‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Why Luke Is Better in the TV Show

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name. Atwood recently published a sequel to the book titled The Testaments, which the TV show will incorporate into future seasons. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Luke differs greatly from his book counterpart, and Hulu changed his character for the better. Disclaimer, this article contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.

The Handmaid's Tale Luke
O. T. Fagbenle plays Luke in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Trae Patton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Luke raises June and Nick’s daughter in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

In season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale, Luke takes on the responsibility of raising June’s daughter Holly, who goes by Nichole. At the time he meets Nichole, Luke is under the impression that the baby is a product of rape between Commander Waterford and June.

Midway through the season, June finds a way to tell Luke that Nichole’s real name is Holly, and she is actually the product of love. In doing so, June reveals her love affair with Nick. Luke raising Holly shows him doing something positive out of his love for June.

In The Testaments, June’s daughter is not raised by Luke and her friend Moira. Instead, she is raised in Canada by two Mayday operatives. While season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale came out before The Testaments, this change finally gave Luke an active story line.

Luke was less passive in season 3 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

As a whole, Luke is an underwhelming character in both the book and Hulu’s TV show. By raising Holly, season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale finally gives Luke something to do. As an actor, O. T. Fagbenle is given more emotional moments and a running story line.

In the first two seasons of the show and Atwood’s book, Luke is mainly used to show that June was happy in her life before Gilead. Most of his scenes occur in flashbacks. While in Canada, Luke struggles with survivor’s guilt and his inability to do much to help those in Gilead.

“One of the things I like about playing Luke is his impotence, in a way. He loves his wife and family so much and yet he is completely unable to help them,” Fagbenle told Harper’s Bazaar. “So he has to sit there with the reality of his incompetence and his lack of knowledge and his lack of capacity to help.”

The character is less misogynistic on the TV show

In the novel, Atwood wrote Luke to be a very passive character who could be construed as misogynistic. While he in no way is as bad as the leaders of Gilead, Luke shows that at times he is not a feminist ally.

Luke often makes passive comments in the book about the difference between men and women, like how men need to eat steak more than women. After June loses her job in the book, she narrates that she realizes Luke does not mind her having to depend on him.

“He doesn’t mind this, I thought. He doesn’t mind it at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other’s, anymore. Instead, I am his,” June says in the book.

In the TV show, Luke still insists that he will take care of June after she loses his job, but both Moira and June call him out for being patronizing. In doing so, some humor is added from Samira Wiley’s Moira, and the moment is not as serious as it was in the book.

While Luke still comes across as passive and underwhelming at times, and still has an affair like he did in the book, his questionable moments are played down in Hulu’s version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on season 3, it seems Luke will also be taking a more proactive role in Canada. In doing so, Hulu has improved Luke’s character from the book.