Episode 5 of The HandMaid’s Tale is titled Chicago. The new episode begins with June (Elizabeth Moss) fantasizing abut her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) as she overhears Janine (Madeline Brewer) trading sex for food, clothing, and lodging. Her fantasy is interrupted by the sound of gunfire and explosions. June leaves the safety of the basement room where everyone sleeps, to peek out of a window so she could see the battle.
After washing her red cloak, June has a conversation with another resistance fighter and hears they are sending out a team to do some trading in battle-torn Chicago. June demands to go, but the woman informs her that Steven (Omar Maskati), Janine’s new “boyfriend” is the one who makes that call.
June interrupts Steven and Janine’s weapons lesson to ask Steven if she can go with them on their trading mission. He immediately declines, but Janine advocates for June and tells him about the 86 children and 9 Marthas she helped escape from Gilead. He begrudgingly agrees with the stipulation that she does what he says.
After sustaining injuries from the Handmaid’s latest escape, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) is convalescing in what appears to be a retirement facility for “Aunts.” She watches a new crop of Handmaids through a window and is determined to get back to work. She is told that her time as an “Aunt” is over and now it’s time for her “to rest.”
Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) stands before the council of commanders and suggests a ceasefire in Chicago, California, and Texas for a few hours to allow international aid to come in with food and healthcare. The council basically laughs him out as he explains that the appearance of humanitarianism will help them in the long run by easing trading sanctions and increasing their own revenue.
Even June’s beloved Nick (Max Minghella) shoots down his idea and they end the meeting by shaming Commander Lawrence for allowing his Handmaid to facilitate the liberation of the children and Marthas. He is unanimously denied.
Lawrence takes Nick aside and Nick explains that he can’t support a ceasefire of a battle he’s leading. Lawrence tells Nick that a ceasefire could save June’s life because she’s on her way to Chicago. Nick doesn’t believe him and Lawrence mocks him saying, “the ‘Eyes’ can’t see everything.”
June continues to push Steven and Janine asks June to try being a little nicer and less assertive. The trading team discovers a couple of Gilead soldiers burned to a crisp and Steven explains that it is the work of another resistance group called the “Nighthawks”. June is intrigued and asks Steven if they have ever traded with them and he tells her that they have not.
Gilead patrols come close to them and they all have to hide within an old, abandoned, disheveled restaurant. June can watch the patrols go by through a bullet hole in the booth seating where she’s hiding. She is absolutely shocked and appalled when Steven didn’t take his chance and kill the soldier who was only feet away from them. Steven is infuriated with June for her unsolicited input on how he manages his team. He tells her that it’s not worth it to kill the soldiers and she asks, “what kind of resistance are you?”
The trading location is Chicago’s Field Museum, complete with the dinosaur skeleton. June thwarts the friendly flirtation from a guy named Brad (Massey Ahmar) and Janine goes bananas over a Cubs baseball cap she wants to get for Steven. June tells Janine that she doesn’t want Steven to take advantage of her and Janine tells June that their relationship is completely consensual and that she actually likes him. June tells her not to get attached.
Janine tries to trade her Handmaid cloak for the ballcap, but the owner refuses. June offers her cloak too and the man agrees and gives Janine the hat. Janine is thrilled and says that she’ll tell Steven so maybe he will be a little nicer to June.
Aunt Lydia demands a meeting with Lawrence where she threatens him with blackmail. She asks him to get her appointed back to her post or else she will give details regarding Commander Winslow’s disappearance, as well as collaborating with June, and other indiscretions, to the council of Commanders.
Impressed by her audacity, instead of bowing down to her demands, he makes a different proposal. He agrees to get her reinstated if she will provide him with dirt on the other commanders so he can get himself back onto that council. She agrees, but only if he agrees to hand over June (“Ofjoseph”) to her once she is recaptured so she can discipline her “her way.” He agrees to her terms.
June tells Janine that at dawn they should break off from the rest of their “team” to search out the Nighthawks. Janine is hesitant and wants to stay with their new friends and her new beau. Janine insists that they can stay there and have babies they can keep, and be moms together. June is offended and says that she sounds like Aunt Lydia. The two have a fight and June says she’s leaving with or without Janine.
Nick interrogates a couple of Marthas regarding June. The two Marthas are not fans of June’s and Nick tells them that he cares about her. One Martha refuses to answer him and tells him that he’s better off without her. The other Martha informs him that two Handmaids were spotted outside of Chicago, but their current whereabouts are unknown.
Brad gives June a map and directions to follow and they exchange pleasantries. Janine approaches June and tells her that she wants to stay with Steven, and they leave on good terms, ending the interaction with tears and a hearty hug goodbye. Janine gives June the hat they purchased with their Handmaid’s cloaks for Steven.
Aunt Lydia eagerly returns to her job training women to get raped, impregnated, and forced to hand over their babies to their commanders. We are shown that some of the Handmaids are young teenagers.
Back in Chicago, June is terrified to hear rattling behind her as if she is being followed. She quickly hides under an overturned Chicago P.D. cruiser and is shocked to discover the person following her was none other than her fellow Handmaid, Janine, who tells her that she feels safer when they are together because “Handmaids always walk in twos.”
Before the latest Commander Council meeting begins, Nick approaches Lawrence and informs him that he was totally right about June and that he will back him 100%, whatever he needs. Lawrence thanks him and the two go into the meeting.
Nick interrupts the meeting to attempt to revisit Commander Lawrence’s suggestion of the ceasefire, completely unaware of Lawrence’s climb back into his position of power within the group. He discovers that he is literally the last to know that they have already decided to call a temporary ceasefire and that the ceasefire will begin just after Gilead’s forces, led by Nick, himself, bombs the hell out of the areas, knowing that June is in Chicago, knowing that Lawrence also has this information. Nick tries to dissuade them, stating that he doesn’t think they can get their own troops out in time and they tell him that he needs to get on it, then.
June and Janine happen upon a deserted Gilead Military base, full of food and supplies and June discerns that something is not right. Before they can fully process what’s happening, the planes drop their bombs as the two are running for cover. June is knocked unconscious and woken by aid workers calling out for survivors. We have no idea where Janine could be and June continues to call for her from the rubble. June finds herself relatively uninjured and tries to look for Janine amongst the chaos, gripping that Cubs baseball cap in her hand.
The episode ends as she looks and calls for Janine, a figure emerges from the smoke. June locks eyes with none other than her friend and former Handmaid Moira (Samira Wiley).
Now we have to wait until next Wednesday to find out if June is really seeing Moira, or it’s a hallucination. We also have to wait and find out if leaving her new boyfriend and joining June on her quest killed Janine. We didn’t even see the Waterfords in this episode and we still have no idea who Serena’s baby-daddy is. Will Nick have any recourse against Lawrence’s double crossing?
The Handmaid’s Tale streams Wednesdays at midnight EST exclusively on Hulu.
Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.