The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 2 Ending Explained

WARNING: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, Episode 2 Below!Following the dramatic season opener, Serena Joy gets revenge in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 ending, using Hannah to get back at June to devastating effect. June spends much of the episode haunted by the past – everything she sees becomes a reminder of what she went through in Gilead. The true effects of June’s actions in The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 ending are having a lasting impact on her as she continues to process her trauma. Yet the episode’s ending also explores Serena’s role and how she could become a dangerous adversary moving forwards.


After spending the first episode in Toronto, The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 finally goes back to Gilead – the first step in Serena’s revenge – as she returns for Fred’s funeral and, with Commander Lawrence’s help, convinces Gilead to broadcast the ceremony. Although they are reticent at first – Fred is a traitor to Gilead after all – Serena and Lawrence are one step ahead, realizing what kind of impact it could have if the world can see what goes on in Gilead from this sympathetic perspective. Naturally, Serena gets her wish and just as June is beginning to feel a bit normal, she is confronted with images of her tormentor next to her daughter shown on giant screens all around her in downtown Toronto.

While in Gilead, Janine and Esther are preparing for another kind of ceremony. The Handmaid‘s Tale season 5 reveals Esther is being prepared for her posting as a Handmaid. Knowing what they go through, Esther is terrified as she heads to Commander Putnam’s house for Fred’s wake. Janine is also upset when pondering Esther’s future, but, after the wake, Esther sees a way out. Presumably thanking Janine for her guidance, Esther shares some food with Janine, but before long, they are both coughing up blood – Esther has poisoned their food. The episode ends with Janine and Esther’s fate in question, while June looks on and sees Serena plant a kiss on Hannah’s forehead, a taunt that will likely spur June’s design for revenge further and potentially set up the rest of the season.

Why Esther Poisoned Janine (&Will Janine & Esther Die?)

Esther and Janine’s future in The Handmaid’s Tale is important, and it’s unlikely that they will succumb to the poison they consume in season 5, episode 2’s ending. While Aunt Lydia, Commander Lawrence, and Nick all serve as portals into the exploration of Gilead, Esther and Janine’s experiences are key to the show going forward – they carry on the story of the Handmaids that began in season 1 of the show. Esther poisoning Janine comes after her experience with Commander Putnam, an extremely offputting scene that shows him feeding the young girl chocolate, just a taste of the abuse she will experience as a Handmaid. Esther wants to avoid this fate and is also seemingly mad at Janine for assuaging her worries about being posted. While they are in dire straights in The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 ending, Janine and Esther will likely live to see another day.

Serena’s Revenge Proves She’s Just As Dangerous As June

The hate between Serena and June ebbs and flows – they both have a begrudging respect for each other that has influenced a lot of their decisions in the show. That all changed when June murdered Fred and Serena’s response to this proves she’s just as dangerous as June, if not moreso. Serena has always wielded her status in Gilead as a weapon and that problem is only exacerbated because of June’s actions. Serena’s former Handmaid has turned her into a widow and an unmarried pregnant woman which, in the eyes of Gilead, is not an acceptable position to be in. In the eyes of the world, though, Serena is now a sympathetic figure. She will certainly use that going forward, both as leverage in her dealings with Gilead and the rest of the world, and as a shield against any potential retaliation June may seek.

The cat-and-mouse game between Serena and June has constantly seen their roles shifting, but The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 underscores that this dynamic is more central to the show than ever before. June sending Serena Fred’s severed finger ignited something in her and with the might of Gilead in Serena’s corner, the former Commander’s Wife is mustering up the strength to take their battle to the world stage. June has never been afraid to operate in the shadows, but Serena’s latest move at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale season 5, episode 2 proves that their battle has moved to another arena and the pair are more ready than ever before to make each other pay for their sins.

Episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale air Wednesdays on Hulu

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