah, but that fiery side still lives within her to the point that she even considered returning to Gilead if it meant being reunited with Hannah.
June returning to Gilead may not be necessary, though, as the US government has a plan for military action in Gilead that could lead to the extraction of Hannah and her reunion with June and Luke. Sadly, Atwood’s source material reveals otherwise. The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 8 ends with the revelation that Hannah could be rescued and the moment, which sees June run in slow motion to hug Luke and Moira, is uncharacteristically optimistic. The Handmaid’s Tale has never been one for sentimentality, even when June escaped Gilead and reunited with Luke. The happy ending was a brief respite before the tragedies to come, and The Testaments reveals that it will be quite some time before Hannah is reunited with her parents.
Based on events in The Testaments, it will take a long while for Hannah to be able to leave Gilead. The Testaments itself takes place 15 years after Atwood’s original The Handmaid’s Tale novel, but the time difference will likely be smaller as the show itself has covered more ground than The Handmaid’s Tale book. During that time, Hannah refused to become a Gilead wife, instead opting to attend Ardua Hall, where she learns to become an Aunt. At this point in The Testaments, Aunt Lydia has turned against Gilead and covertly feeds information to Hannah (known by her Gileadean name Agnes). Eventually, Hannah escapes Gilead with this information and is instrumental in bringing down the regime.
If The Handmaid’s Tale were to rescue Hannah in season 5, it would be a drastic departure from the source material. While the show hasn’t been afraid to take these leaps before, it would alter the course of Hannah’s life and make the planned The Testaments series unnecessary. There may a glimmer of hope for June and Luke at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 8, but hope is likely all it is.
The Handmaid’s Tale show that Luke and June rejoice at the idea of Hannah’s rescue in a scene that is tonally out of line with the series as a whole. The show has taken time to revel in lighter moments, but June’s slow-motion running and her hug with Moira and Luke is a massive fakeout that will only serve to make the failure of the United States’ mission that much more painful. This kind of dichotomy is The Handmaid’s Tale’s bread-and-butter – leading with hope, only for it to be pulled away at the last minute. This happiness could also serve to set up June’s complicated post-Handmaid’s Tale future.
Since the beginning of season 5, June joining the resistance has been steadily teased. The failure of the United States to rescue Hannah will be the final push she needs to fully commit to the underground network of fighters called Mayday. June isn’t afraid of resorting to extremes to get Hannah back – she considered returning to Gilead via Commander Lawrence’s New Bethlehem program in order to see Hannah, but that seems to be more of a trap than anything, especially for Gilead’s primary enemy. While June’s activities after The Handmaid’s Tale and during The Testaments remain mostly unknown, it is known that she is a high-ranking member of Mayday. The United States’ failure to rescue Hannah could finally set this transformation into motion and see June fight against Gilead to save her daughter.
New episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5 premiere Wednesdays on Hulu.