Hulu Recap: The Handmaid’s Tale, Episode 7, “The Other Side”

Last episode ended with a bombshell about Luke, Offred’s husband, having survived his encounter with the Guardians. This episode, we learn what’s happened to Luke since.

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It kicks off with a flashback, showing us the same scene as in episode one – June (Offred), Luke, and Hannah attempting to flee the new regime by car. We see Luke panic and drive off the road, watch him tell June to take Hannah and run, and see him fumbling to load a handgun. The Guardians are quick to find him, and despite Luke’s best efforts – he fires off a few shots – he is shot in the side and seized by the Guardians.

That might spell a pretty gruesome end for Luke, but instead, the ambulance that he’s being hauled away in flips over (and over, and over) and lands upside-down on the bank of a river. Luke, doubled over from the gunshot wound, is quick to pillage everything that might be useful from the ambulance cab – including a new handgun and the coat off of a dead Guardian – and make a run limp for it. He gets a few feet before he finds another Guardian on the bank, one who seems to have been flung from the car, and this Guardian also dies before Luke can get an answer to his question: “Where are we?”

He’s not kept in the dark too long since a slow walk down the road brings him to the crash site where their blue car is sitting, all its doors flung open, completely abandoned. It’s bleak but it’s a landmark, and Luke is quick to take to the direction he’d sent his family in. Instead of finding them he finds Hannah’s rabbit, strewn pages from a scrapbook, and a single one of Hannah’s shoes. For a moment, Luke breaks down, clutching that single tiny shoe.

Interspersed with Luke’s trek to a nearby abandoned village are more flashbacks, these detailing how the escape attempt came to be. June, Luke, and Hannah were all ferried to a safe house by a family friend called Mr. Whitmore, though the journey is far from smooth. While en route they’re pulled over by a Guardian who opens the trunk only to find all three terrified characters tucked in like salmon; all of our sphincters collectively relax when he proclaims the trunk ’empty’ and sends Whitmore, the driver, on his way. We learn later that the Guardian owed Whitmore a ‘favor.’

The safe house is pleasant enough – a spacious cabin on a lake – but June and Luke are understandably unable to fully relax. They’re meant to wait in the safe house until Whitmore comes back with Canadian passports, since US Visas no longer hold value. While they’re waiting, their secret is compromised by a man called Joe who stumbles across them seemingly by accident during a mid-morning trip to the lake. June and Luke are spooked, and even though Joe’s gone, they decide to pack up and leave that night.

Before they can take off, Luke shows June how to load a gun at her behest, instructing her how to use it ‘just in case.’ In the middle of this lesson (so, arguably the worst time), Joe returns, though he’s holding his hands up and telling them how to safely get across the border – to Canada. He correctly guesses that they’re the missing family from Boston and says that they’re being hunted. He tells them that Whitmore is dead, had been hanged for his crimes, and that their only hope is taking the back roads and hoping for the best.

It’s grim, but they nod and take Joe’s advice. It’s on this last-ditch escape effort that the car crashes and the three are separated.

After finding Hannah’s stuffed rabbit and boot, Luke drags himself to the closest village, one that was meant to be their safe haven; it’s not. The village is a ghost town, ransacked and ruined, store windows riddled with holes and spidered from bullets. There are angry slurs graffiti’d across the sides of buildings – ‘Gender Traitor,’ ‘Fags Die,’ – and it’s evident that no one is coming to save Luke here. He needs to rest regardless and takes shelter in one of the trashed stores, falling asleep in the dark.

… Only to be awakened with a boot to the ribs.

He is quick to explain that he’s not a Guardian despite the insignia on the sleeve; he only stole the jacket from a Guardian to keep warm. The woman is skeptical but ultimately believes him, and he’s hauled onto a bus to join the band of rebels. Their stories are brief but they’re all united in their desire for freedom, and the leader seems hellbent on getting as many people out as she can.

Their road trip ends at a dock where a man is waiting to ferry them to Canada. Luke attempts to stay – he doesn’t want to go, he wants to stay and find Hannah and June. The leader of the group convinces him otherwise by bringing him into an abandoned church that has now become a gruesome tomb for the dozen or so hanged bodies strung up from the vaulted ceilings. “If you go back, you’re gonna die and leave them all alone.” This is enough to push Luke onto the ferry, though the dingy’s captain requires extra payment. Luke gives him the morphine from the ambulance… and his wedding band.

Before they can all get onto the boat, however, a truckful of Guardians blazes up and opens fire. Luke is already on the boat along with ‘TBD,’ a mute woman that was found locked in a high school basement. She is also a victim of the new society, having been separated from her child and hand-picked for her ‘fertility.’ Luke and TBD are the only ones to make it out alive.

Three years later, Luke is now roommates with TBD in the Little America part of Canada. He has a meeting with a woman who passes along the note that Offred wrote in the last episode, and their stories finally converge again. Luke is overwhelmed and overcome; “She’s alive?” he asks, and understandably breaks down.

The episode ends with the reveal of the note’s contents: I love you so much. Save Hannah.

And holy shit, I hope they do.

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