‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season five: Never giving in

Any fan of the Emmy Award-winning, “The Handmaid’s Tale” could not deny their anticipation for the premiere of the show’s fifth season on Sept. 14. Streamed on Hulu, “The Handmaid’s Tale” expands upon Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, telling the story of June Osborne’s life after being forced to become a Handmaid under the theocratic country of Gilead. As a Handmaid in this dystopian world, June Osborne was faced with bearing children for the Commander whose house she lived in under the guidelines of his wife. I think it’s safe to say the show is set on a pretty wild premise, but fans have shown dedication to watching the characters’ strength against a belief structure that sees them as property.

The fifth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” bluntly opens with a simple question: What now? In season four, fans saw June (Elizabeth Moss) finally escape Gilead and return to her husband and friends as a refugee in Canada, but her intense need for revenge against the vile Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) was at the forefront of her mind until she (literally) tore him apart in last season’s finale. After being cleared of any charges from that murder, June has to deal with the question of whether she is able to move on with her husband and young daughter.

This season deals heavily with forgiveness and our attempts at change. June and her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) do their best to readjust to living as a married couple, but they are still pulled into Gilead when they are reminded that their older daughter is still there. There’s a particularly striking scene in the second episode where we see cuts between scenes of June watching a ballet performance and scenes of Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) conducting a performance of her own at her husband’s televised performance, which is a very clear way of telling the audience that their rivalry isn’t going anywhere. Moreover, Gilead never leaves June as we see rising sentiment for Gilead’s theocratic structure in Canada itself, making the characters’ safe place no longer so. Though the characters living in both Canada and Gilead attempt to change their living conditions, everyone finds it’s not that easy.

And some characters are meant to stay in contact with each other. June would love nothing more than to never see Serena Joy again after all of the abuse and hate she faced from her in Gilead, and yet, she finds herself helping the Commander’s wife to have a baby in a barn this season. However, even though Serena has put June through so much pain, June ultimately decides that change can only happen if we stick to our principles in every situation.

The directors’ passion for the story this season is just as deeply embedded in the show as June’s beliefs. Though the show invites various directors to this 10-episode season, Moss directs multiple episodes, including the finale. While constructing scenes of June fleeing Toronto with her daughter while Gilead’s influence grows, Moss was deeply thinking of the current refugee crises in our own world, showing how a dystopian show like “The Handmaid’s Tale” can help us think through our own present-day problems.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is dark and twisting, but you can’t help but be amazed as the actors beautifully tell a story of human strife and strength against collecting vices of governments and society. The show allows us to see what happens when we make all the wrong choices in our world, but it still conveys that we should never give in to letting injustice take over our lives.

Title: “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season Five

Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Madeline Brewer

Favorite episodes: “Ballet,” “Safe”

Where to watch: Hulu

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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Buckle your seatbelts, it’s time to study abroad

I had a lot of expectations about how my study abroad was going to go, and none of them came to fruition the way I thought they would. Now, this isn’t to say I didn’t have the best time of my life — I definitely did. That being said, my study abroad experience taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve gotten out of my time at Notre Dame: Just go with it.

When I found out I was accepted into the Rome Undergraduate Program in January 2021, I immediately let my Lizzie McGuire dreams run wild. I would stare at maps of Europe, read about Rome and practice my Italian whenever I could. I had never been abroad before, so my parents and I were anxiously looking into airline tickets and what was the right luggage to take. Given that the only flight I had ever taken was to Orlando with the band for the Camping World Bowl Game in December 2019, I was nervous about flying across the Atlantic by myself. However, by the time the end of fall semester 2021 rolled around, I felt ready to go to Europe that next month. As fate would have it, though, everything went to the dumpster fire.

My journey to Italy consisted of a bickering-filled car ride with my mother, who was even more stressed with dropping me off alone due to my dad’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, a very strange interaction with the German customs agent who made me show him my wallet at 6:15 a.m. and over an hour-long wait for my ride in the Fiumicino Airport parking lot. I should have known then that I’d be in for a wild ride.

My time in Europe was filled with crazy adventures to different cities, countries and places within Rome. I met so many great friends in the RUP program, and I strengthened my previous friendships from campus by visiting people in other programs. Reflecting on all of those happy memories, I can’t help but remember how much those bonds grew with the pressure of traveling. I’ll give you a fan favorite among my friends.

Imagine this: it’s the end of your spring break and you’re in Paris. The weather has been gorgeous all weekend, you’ve seen so many beautiful pieces of art and your eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store when the Eiffel Tower started sparkling at night. You’re feeling pretty good when it’s time for you and your friends to head back to Rome, where you also know your parents have just landed to visit you. That’s when the chaos hits. Ryanair’s airport is an hour and a half outside of the city, and the only feasible option to get there is to take the bus they recommend getting on two-and-a-half hours before your flight. You and your friends were already late getting to your storage locker, so you’re sitting in the back of an Uber with stuff piled on your laps up to your necks. There’s about two minutes until your bus is about to leave, so your friends push you out of the side door when the car stops, and you frantically run to the French driver yelling in English to hold the bus. Turns out, there’s a very long line of people that you still had to wait through, so you end up missing the next two buses, too.

We ended up making it onto the plane by the grace of God. We had to run from the bus to the gate, but luckily, they ended up holding the plane for us thanks to two of our friends who had left earlier. I’ll never forget the look of the Italian man in the plane seat next to me who looked very concerned when I showed up panting with all of my friends. I’m telling you this story as an example of what I most valued out of my personal journey during study abroad. I learned to just deal with things.

A person can learn a lot from immersing themselves in another culture. When a language is being spoken around you that you don’t fully understand, you become so much more self-aware and notice more about what exactly makes up a culture by noticing the differences from your own. It’s a scary thing to do at first, but anybody would come out of an experience like that feeling more mature and capable of taking on any situation. In my case, I never felt more like an adult than I did when I was living in Rome. I may not have met a Paolo and sang in the Colosseum like Lizzie McGuire, but I did grow a whole lot more into myself.

You can contact Sophia at

This views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.