The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 finally answers the question of what happened to Luke. At the end of the series’ sixth episode, Offred received the surprising news that Luke was still alive. Much like in episode three, where the series filled in some blanks related to Ofglen’s disappearance, The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 breaks from Margaret Atwood’s novel to share another character’s point of view. This is the first time in the series that viewers have learned anything about the world outside of Gilead; and it’s also unique in its storytelling from a male perspective. Despite some missteps along the way, The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 presents an interesting tale of Luke’s survival and journey to a new, safer home beyond his broken country’s borders.
The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 expands on Offred’s memory of the failed escape, this time telling the other side of the story: Luke’s.
The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 retells a key moment from the series’ first episode: June, Luke, and Hannah try to escape to Canada. They fail. But the scene changes the moment that Luke and June split up. We already knew what happened to June. Now, we’re able to see Luke’s desperate attempt to find his family.
Luke actually did get shot, as June always assumed. The difference between her understanding of events and reality is that he lived. The one place that The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 fails, actually, is in trying to come up with a story that explains exactly how Luke survived. Filling in the blanks is important; and the missteps are tolerable, given the story that’s being told here…But really?
The short version: Luke is shot, but then he winds up in an ambulance. Now, why the very people the family was running from would care about keeping him alive, especially considering they were the ones who shot him, I have no idea. I also can’t quite figure out how everyone else in the ambulance died after it crashed…but Luke, already bleeding from a nasty gunshot wound, lived. And then there were the super convenient medical supplies that he was able to steal, not only to patch himself up but also to trade for his passage to Canada later on.
Sure. Fine. Whatever.
Even more confusing, Luke didn’t get an answer as to the location of Route 201 — the Guardian he asked…died — but he still managed to drag himself back to the exact location of the family’s car. On foot. After being shot in the gut and flipped all topsy-turvy-like in a crashing ambulance.
We’ll go with it…but come on, guys. A little bit stronger here, please?
One man’s quest.
Of course, by the time Luke returns to the car, June and Hannah are long gone. The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07, in one of its most powerful moments, follow’s Luke as he retraces their steps. A trail of personal items — Hannah’s stuffed toy and some drawings, a boot — lead him to the very place where his wife and daughter hid, terrified, until they were ultimately caught. It’s a devastating scene. Luke has to come to terms with what’s happened, and it’s through such an empty, unforgiving scene. There’s not much more telling than staring at the remnants of a child’s life, scattered in the wilderness.
It’s obvious, from this moment on, that Luke plans on doing anything he can to survive and get back to his family.
He’s lucky enough to be found by allies, as opposed to enemies. But he spends most of his time with that group demanding to be released to go back to Boston. For whatever reason, he still believes he can find June and Hannah this way; but everyone else knows better.
It takes Zoe, one of the leaders of the mismatched group of refugees, to finally talk some sense into Luke. She shows him the ugly reality: Everyone who’s tried to resist from inside Gilead ends up dead.
It’s only after seeing this awful scene that Luke realizes he’ll be of more use to his family in Canada — alive. So, he gets in a boat bound for the border. Even this last leg of the trip is terrifying. Bullets follow the boat off into the night; and Zoe, without whom none of the refugees would have made it this far, is shot.
Life on the outside.
Despite all of the danger involved, Luke makes it to Canada. Three years later, he’s still living in “Little America,” the most normal place we’ve seen in The Handmaid’s Tale. Whether Canada has the same infertility problems of Gilead and Mexico remains a question. Regardless, life is normal here.
What’s left of the U.S. government operates here. And what’s left of American life thrives here — as best as it can. Memories, however, remain. Within one of the government buildings, the walls are covered with photos of the missing. Even those people who are free are still affected by the tragedy back home.
It’s here, in this place and time, that Luke finally receives word from June. As promised, the Mexican ambassador’s assistant was able to deliver her message:
I love you. So much. Save Hannah.
That’s it. That’s all Luke knows after three years.
June is alive, she loves him, and she wants him to save Hannah. It’s a mystery whether or not Luke realizes exactly what type of life June/Offred now lives. On the trip to Canada, there were whisperings of what was happening at the Red Centers, but nothing was really laid out for him. Luke certainly knows it’s bad, given the obvious PTSD one of his companions — his only remaining one three years later, in fact — appears to suffer from her time there.
…but she doesn’t speak, so there’s no way for him to know much of anything.
It’s weird: The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07 answers so many questions, but it leaves so much cloaked in mystery that it’s as frustrating as it is satisfying.
Regardless, Luke’s experience was important to include. It enriches our story and gives us a picture of what’s happening outside of Offred’s very small world. In addition, it gives voice to the refugee experience. Luke had it relatively easy, what with some of the all-too-convenient and quick help he received. But even the “easy” version of an escape from tyranny is fraught with danger and loss.
As in, nobody crossing borders “illegally” is doing it because it’s easy or because they’re lazy. They’re doing it because it’s their only choice — and at great risk to their lives and those of others.
More thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07
- No, really. Luke just…survived all of that? Is this a superhero story?
- Rosa Gilmore’s Zoe is amazingly badass. So, if Luke could survive his gunshot wound and the flipped ambulance, she’d better come back. I need more of her.
- I very, very badly need to learn more about this (selective?) mute woman. If The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t tell her story, it will be a crime. As bad as we know the Red Centers to be, her trauma seems to go even deeper. Was she one of the first handmaids, perhaps? Was she just thrown into the role without proper “preparation?” I need more. Also, if this woman was successfully freed by Zoe and the others, is that a hint of hope for Moira’s situation? Please?
- After The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07, O-T Fagbenle should be a lot of viewers’ new favorite leading man. More of him in everything, please.
- “An army brat, two strays, a gay, and a nun.” Sounds like a party.
- June Bug. And the soothing in the trunk. I ship it so hard.
- “It isn’t safe for the ladies.” You don’t say.
- “GENDER TRAITOR” and “GOD HATES FAGS” graffiti: All of the little details in this series make it that much better. Especially considering one of those phrases is, well, not made up. As usual, The Handmaid’s Tale is just a little bit too real.
- Important: Offred’s note said nothing about saving her, only Hannah. What a courageous, selfless woman. Blessed are the meek, after all.
That’s it for The Handmaid’s Tale 1×07. What did you think? Was Luke’s escape too easy? Too difficult?
Hit us up in the comments, and make sure to keep watching more episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu as they get released each Wednesday.
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