The Season 4 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale was extremely satisfying, because Commander Fred Waterford finally got his due.
Fred was beaten up and hung to death by June and other women who escaped from Gilead after international law fails to deliver justice for June. But what are the consequences?
In the final episode, Nick reveals that the area where Fred was murdered is actually “No Man’s Land”. Now, what does that mean and where exactly is No Man’s Land?
1. Where Is No Man’s Land?
According to the political definition, no man’s land is basically land which does not fall within the official boundaries of any country. It is an area of land which separates one country’s boundary from another.
In this context, the two countries in question are Canada and the dystopian world of Gilead, where the series is set.
In other words, no man’s land is the area which does not fall under the boundaries of either Gilead or Canada. So, none of the two governments in question can assert their control, rules or laws in this region.
This is where Fred was murdered. Since the land is not within the jurisdiction of either country, the police cannot take charge of the crime as easily.
That means, neither the Gilead can legally punish June for the murder, nor the Canadian government or defence because the crime was not committed within the boundaries of their country.
This is without explanation a huge advantage for June because it will be difficult to imprison her for the murder now. At the bottom of our hearts, we all want June to getaway after all, don’t we?
After all the pain and assault she faced in the hands of Fred, it is only poetic justice that he dies in the hands of June and his other victims.
So, it is a loophole that the murder was committed in no man’s land.
2. The Geographical Location Of No Man’s Land
In the final episode of Season 4, Commander Fred Waterford was handed over to Nick Blaine in the Gilead-Canada border. Then, he was taken to No Man’s Land where June and the other escapees killed him.
So, it only makes sense that No Man’s Land is the intermediate or unoccupied area located between the borders of Gilead and Canada. Gilead is the dystopian reality where the series is set in.
Geographically speaking this dystopian reality is based within the US and Gilead seems to be controlling most of the continent except some disputed areas. So these small pockets of America are not under the control of Gilead, and situated near the Canadian border.
No Man’s Land is where neither the Gilead nor Canada or its government has established its presence and can cover a few yards or even miles.
3. Why Is No Man’s Land Significant?
Apart from the loophole situation that I explained above, I feel it is also significant because the area is symbolic of June’s mental state.
It is the philosophical representation of June’s mental turmoil which we see her fighting in Season 4. She cannot let go her past in the Gilead where she spent seven years being tortured as a handmaid. She is unable to forget the trauma.
On the other hand, she is unable to live her life as a free woman in Canada because she is constantly in ambiguity. She is also a refugee in Canada, so she has no proper citizenship yet.
Besides, if you think of the brilliant symbolism in Fred’s murder taking place in no man’s land, isn’t it great that in his last few moments, he spent it in an area which is not under the control of any government but a group of women takes control?
It is significant because Fred is the symbol of Gilead’s totalitarian, facist and patriarchal regime and the women are symbolic of their rebellion to break this patriarchal construct. This is just the beginning, but it is a huge step for the women who faced years of oppression.
So I feel No Man’s Land has more meaning to it than what it means on paper. It obviously makes the murder of Fred much more complicated but beyond that it also has a deeper significance which I personally loved.
4. About The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale is an American dystopian television series created by Bruce Miller for Hulu. It is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name.
Set in the fictional dystopian state of Gilead, where fertile women are kept as “handmaids” and are subjected to child-bearing slavery, the series Offred (June Osbourne) and her fight for her freedom from Gilead, along with all the oppressed.
The series has covered four seasons worth of runtime, and the fifth season will premiere on Hulu on 14 September 2022.