Offred is one of the few fertile women in what was once America. As a handmaid, her only function is to bear children. Based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale has now come to our screens in the UK – Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4.
In this week’s instalment of the dystopian tale, we are transported back to life in the early days of Gilead, and after the ending of the previous episode, our questions regarding the fate of Luke are answered.
I realise that up, until this point, I’ve been pretty quiet about Luke on the whole despite the fact he’s featured in most, if not all, episodes to date. All the information we’ve gathered on him during the first six episodes has been drip-fed to us by Offred, whether in her narration or her memories, so it was interesting to see him come into his own this week.
This week’s was very much Luke’s episode. The entire plot revolved around his fate after the crash that opened the series, and the days and weeks leading up to that moment. It was quite a bold move by the show runners to choose an episode this far down the line to divert from the present day story of Offred, but I think the call was well made. Much earlier, and we wouldn’t have known enough about him, nor would Offred and Nick’s relationship progressed far enough to be a potential problem. And it was perfectly placed – after finding out that he was alive in the final moments of last week, this episode set out to put the pieces of Luke’s fate together for us.
We go back to June and Luke leaving the city, and hitching a ride further north. They stay temporarily in a cabin house while they wait for Canadian passports, but they never arrive. Then there’s a bit of blank space between finding out this information and the high-adrenaline scene that brought us crashing into The Handmaid’s Tale all those weeks ago. However it happened, June and Luke left that house as a family, but never made it to Canada.
When the car crashes and Luke sends June and Hannah away, we stay with him this time. He and the Eyes exchange a couple of shots, but Luke gets hit and they take him away in an ambulance. The poor guy has barely regained consciousness when the ambulance tumbles off the road. Wounded and with no supplies to speak of, Luke somehow makes his way back to the crash site, and the spot where the Eyes separated June and Hannah.
Eventually, he makes it to a small town, but we can immediately tell it’s been abandoned. He looks like he’s settling down, ready to give up, when he’s ambushed by two women. The collection of strays, a group of four women and one man, treat his wounds and take him with them as they journey north, despite Luke’s protests – he’s desperate to get back to Boston so he can search for June and Hannah. Flash forward three years, and he’s presumably still with the group when he gets the phone call that leads him to receiving the note from Offred.
O-T Fagbenle does a fantastic job of portraying Luke, particularly notable in that there is little in the way of dialogue for a good chunk of this episode. There are numerous brooding close ups that speak volumes, just as we tend to see with Offred, and there’s a gorgeous moment once he’s read the note and finds out that Offred is in fact alive. I wait in anticipation of what Luke’s next move will be, now that he’s become an active player in the game.