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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 premiere immediately returned to the aftermath of Fred’s death. The first episode followed June’s unpredictable reaction, but episode 2 took viewers back to Gilead. Janine (Madeline Brewer) and Esther (Mckenna Grace) are under Aunt Lydia’s watch at the Red Center. Although the handmaids appear to have bonded, Esther makes a shocking decision in episode 2.

[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 2.] 

In The Handmaid's Tale Season 5, Janine and Esther sit on a bed in the Red Center.
Madeline Brewer as Janine and Mckenna Grace as Esther in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5 | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5 caught back up with Janine and Esther in Gilead

Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, Esther Keyes, a former wife was turned into a Handmaid after she hid June, Janine, and the other escaped women. Janine began working with Aunt Lydia at the Red Center, helping prepare newly recruited Handmaids. There, Esther and Janine were reunited.

Initially, Esther rebelled and refused to eat. However, Janine convinced her to comply to stay alive and unmaimed. By The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Esther seems to have entered a reluctant state of obedience, as well as a friendship with Janine.

Things quickly take a turn during a trip to the Putnam’s house. Aunt Lydia tells Janine that she is considering posting Esther there and allows her to accompany Esther to the family’s home. There, Janine is reunited with her daughter Charlotte.

After they return to the Red Center, Esther shares chocolates that she snuck from the Putnams with Janine. Then she drops a bombshell. “You don’t care about me. You just wanted to see your daughter, right?” Esther says to Janine. “No, you lied to me. You used me like Aunt Lydia — like they all do, and you’re one of them.” The pair then begin to cough up blood, revealing that Esther poisoned the chocolates.

McKenna Grace was shocked when she learned what her character does

Esther actor McKenna Grace was shocked when she got the news about this scene. “So I got a message from—I’m pretty sure it was [showrunner] Bruce Miller—I got a message about the script,” Grace told Elle Magazine. “I can’t say what the message was about, because I can’t spoil or say too much, but he was like, ‘Yeah, something really crazy happens, so just beware whenever you’re reading the script.'”

“Then I got a message from Miss Madeline [Brewer] and she was like, ‘Oh my God, you little turd.’ I was like, ‘What’s going on?'” Grace continued, “I got sent the script that day, and I was reading it, and I was flabbergasted, for sure. I could not believe it. ‘I do what? Why am I yelling right now? Why is my character freaking out? Oh my God. Am I dead? Do I die two episodes in? Oh my God. Esther!'”


‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 5 Explores the Rise of Gilead in Canada

Ann Dowd describes Esther’s actions as ‘unthinkable’

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Episode 2 ended on a cliffhanger, leaving fans uncertain whether Janine and Esther will survive. Aunt Lydia rushed into the room, calling for help for the young handmaids. In a featurette, Ann Dowd stated that to her character Aunt Lydia, Esther’s actions are “unthinkable.” The actor added, “She knew something could go wrong. She just didn’t know it could be that.”

Don’t miss new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5 Wednesdays on Hulu.