This episode of The Handmaid’s Tale dives into the day June and Hannah were ripped away from Luke as they try to escape the new regime taking over the United States. It’s a gut wrenching episode as we catch up with Luke and see where he ended up. “The Other Side” delivers a well acted and emotional episode, however it somehow feels like filler.
The Handmaid’s Tale has packed some massive punches. In the first six episodes, we’ve been on a massive ride with Offred as we try to navigate the world of Gilead. With every episode we’re left with a pit in our stomachs as we see striking similarities between our world and Offred’s. Elisabeth Moss has delivered incredible monologue after monologue and made us question our own actions. Offred has not only called on people in Gilead to take a stand, but also us as viewers. We’ve been tested and asked to think. These are the episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale we’ve come to desire.
“The Other Side” is a relatively calm hour, to say the least. Luke may be running for this life, but there isn’t the one-two-punch that usually accompanies The Handmaid’s Tale episodes. We learn that Luke wasn’t killed when June and Hannah ran off. He was shot and eventually saved by a group of survivors heading to a portion of Canada known as “Little America.” Once again The Handmaid’s Tale strays from the original source material and gives us more background on the world. The additional world views are something readers and fans of the novel have clamored for and now that we’re getting it, it’s everything we wanted.
The Handmaid’s Tale gives us an hour that helps us fill in the blanks to many of the uncertain fates, the main one being Luke. He’s a character readers loved and the show is the perfect setting to engage in larger stories involving himself and June’s life before Gilead. It’s what makes this episode such a tear-jerker. June and Luke are adorable together and our OTP feels are through the roof, but somehow in the back of our mind we’re thinking of Offred and Nick together. We’ve never been this torn about a couple, EVER.
The episode feels like filler in a season filled with high stakes drama. Not to say Luke isn’t an interesting character who can’t hold an hour, but we genuinely miss Moss. The saddest parts of the episode are when we see Luke, June and Hannah living in the cabin, hiding from the law. We never thought pancakes could make us cry, but they do in this episode. O-T Fagbenle gives his best performance to date in this episode. Spending a lot of the episode by himself, Fagbenle gives it his all. As he single handedly expands the world of The Handmaid’s Tale Fagbenle solidifies himself as one of the breakout stars.
While the scenes where Luke tries desperatly to find June and Hannah are equal parts gut-wrenching and well written, it’s Fagbenle’s work opposite Moss that remind us just how amazing their chemistry truly is. Seeing June, Hannah and Luke living in a cabin and working together to find a better life is the heart of the episode and elevates the episode. Moss and Fagbenle are just one of the many incredible pairings The Handmaid’s Tale has created with Moss at the helm.
The ultimate reason this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale falls flat is because of the lack of Offred/June and possibly the use of flashbacks. It’s not like we haven’t been without Offred/June before. In fact, our favorite episode in episode 3, which heavily focuses on Ofglen/Emily. We’ve been without Offred before, but this episode allows us to see June from Luke’s perspective, something we haven’t experienced yet. Offred is such a important character so to have her seemingly sidelined as we see how Luke sees her is very odd for The Handmaid’s Tale.
The flashbacks within flashbacks are important for us to understand the full story behind Luke’s escape and Offred/June’s captivity, but it makes the episode feel muddled and like a filler episode. There isn’t the pressing need to run that we’ve felt in previously episodes. Usually we’re on the edge of our seats, but in this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale we’re oddly very calm. There’s no sense of running and that speaks to Luke as a character as well. While he spending time trying anxiously to find June and Hannah, as soon as he makes it North it’s as if his efforts stop. The other side of the woods is trying to help, but they don’t understand how horrible Gilead truly is.
The most gut-wrenching, impactful moment from “The Other Side” is actually the final minutes when we return to present day and Luke receives a note from June reading “I love you so much. Save Hannah.” The moment is powerful, poignant and brings us back to the horrific world we’ve been living in for the previous five episodes. Not to say this episode is all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s a welcomed slowdown from the usual The Handmaid’s Tale episodes. As we learn more about Luke and the world outside Gilead, our perspective on Offred’s situation grows increasingly worse. The Handmaid’s Tale gives us a filler episode that expands its characters, but leaves Moss, it’s most vital asset, in the dust.