The Handmaid’s Tale is, without a doubt, one of my favourite TV shows ever – and not just because I have a thing for dystopian hellscapes. Rather, it’s the fact that every single song on the soundtrack has a secret message. That everything (and I mean everything) which happens in the series is inspired by real life events. That it’s packed full of absolute powerhouse performances from brilliant women like Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Yvonne Strahovski, and Ann Dowd.
Most of all, I love that The Handmaid’s Tale dutifully brings Margaret Atwood’s terrifying feminist novel to life, and somehow manages to take it further than the book ever did – all without compromising the message of the original 1985 tome.
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The making of The Handmaid’s Tale
For the past three seasons, I’ve followed June’s journey from timid Handmaid to bold revolutionary. And, like many fans, I’ve lamented her inability to escape Gilead’s theocratic and deeply misogynistic regime (one thing we can all agree on when it comes to June: she’s very, very bad at escaping).
I’m all about, basically, WWJD: What Will June Do?
It seems, though, that others are a little less invested in June’s plans to overthrow Gilead, and far more engrossed in her love life. Specifically, whether she’s going to end up with Nick (Max Minghella) or reunite with her Canadian-bound husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle).
I guess, to put it bluntly, they’re more into the who than the what June will do.
The Team Luke and Team Nick camps are firmly entrenched across all social media platforms. And they are very, very, very passionate about their chosen love interest.
“I prefer June and her husband,” reads one comment from a member of Team Luke. “She and Nick would have never got together if not for their circumstances.”
Responding to this, one Nick shipper has said: “June should be with Nick. She’s changed too much to still be with Luke; he wouldn’t understand.”
Essentially, the argument for each man is pretty much the same; the Nick fans reckon he’s been there for her during these dark times, that they share a bond unlike any other, and that Luke – who escaped to Canada without her and his daughter – can never hope to reconnect with June on a romantic level after all that’s happened.
The Luke fans, meanwhile, insist that theirs is a relationship that can withstand anything. That he always knew she had this fire in her. That, when they finally lay eyes upon one another again, they will fall back in love immediately. And they often point out that Nick, who first slept with June under orders of Serena Joy and fought to help make Gilead a reality in the early days, is a potential villain in the making.
Of course, everyone has a good point. And love is love is love, after all – it’s always nice to celebrate love. But I can’t help but think everyone that’s gotten bogged down in these Team Luke vs Team Nick debates has pretty much missed the entire point of The Handmaid’s Tale.
This is a show, after all, about women being victimised by a totalitarian system that attempts to control their thoughts, their bodies, their every waking moment. It’s about one woman in particular – June – and her struggle to win back her freedom, not to mention rescue the young daughter that was cruelly taken from her. And the only ‘happy ever after’ we need at the end of this show, really, is to see June and Hannah finally escape Gilead (or, y’know, burn the whole place to the ground).
The only team we should really be rooting for, then, is Team June. And if she deigns to share her heart with anyone come the end of all this, great – but the show won’t be any worse for it if she doesn’t.
Why? Well, because both men are representative of the patriarchy that put June in this position; Nick for more obvious reasons (as mentioned, he fought in the Crusades), but Luke, too. Remember, he was happy to sign the form giving his wife permission to pick up birth control pills, and he wasn’t exactly horrified when her bank account (along with that of every other US woman) was frozen; instead, he told her that he’d always look after her. And Luke wasn’t out marching with her and Moira when women all across the country were stripped of their jobs, either.
Both men have their good points, and both men have their bad. But they are not the heroes of this tale, destined to ride in and rescue June on a white charger; rather, she is the maker of her own destiny. Her fate is squarely in her own hands. It’s the women she allies herself with – the Moiras, the Janines, the Emilys, the Ritas – that have seen her through thus far.
As one viewer puts it on Facebook, June doesn’t need a man, because “she’s a total badass on her own.” So let’s try to remember that the next time someone wafts a tempting Team Nick vs Team Luke debate under our noses, yeah?
The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 will air on Channel 4 this summer.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.