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Biggest Unanswered Questions In The Handmaid's Tale Season 5

Much like the Margaret Atwood book it's based on, the Hulu original series "The Handmaid's Tale" uses real-world precedent to show a dystopian parallel to our lives. Lower birth rates are used as an excuse for a far-right religious group to seize power, and the fascist state of Gilead is born. Caught during an attempt to flee to Canada, June Osborne is renamed Offred and forced into sexual servitude as a handmaid. However, her ability to find allies in the most unlikely places as well as an incredible sense of resilience and versatility went on to make that initial capture one of the worst mistakes Gilead ever made. She has since spent much of her time wreaking havoc on their oppressive system that sees women reduced to objects.

The original book tells a comparatively concise story, while the TV series has significantly more time to wander around in the universe and explore some of the characters and themes that the 1985 novel and the 1990 film adaptation could only scratch the surface of. Perhaps no season introduces more seismic shifts in the story's status quo than the fifth, in which June and Luke reunite, Nick gets married in Gilead, Emily departs the series, Joseph Lawrence steps into outright fascism, Serena questions everything, another potential war brews between the Americans and Gilead, and extreme anti-immigrant hate rises in Canada, once considered a safe zone for refugees. The sixth and final season is on the way, but in the meantime, we've got plenty of questions about what's on the horizon.

Spoilers ahead for all seasons of "The Handmaid's Tale." 

Who is Hannah?

When June is taken to be retrained into life as a handmaid, her daughter Hannah is quite literally torn from her arms and given to a new Gilead couple who raise her as their own. This is Hannah, a character who has remained one of Gilead's greatest weapons against June both during her time in the Waterford home and after her escape to Canada. In the fifth season, June struggles with the emotional aftermath of leaving her daughter behind. Even when comparatively safe with her younger daughter Nichole, June is tormented by Hannah's absence and the impossibility of knowing what she's going through.

The agony Luke and June Osborne experience at the loss of a child who is still very much alive is a major driving factor for the decisions they make throughout the penultimate season. While we've seen a lot about how they feel, we haven't seen much about who Hannah is. In her previous appearances, Hannah shows the traits one would expect from a child brainwashed by an oppressive state, but her connection to her mother isn't completely absent. Though her feelings toward June seem to frustrate and scare her, it's hard to say how they might change if given time to flourish. In this season, Hannah enters one of Gilead's "wife schools" where she will be trained to oppress other women through the fascism of the state, but one thing we don't know is how Hannah feels about all of this. In the sixth season, we hope to find out.

Will there be (more) trouble between America and Gilead?

Gilead came to power through a coup that necessarily involved disarming, killing, or enlisting much of the U.S. military, renamed the Guardians. However, the U.S. government has remained in control of Hawai'i and Alaska and militias in support of returning the prior establishment to power are littered about what was once the continental U.S. While Gilead is unquestionably stronger, the U.S. still possesses that never-say-die tenacity through which it has so often defined itself. As one might suppose, tensions run through the roof between Gilead and the nation it usurped in its rise to power, but the fifth season saw some bold moves from the limited remaining government as it attempts to reinstate some sense of national relevance.

Mark Tuello, a U.S. representative, is introduced in the second season and becomes increasingly important as he's continued to put it all on the line for the country he remains loyal to. At the end of the fourth season, he delivers Fred Waterford to No Man's Land so that June and several other women have the opportunity to physically tear the man that terrorized her during her time as a handmaid quite literally to pieces. When June is nearly seduced by the call of Gilead's New Bethlehem, which would have reunited her with Hannah, Mark offers to send troops after Hannah. These planes of troops are shot from the sky, leaving Mark with the heavy task of explaining the deaths to the families of the deceased. With Canadians turning on the American refugees, another all-out conflict between the nations may be inevitable.

Is Commander Lawrence entering his supervillain stage?

Among the many complicated personalities of Gilead, Commander Joseph Lawrence ranks pretty high up in both moral complexity and importance to the regime. Despite the major role he presumably played in bringing Gilead to power and establishing the system under which the country operates, he balks at religious indoctrination, doesn't appear to enjoy the company of the other commanders, and has intense levels of sympathy for his ailing wife as well as the handmaids assigned to his home, Emily and June. Indeed, he repeatedly puts himself in jeopardy for others, but he can also show a level of cold indifference to the suffering of others that makes him a wild card even at the best of times.

Commander Lawrence has an uncomfortable ability to look beyond the human toll of Gilead to see the positive sides, including a thriving economy and low pollution. This can be a good thing at times, but it also makes him a dangerous man when crossed. In this season alone, he misleads Serena into a false sense of security before sending her to a stiflingly oppressive home in Toronto, oversees the murder of Commander Putnam only to coldly propose a marriage of convenience to his widow, orders U.S. planes to be shot out of the air, and possibly puts out a hit on June after she tells him that his wife never loved him. The commander is in a position where he could truly go either way in "The Handmaid's Tale" Season 6.

Will New Bethlehem take off?

Among the power plays Commander Lawrence makes throughout the most recent season, perhaps none is more intriguing than New Bethlehem. With the outrageous number of citizens risking everything to flee Gilead, Lawrence is attempting to soften the public image of the country by creating a sort of safe zone where the state can welcome its exiles back. Noting that it is difficult to prove Gilead's benevolence to world powers when so much of its populace has fled, Lawrence hopes that this act of apparent altruism will win people over and convince them that Gilead is a nice place to live after all. Yet, as with so many things, there are many unanswered questions in regard to Lawrence's true motives.

Lawrence offers a home to June and Luke in New Bethlehem, assuring her that she will finally be reunited with Hannah if she returns. On the other hand, asking June to publicly forgive and even condone the violent fascism of Gilead as a condition of having her family together at last is a staggeringly cruel request that Lawrence makes lightly enough that it causes June to snap, berating him on the phone before angrily hanging up. This may have pushed their relationship beyond the point of no return, but it still leaves a lot to wonder about in regard to New Bethlehem. Are Lawrence's intentions as pure as he claims, and if so, is he capable of pulling this off, or is this simply another trick to lure the world into a false sense of security about Gilead's unquestionably brutal regime?

Will Nick be okay?

Nick Blaine was the driver for Commander Waterford before ultimately becoming a commander himself, and it has been a wild ride. June's secret lover and protector during her time in Gilead, Nick is forced to say goodbye to the love of his life as she flees to Canada in the hope that she'll be able to raise their daughter Nichole in safety. With June gone, he's in a position of having to marry in order to preserve Gilead's strict social order. His wife Rose seems sympathetic toward his relationship with June until she realizes in the final episodes of Season 5 that he is far from over her.

This season kicks off with Nick rapidly climbing the ladder to a position alongside many of Gilead's most terrifying men, having formed a quiet pact with Commander Lawrence that allows them to sweep the board of those who could be problematic for Lawrence's goals. However, with Lawrence's ultimate vision still in question and his moves increasingly audacious, he very well might find himself at odds with Nick. Though Lawrence may or may not have had anything to do with the apparent hit out on June's life, Nick burst into Lawrence's home and punches him in the face, growling, "You could have killed her!" This leads to him being imprisoned, with Rose asking for an end to their relationship, leaving us to wonder if he's even going to make it to the end of the sixth season.

Will Luke get a fair trial?

The events of "The Handmaid's Tale" aren't easy on anyone, but this season shows the toll that June and Hannah's absence has taken on June's husband Luke, as well as his undying commitment. Though occasionally misguided, Luke's heart is always in the right place as he puts his life on the line to protect his family. His dedication is proven many times through the season as situations repeatedly spiral out of his control. When a strange man hits June with his truck and attempts to back over her, Luke pulls the man from his vehicle and beats him into submission. Unfortunately, this leads to the stranger's accidental death, which proves to be an explosive turning point in Canada's growing anti-refugee aggression.

With Luke heroically giving himself over to the authorities so that June and Nichole can have a chance to escape Canada, it's hard to know how things are going to go for him when his case finally reaches trial. It's true that the man who died attacked June with murderous intent, but with growing protests demanding that the former residents of Gilead go back to the state that took everything from them, it seems unlikely that public opinion will be in Luke's favor. Though he has a local friend group, they are also refugees of Gilead in danger of attack, and it will be nigh impossible for June to communicate with him without returning to a hostile country.

Is Aunt Lydia going to change?

Of all the characters seemingly incapable of a heroic arc, we have Aunt Lydia, the woman tasked with controlling the handmaids and quelling any potential for rebellion. Yet "The Testaments" — Margaret Atwood's 2019 follow-up novel to "The Handmaid's Tale" — allows Aunt Lydia to tell her story in her own words, which shows that there is much the reader does not understand about her true motivations. In the latest season, Lydia undergoes her own troubling revelations as her prized handmaid Janine suffers a crisis of faith after she nearly dies at the young Esther's hand. Troubled by the commanders dismissing her and failing to live by their own rules, Lydia ends the fifth season at a crossroads.

Though June's friend and ally Emily is absent from the fifth season due to the fact that Alexis Bledel left "The Handmaid's Tale," the suffering she undergoes as a result of Lydia's cruelties make her the prime candidate for holding a grudge. Indeed, her between-seasons disappearance is explained as a result of her need for revenge against Lydia specifically. It's impossible to be sure whether Emily will return for the sixth season, though fans of the revolutionary former professor have their fingers crossed. A disillusioned Lydia coming face to face with the woman who endured her greatest brutality is the kind of epic showdown that would fit perfectly into the last round of episodes. Still, even if that specific scenario doesn't come to fruition, seeing Lydia reckon with her past and finally seeing the extent of the harm she has done seems to be where her story is leading. Here's hoping there is some sense of catharsis for the people she has hurt.

Is Moira finally getting a new love interest?

June's childhood friend Moira remains a major recurring character throughout the series but has never received quite the amount of screentime she deserves. Having played a major role in June's life to the point of being there with her during the birth of her daughter Hannah, the bond between the two remains one constant in a series that's plagued by uncertainties and betrayals. Considered a legend among the handmaids for having successfully escaped indoctrination at the Red Center by fleeing Gilead, Moira is the kind of character that steals just about every scene she's in. There is easily an entire spinoff's worth of stories for Moira, but failing that, here's hoping we see a lot of her in the final season.

One major hint at Moira's often-mysterious personal life appears in the episode "Fairytale." While June and Luke have traveled into No Man's Land to glean information on Hannah, Moira stays behind with Mayday operative Lily. The two share beers while Moira allows for a rare moment of vulnerability, confessing her concern for her friends and admitting that she's in awe of their ability to make it work despite everything they've been through. Lily stays with Moira and listens, and the two share a brief flirtation. After Moira's ill-fated love affair with Oona in the fourth season, she's due for a new relationship, and she and the revolutionary Lily may prove to have more in common.

Is Janine the new June?

When we first meet Janine in Season 1, she's recovering from a mental breakdown, assigned to the Putnam house as a handmaid where she gives birth to her daughter Charlotte, renamed Angela by the Putnams. Janine's generally rebellious attitude toward the Gileadean regime waxes and wanes, but she has long remained one of the wild cards of the series due to her unpredictable nature and a truly impressive ability to see the bright side of things regardless of constant trauma and hardship. As the series progresses, this makes her an unlikely helper to Aunt Lydia after other handmaids are either reassigned or escape. Though Lydia once called for Janine to be stoned to death, the two form a strangely loving bond.

Yet in the fifth season, her fellow handmaid Esther attempts to kill Janine and herself through poison due to Janine's lack of compassion for her plight, which seems to serve as a wakeup call to the recently somewhat placated Janine. When Lydia tries to place Janine back with Warren Putnam's widow Naomi in her home with her new husband Commander Lawrence, Janine is unable to hide her contempt for Naomi. This leads to her closing out the season in the back of a van, bound and gagged, being transported to parts unknown. Still, in classic Janine fashion, she reaches out a hand of support to a fellow traveler, making us wonder where the van is going, who she's with, and if Janine is about to pull a June.

What's going to happen with Esther's pregnancy?

Examples of Gilead's cruelty run in all directions through the series, but Esther's story is uniquely horrific. Married to an elderly man who invites other men to sexually abuse her when she has only barely entered her teen years, Esther undergoes merciless depravity while still a child and is left reeling. Gilead's system is relentless when it comes to treating marginalized genders as objects, and even as she escapes her life as a wife by poisoning her husband, she's entered into reeducation as a handmaid. Though Janine takes Esther under her wing, she becomes the target of the young girl's fury after she fails to protect her from Commander Putnam's sexual abuse.

Clocking that Janine only helps her for selfish motives, Esther attempts to poison herself and her would-be mentor, choosing death over a return to the Putnam house. Putnam is promptly put to death by Lawrence and Nick, though they're motivated more by a personal vendetta than any concern for crimes against Esther. As she and Janine both survive the poisoning, Esther is revealed to be pregnant with Putnam's child while in recovery, while Janine is spurred to action due to her brush with death and Esther's chilling condemnation of her. Given that she's shrieking with rage at Aunt Lydia the last time we see her, it's hard to say where her story will go from here, but here's hoping Esther gets a break soon.

Is Serena free of Gilead?

Like Commander Lawrence, Serena is a morally conflicted character. Unlike Lawrence, she has comparatively little control over the circumstances of her life under Gilead's doctrine. While she is inarguably a victim of Gilead's reductive view of women, she often perpetrates that same oppression against others. Perhaps the most notable example of this is June, who begins the series assigned to Serena and her husband Fred's home as a handmaid and ends up on the bad side of Serena's angst as a wife unable to fully adhere to the system her husband subscribes to. Yet, there has always been more to Serena than meets the eye, and Season 5 sees her undergoing a radical change in her beliefs.

After June and several others murder Fred, June mails Serena his finger with the wedding ring still on it. This leads to escalating animosity between the two as Serena is sent to Toronto to assist with a woman's center and convince Canadians of the benefits of Gilead. Still, when June has the chance to kill Serena, she finds herself unable to do so. Later, Serena returns the dubious favor, choosing to turn on the sadistic couple that takes her into their home in order to save June's life. By the end of the season, we get the sense that Serena has changed on a fundamental level due to her growing disillusionment with a system that put her in a tightly constricted box at every turn. Still, the pull of Gilead is strong, leaving us to wonder if Serena's indoctrination will once more rear its ugly head.

How will June and Serena's relationship change?

Throughout "The Handmaid's Tale," June makes many mistakes, but it's hard to deny that she has a remarkable ability to inspire hope and resistance in even the most cynical of hearts. Her love for friends like Moira and Emily is sharply contrasted against her fierce antipathy toward characters like Commander Fred. Yet, of all her many relationships, few tell us more about who June is as a person than her dynamic with Serena. The fifth season alone shows a wide berth of emotions between the two, with June and Serena both striking at each other where they know it'll hurt the most in the first half, then ultimately leaving off as two women alone, forced to depend on one another in a world that wants nothing more than to be rid of them both.

There is no questioning that June suffers greatly in Serena's household, yet her hatred of Fred never quite seems to fully extend to his wife regardless of her complicity. In the episode "No Man's Land," we see that even in June's early days at the Waterford home, there's something compelling and even profound in her interactions with Serena as the two share wordless exchanges of humor and sympathy with one another. Though June has made it clear that forgiveness is off the table, the two women's paths seem bound in ways that are larger than either of them. How will this evolve and change in the final season? The answer could very well prove to be one of the most vital elements of the series.