Warning: This review contains spoilers!
After the international intrigue of Vows, things settle down a bit and take a domestic turn in Home. The action picks up seconds after last week’s stellar episode and continues in another fantastic entry this time focusing on June’s adjustment to freedom.
The Handmaid’s Tale has always used excellent selections of music to punctuate moments throughout its run and At Last is a fitting choice for June’s first moments in Canada. Seeing women living freely as they did in what used to be the U.S., seems surreal to June as she almost sleepwalks through the lobby of the hotel that serves as her temporary home. Freedom and all the attention overwhelm June and she seeks refuge in the bathroom. A series of firsts follow including a shower that highlights the roadmap of bruises and scars June has earned along the way. Luke wants to embrace her, but she’s not ready and uses her first moments of freedom to reclaim her personal space.
Interestingly, the start of Home has little dialogue for June. While present, she’s more of a passenger observing her new world until she finds her footing. June’s voice begins to emerge while reconnecting with Luke. Their first real moments together are heartfelt and poignant, going over their struggles, failures, and Hannah. The distance and awkwardness between them fall away as their bond as parents pull them back together. June regains another measure of her spirit when recounting recent events with Trullo and in a quiet rage her anger towards Gilead and Serena in particular bubbles to the surface.
June’s odyssey in Home centers around her connecting to a world that carried on in her absence. Her family, while incomplete is reunited with the spectre of Gilead ever-present. Luke brings her home to meet Nichole, but without Nick there June is caught in a rupture of two fractured possibilities melded into one. June and Luke exist minus Hannah and Nick is absent as she cradles Nichole.
Home challenges the notion of what it means to be a mother and a father. Luke has embraced fatherhood once again even though he doesn’t share Nichole’s blood. Moira has done the same in June’s absence. June is left to find her place in that dynamic now that she’s back in Nichole’s life, but the adjustment will take time considering how much she’s missed. Serena has a decidedly different take on motherhood now that she’s pregnant. Once adamant that Nichole was hers, she dismisses Fred as a sperm donor now that they are at odds. The arbitrary nature of parenthood goes beyond DNA and becomes a power struggle for those well-schooled in the ways of Gilead.
The biggest obstacle is June’s discomfort around Luke. She doesn’t want to be alone with him, perhaps fearing intimacy, be it physical or emotional. June’s freedom after 7 years in Gilead is like a convict getting out prison and feeling out of place without the familiarity of their cell. Her trauma runs deep, and it will take time to tear down those walls and begin the healing process. Little triggers like the winged logo for Aquilae spring water haunt June evoking the horrors she faced in Gilead. June needs therapy for her trauma and she finds some in the form of an evening chat with Rita, Emily, and Moira.
Home’s tone turns during the scene when Rita reveals Serena’s pregnancy. That bit of information, as well as the fact Fred is the father reignites the fire within June. Their ability to conceive makes what June had to endure pointless and she sheds some of the shock and hesitancy she’s been carrying for much of the episode. A wave of emotions washes over June and her anger towards Serena sets up where their relationship and June’s course of action will go next.
Home mends some fences while indicating that others will need more work. Moira and Oona get a chance to talk about what transpired getting June out of Chicago and whether their relationship has a future. June and Luke reconnect in a tender yet awkward moment but it’s Serena that looms large in the episode’s last moments. June’s explosive showdown with Serena is cathartic and like her last interaction with Aunt Lydia flips the power dynamic and takes it to another level. Home is about June reclaiming her power and the process is uneven and at times messy. It’s a journey that will continue to have missteps but is necessary nonetheless in the pursuit of justice.