The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 13/Season Finale: The Word Recap


Also: Serena’s Doors and Windows; June and Serena’s Journeys in Season 2 and the Future; Silencing the Women of Gilead; The Changes in Gilead: From Motherhood to Obedience to Polygamy?; Baby Nichole’s Big Adventure; John 1:1 and Teaching Daughters to Read the Word of God; The Martha Relay Race; and Maps of Gilead and Interpretation

In season 2 episode 13, The Word, Serena reads a Bible verse out loud to the Council that ends by saying the word was God. In this episode, the word is also Out. Everyone wants out of their current situation. Serena and the wives speak out for their daughters and all of the daughters of Gilead. The Marthas out themselves as the true Resistance. Rita is outed as the Black Widow of Gilead, just as I always knew she was. Emily and Nichole get out of Boston, maybe Gilead. Fred wants disobedient women out of his life. June opts out of escaping, choosing instead to work toward getting Hannah and all of the daughters of Gilead out of danger from the growing reign of terror. And Lydia is taken out of the game by Emily, at least temporarily.

By the end of the episode, everyone is outside of their normal status, and it’s unclear whether they’ll ever go back to what had become normal. In the beginning of season 1, Aunt Lydia promised the handmaids that the rules and restrictions of Gilead would come to feel normal and ordinary to them with time. She was wrong. In the last few episodes we’ve seen women and men at every level of Gilead society rebel, from a high-ranking commander to an Unwoman who barely got a reprieve from the Colonies and death.

Serena quoted Isaiah last episode, verse 49:25, in which God promises to deliver the captives and save the children. This episode, a captive was delivered, and a child was saved, but they were brought out of their captivity in Gilead, the enemy of the good. She left out the next verse, where God promises to “make your oppressors eat their own flesh” (Isaiah 49:26*). This is literally and figuratively what’s happening in Gilead. Gilead is cutting up its people, a piece at a time. In this episode, we saw Commander Putnam, who has one hand; Cora and Janine, who each have one eye; Emily, who had a clitorectomy and lost a tooth; Serena, who gave up a finger to the cause; and we heard Aunt Lydia refer to Lillie, who had her tongue cut out. Mr Spencer metaphorically ate his own flesh by turning his daughter in to the Guardians, leading to her execution. Commander Lawrence drove his wife insane by becoming a mass murderer in service of Gilead.

Every part of society is creating rebels, leading to greater metaphorical cannibalism. Since Gilead can’t give unhappy people anything else to do to distract them from their unhappiness, their unhappiness grows and festers. The commanders have no way to squash unhappiness but harsher and harsher punishments, which only leads to more anger and rebellion. Gilead is caught in a loop, feeding on itself, creating unrest by trying to squash it. There’s no way to stop the unrest but annihilation of one side or the other or a huge course change. No other country needs to attack Gilead to bring it down. It’s eating its own people killing itself at a rapidly increasing pace.

But before Gilead self-destructs, let’s rescue an innocent baby and a desperate handmaid. And maybe bring a wife a little closer to the coconuts and treason we all know she wants.

“This is all she leaves behind. There won’t be a marker anywhere. Heretics don’t get to rest in peace. Here, they use them as animal feed. Aunt Lydia told us that at the Red Center. Waste not, want not. All we leave behind is the uniform. Wife. Handmaid. Martha. Mother. Daughter. Girlfriend. Queen. Bitch. Criminal. Sinner. Heretic. Prisoner.”

June and Rita wash and fold Eden’s clothing and prepare her belongings for her father to collect. Unlike Lillie, who died as Ofglen, Eden died with her own name, but Gilead will still make sure that she’s forgotten, and will desecrate her body. They will feed her to the livestock, which will then feed Gilead, another way that Gilead feeds on its own flesh. Another way in which the women are nothing more than livestock, and sometimes less.

As they fold Eden’s clothing, June notices that it’s handmade, perhaps made by Eden herself. It reminds her that her mother could make her own clothing, but June is unable to sew even the simplest projects. Sewing as metaphor for activism and strength.

(Serena knits and hates it, but does it anyway. By the time she had her baby, she was prepared, with a trunkful of clothing.)

Rita is awash in guilt. She wishes she’d treated Eden better and tried to help her more. June tries to top Rita in the “treated Eden badly” contest by saying that she slept with Eden’s husband, but they both know that June had the prior claim to Nick, and that June was the only person in the Waterford household who really listened to Eden and tried to talk to her on her own terms. Everyone else was always caught up in their own agenda. June didn’t have a perfect track record with Eden, because she’s only human, but she’s the only one who tried to do right by the young woman.

Rita says that she should have tried harder to help Eden, then leaves the room, nearly in tears. June continues going through Eden’s things and finds a picture of Eden with her sister. Then she finds a carefully hidden Bible. It’s filled with Eden’s handwritten notes and drawings.

June takes the Bible to Serena, who’s with Nichole in the greenhouse, talking about Lillies. June shows Serena the Bible and the notes. Serena’s first reaction is to say that Eden was hiding more sins. June argues that this isn’t another sin. She was a 15 year old reading the Bible and trying to understand God. Serena thinks that Eden should have been smarter and stronger. June asks how Serena will keep Nichole safe. Serena insists that her daughter will be raised properly and will obey the word of God. June retorts that Nichole won’t be able to read His word, so how will she understand and obey it? As always, Serena can’t handle the truth and throws June out. June leaves, with one last, long “You know I’m right” look. She’s planted the seed. She knows that now she needs to give Serena time to think that it’s her own idea.

The household gathers in the living room to receive Eden’s father, who apologizes to everyone for Eden’s terrible behavior. Nick is forgiving. Fred is horrible, saying that it was a grave mistake to bring Eden into their home. Mr Spencer says that he’s ashamed, and Fred agrees that he should be. Serena tries to salvage the situation by talking about the family farm and how much Eden missed it. Mr Spencer says that Eden was the light of his life.

Rita leaves the room in tears. Fred brings up Eden’s sister, and twists the knife by instructing Mr Spencer to raise this daughter better than he raised Eden. Mr Spencer assures Fred that they’re doing everything they can to set a better example for their remaining daughter. They turned Eden in as soon as she and Isaac arrived at the farm.

June and Serena react like they’ve been slapped. June says, “You turned her in?” Mr Spencer acknowledges that yes he did. Fred is impressed by Spencer’s “faith”. Serena tactfully walks Mr Spencer out of the room.

As Fred follows behind a moment later, June asks what he’s going to do when they come for his daughter? Fred keeps walking, closes the door, walks back to June, and slaps her, saying, “Mind your tongue.” June turns around and slaps him back.

He grabs her by the jaw and walks her back onto the couch while misquoting the Bible at her, as he is fond of doing. This why it’s important for the girls to be able to read the Bible too. If the Bible is law, and only the leaders can read it, then they can change it or make up passages as they see fit. The women have no way of legally fighting back if they can’t read the Bible/law for themselves. But, obviously, that’s the point.

Fred says, “The mouth of a woman is a deep pit and he that falls therein will suffer. You are the misery of all man. All of you.” Then he roughly pulls his hand away and leaves the room.

Not sure why he didn’t at least hit her again. It seems like that should have been worth of the loss of a body part, but I guess he wants his sexual obsession to remain intact for the moment.

Rita gets June ice for her bruise and they both chuckle over how good it feels that someone hit Fred back for once. Nick comes into the room and Rita tells him his girlfriend is a bad**s, but then gives him a look that seems to say he also needs to get her under control before she gets herself killed.


Nick and June finally have a minute alone, and he allows her to comfort him over Eden. Nichole has just woken up and needs to be fed, so June takes him to the nursery to hold their baby for the first time. Rita stands in the hall as lookout. It’s a sweet moment for the little family. June finally tells Nick she loves him. This time, he doesn’t say it back. It’s too soon after Eden, and he’s too overwhelmed.

The next day, the handmaids go for a cheery walk by the wall to visit Eden and Isaac’s bodies. They’ve grown so used to the sight of dead people hanging there that they continue their normal conversations without missing a beat. The guardians standing watch barely notice the handmaids. The wall has grown normal and ordinary, just as Aunt Lydia said it would with repeated exposure.

Janine thinks about the happy side of Eden’s story, the part where she died for love and is maybe with her true love in heaven. June, ever the practical one, insists that the story should have ended with the lovers together and alive. Janine snaps that June is always so negative, even though Janine has more to complain about, and she points to her eye.

I feel a chorus of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Death” coming on.

June tells the others that she found a Bible in with Eden’s things. They agree that she was brave.

Emily shares that her first ceremony with her new commander is that evening. The others commiserate about the awkwardness and general horribleness of the situation. Then Emily tells June that she keeps dreaming about Oliver, since his 7th birthday is next week. They joke about celebrating with cake or tequilla. Janine misses tequilla most of all.

Emily tells June that she’s glad she got to come back and to see June again.

The wives are having an elegant, staid gathering for an unspecified reason. Naomi and Serena note that Angela’s health continues to improve. Then they have one of those conversations where everything means something else, though it gradually shifts toward honesty. Serena wants to know how much Naomi worries about their daughters and what their lives will become. They hatch a plan to talk to the other mothers in their circle about making a change so that their daughters can have lives with purpose, which is code for learning to read.

Sadly, we don’t get to see the meeting. It would be good to know if the mothers were all in accord, or if some needed convincing.

Emily prepares herself for the Ceremony by stopping in the kitchen and slipping a large knife into her skirt. Once she’s fully prepped, she kneels on a pillow in Commander Lawrence’s study. No one else is there. After a minute, the commander comes in but ignores her. He does call out for Cora, the Martha, to get him some juice, but she’s not around.

He asks Emily if she knows where Cora is, then says that this is the problem with Gilead’s economy. How is he supposed to motivate employees without salaries to leverage? He mentions Herzberg.

Then Commander Lawrence notices that Emily is kneeling and tells her that he’s not doing the Ceremony with her. Sounding disgusted, he sends her to her room.

The lights come on in the council chamber, and we’re given a view of the podium that makes it look like an altar. Lambs are about to be brought in for the sacrificial slaughter.

Serena walks in first, alone. One of the council members asks if Fred forgot his lunch. Fred gets his demonic look. Serena explains to the council that they would like to bring an amendment proposal for the council to consider, as their covenant allows. The other wives all come in to join her. The other husbands all look uncomfortable. The wives look exhilarated. They’re doing something they believe in, that gives them much needed purpose.


Serena makes her pitch. The Holy Scripture was a gift to humanity from God and everyone should be taught to read it, sons and daughters alike. They offer this proposal with love and the deepest respect. The council feels this is a radical proposal, but they will consider it (not).

Sensing she’s losing the room, Serena takes out Eden’s Bible and reads John 1:1, a rare New Testament choice for her. As Serena reads, many of the wives walk out, not wanting to be associated with rule breaking of this magnitude. To her credit, Naomi stays by Serena’s side, even though the Bible verse obviously wasn’t planned. Fred looks embarrassed and deeply ashamed of his wife. Serena is so busy feeling alive again that she misses Fred’s reaction.

Afterward, Naomi chastises Serena for reading, and Serena responds with the quote, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” There’s a bit of discussion about where the quote is from before Serena admits it was William Basil King, a Canadian minister. Their daughters won’t have exposure or access to anything remotely like that quote. Serena is lucky that she has a good memory and can still pull quotes and their sources out.

Fred enters the lobby alone and condescendingly thanks and dismisses the ladies. Serena stays behind to ask what the council thought of their proposal. She seems to think that Fred is on her side and will be proud of her, the way he was proud of her speeches before the revolution. But those days are long, long gone.

When Fred doesn’t respond to her, Serena touches his arm softly, the first time she’s voluntarily touched him since he whipped her, and says, “I did this for Nichole. I did this to set an example for our daughter.”

As she’s speaking, two Guardians enter the room. Fred says, “And so you have.” Then he walks away while the Guardians drag Serena away, screaming. Just when you thought he couldn’t get more vile.

Over at Commander Lawrence’s funhouse, Aunt Lydia has stopped by for insults and congratulations after Ofjoseph’s Emily’s first Ceremony in her new home. Commander Fun and Games lied and told Lydia that they had a heckuva good time during the ceremony, so Lydia’s as thrilled as she can be with Ofjoseph Emily, which isn’t much different from her usual state of insults and annoyance.

Ofjoseph Emily thought she’d been rejected by Commander Brilliant and Important and was about to be sent back to the Colonies, or maybe straight to the wall, so she’s trying to figure out what her adversary’s latest move means and doesn’t answer Lydia as quickly as Lydia would prefer. This sends Lydia into high gear, because she Will Not Be Ignored by a mere gender traitor. She takes the insults one step too far, away from Emily, and toward Lillie.

Aunt Lydia snipes, “It’s like I cut out your tongue.” She sweeps out of Emily’s bedroom, not grasping that she’s triggering Emily’s violence button and she should not turn her back on the handmaid. Emily grabs her kitchen knife from its hiding place on the bed and stabs Aunt Lydia in the back. When Lydia turns toward Emily, Emily punches her in the face and knocks her down the stairs. Then Emily takes a moment to admire her work.

But Lydia is a tough old bird, and she hasn’t even been knocked unconscious yet. Emily goes down to the landing that Lydia is resting on, and kicks Lydia several more times, hard, before kicking her down the second flight of stairs to the main floor of the house. Lydia is still conscious, and the knife is still in her back. Emily stands and looks down at her, satisfied.

Cora finds Emily and Lydia, exclaiming, “You don’t know what you’ve done!” She yells for Lawrence to call an ambulance, and drags Emily back up to her room, telling her to stay there. Emily is jubilant at first, then the enormity of what she’s done sinks in and she becomes distraught. She sits on the floor in a corner of her room to await whatever happens next.

June answers the door at the Waterford house, since Rita seems to be out somewhere. A dazed Serena drags in and asks for Nichole, followed by Fred, who hands June a bag of medical supplies to bring upstairs. Fred leads Serena to her bedroom.

He’s once again gentle and kind with Serena, as he always is after the abuse is over. June follows them and questions if Serena is okay. Fred answers. “We had a difficult day, but all will be well, from here on.” Then he suggests she lie down. SO CREEPY.

Fred drops Serena’s wedding ring on her nightstand, then leaves to go make some tea. Such a stereotypical abuser, all solicitous of Serena once he’s done with the violence. I wouldn’t be surprised if she never puts that ring on again.

June brings in the bag of supplies, and asks what happened. Serena unwraps the bandage around her hand to show her amputated left pinkie. They took her straight from the council chamber to the hospital, the b*st**ds. She tearfully tells June that she tried. June sits next to her and takes her uninjured hand.

They are reflected in Serena’s full length mirror, united in purpose and emotion. There’s no difference between them now, except the color of their dresses.

June saunters downstairs and into the kitchen, where Fred is frustratedly yelling for Rita.

She’s still missing. She’s never missing. Nick is strikingly absent as well, despite the fact that June is likely going to need some emotional wrangling.

Oops, too late.

Fred: God send me an obedient woman.

June: You let them do that to Serena.

Fred: We all have our all roles to play. Serena needed to be reminded of hers.

[By disfiguring her. Fred should probably be forcibly reminded of his role too. I know the body part I’d like to start with.]

Fred (with impeccably tone deaf timing): An obedient handmaid might be able to stay in this house. How does that sound?

June (whose brain is exploding with conflicting emotions): It’s not allowed.

Fred: Well, rules can be bent for a high-ranking commander. You could stay with your baby. We could try again. For a boy this time. It could be fun.

June: Go fuck yourself, Fred.

Fred: I might even be able to arrange more visits with Hannah, as long as you behave properly. Think about it.

Let’s review. Fred can break the rules to have June move in as permanent sex toy and baby boy factory, but he couldn’t break them to ask the other commanders to give Serena a break for “reading” one Bible verse that she actually had memorized. The book was a prop. And she was making a point.

Also, Fred wasn’t actually making a request. That was a threat to Hannah’s safety should June continue her disobedience, or refuse to stay. He knows the only way he’s going to get a son is by having June and Nick continue to make babies for him. He’s not going to take the chance that another handmaid will be both fertile and willing to sleep with Nick. And that Nick will sleep with her. That’s a tedious amount of blackmail to figure out, when he’s got a good situation set up already.

His timing wasn’t so tone deaf after all, since he only appeared to be asking her to do something. Blackmailing her right after he’s shown how far he’s willing to go with his wife over a minor offense is perfect timing.

That night, Commander Lack of Communication retrieves Emily from her room. He looms over her and asks, “What are we gonna do with you?” before frog marching her down the stairs. Eleanor rushes out to say goodbye, and Emily yells that it was nice knowing her. Emily once again assumes she’s headed to her death. Commander Lovebird yells at Eleanor to go back to her room, because she doesn’t need to be involved in this, throwing a “my love” onto the end. Aww.

Commander Rockstar taunts Emily a bit in the car before playing Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox. He adorably dances along to it. Or he uses it to further taunt her about where he’s taking her, probably to her execution. The first time I watched the episode, I reacted the same way that Emily does. I felt like I was walking on broken glass and was so glad when he turned it off. Once you’ve seen the rest of the episode, it just becomes an upbeat song that’s maybe a bit insensitive.

But he still hasn’t told Emily what’s coming, so she’s terrified, and it comes off as a cruel song choice. He seems to think that she’ll have figured out what’s happening, which explains a lot about him.

As June finishes nursing Nichole and gets ready to put her down for the night, she notices that a house across the street is on fire. Rita bursts into the nursery and tells June that they (“Friends, Marthas”) can get her and the baby out, but it needs to be right now. She needs to go get her shoes. Rita takes the baby and gets her ready while June grabs her shoes, sweater and Hannah’s photo from her room. She does one other quick chore before she leaves, then meets Rita in the nursery.

As Rita hands her the baby, she tells June to “Go past the greenhouse all the way to the corner of the yard. They will find you.” June gives Rita a hug and leaves.

On her way down the stairs, she sees Nick outside. He looks up at her in the landing window and nods to her, acknowledging that he knows and is okay with what’s happening. The landing window and front steps are like their Romeo and Juliet balcony. How many times have they shared meaningful looks involving those spaces?

June creeps through the yard, trying to get past the greenhouse without being noticed by Serena, who is, of course, inside. A tiny thing like an amputated finger wouldn’t slow Serena Joy Waterford down. It was only a pinkie. Also, I need some of those painkillers she’s on.

Fred is in his study examining a new map of Gilead (screencap below). He notices the flashing lights and goes to find out what’s happening, first asking Rita. She freezes and blankly tells him she doesn’t know. Not the smartest response, but pretty typical for a Martha whenever there’s an emergency. They generally go into survival mode.

Fred looks out the window and looks back at Rita, who gives him a side eye that seethes with resentment. For once in his life, Fred figures out that he’s outnumbered and hated in his own household. He runs for the nursery and discovers the empty crib. Then he panics and runs to June’s room, calling for her. It’s empty, obviously, but the phrase “Nolite te b*stardes carborundorum” is carved into her wall.

Nick comes up the stairs. Fred orders him to put together a search team. Nick orders Fred to stay inside. Fred angrily screams that his child is missing. Nick firmly puts one hand on his gun and the other on Fred’s shoulder, and calmly says, “It’s too dangerous out there. We’ll stay in here.”

There is a fire going on, after all. We wouldn’t want to risk such an important commander’s safety. We should probably thoroughly search the house before jumping to conclusions anyway. Remember what happened at the MacKenzies’, when June was right there the whole time?

In fact, I bet she’ll turn up in half an hour or so.

Nick is a quiet guy, but he’s willing to do what’s necessary to protect his family. He’s going to make sure that his girlfriend and daughter make it to safety before anyone sounds the alarm that they’re missing. His baby girl isn’t going to grow up as the child of Fred Waterford, wife beater and rapist.

Just as June reaches the garden gate and finds the Martha who’s waiting for her, Serena spots her and rushes to stop her. They stand at the gate and quietly debate whether June can take the baby with her or not. Serena doesn’t try to stop June from leaving at all.

June: I can get her out. I can get her out of this place.

Serena (sobbing): No, no.

June: She cannot grow up here. She cannot grow up in this place. Listen to me. You know she can’t. I know that you love her so much.

Serena (still crying): I do.

June: I’ve seen it. You can do it.

Serena: I can’t.

June: Yes you can. Please. I know how much you love her.

There’s practically a light shining out of June at this point. She’s willing Serena to love Nichole enough to let her go, and trusting her to continue to stay quiet. She’s drawing on everything that they’ve been through together for the last two seasons, and asking Serena to make the hardest sacrifice that a mother can make. June’s counting on Serena putting her child’s needs before herself, even though it means she might lose her child forever. She respects Serena as a mother enough to give her a moment to make the decision herself, and Serena does the right thing.

Serena: Let me have her, so I can say goodbye.

June says okay, and gives Serena the baby without hesitation. Serena says a prayer over Nichole, then hands her back to June. June thanks Serena for letting them go, then she’s running down the street with the Martha. She’s relayed through the backyards of the neighborhood by the Marthas. There are secret holes cut in the fences where there aren’t gates. A fiery car accident has been arranged to distract from where June has to cross a street.

There were 6 Marthas who helped June. The last one leads her through a grassy field and tells her to wait by the side of the road. It took approximately 4 minutes of show time for June to get from the Waterford’s yard to the rendezvous spot. She appeared to circle around the same fiery car crash, which was only a block or so from the Waterford’s house.

While June waits for the next signal, she pulls out Hannah’s photo, and remembers singing to her when Hannah was little. She sang Velvet Underground’s I’ll Be Your Mirror while they were on Hannah’s bed and Luke watched from the doorway.

I’ll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you’re home
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
Cause I see you

The lyrics that June sings promise that she’ll always be there to reflect the best of Hannah back to her, to always remind Hannah that June knows her and loves her. This is the promise she made to Hannah when she was a baby. The last time June saw Hannah, she asked June to try harder to be her mother. Those are the promises she needs to keep, and she realizes that she can’t keep them if she leaves Gilead.

June promised Nichole that she wouldn’t be born or grow up in Gilead. Nichole didn’t have a Gilead birth ritual. Now June is about to get her out of the country. Nichole is a tiny enough baby that she can still be raised by others and be happy. She won’t feel abandoned by June in the same way that Hannah does.

And there are all of the other women and girls in Gilead who need someone to fight for them, the way June’s mother fought for women. I could be wrong, but I think she also might want to go back and help Serena continue the fight against the tyranny of Fred in particular. Fred has threatened the safety of both of her children, and hurt her and Moira. A little face to face revenge while saving people might feel good.

June knows that she can’t leave Gilead until she can bring Hannah out with her. Maybe not until the current government has fallen and Gilead’s women are safe. She shows Nichole the photo of Hannah and promises that the sisters will meet someday, then tearfully tucks the photo into Nichole’s blankets.

Commander Lawrence’s car pulls up in the tunnel that June is waiting near. They flash their headlights for June to come out and their ride to come to the rendezvous point. Lawrence brings Emily out of the car. She and June go to each other and June tells a confused Emily that she’s getting out of Gilead. Lawrence says he’s getting himself in deep sh*t.

A Guardians’ truck pulls up and waits for them to get in. Commander Safety First yells for them to have a nice life, stay away from drugs, and not to get caught, then disappears into the night, like the quirky superhero that he is. June watches him go with a thoughtful look.

Emily practically flies into the back of the truck. June slowly brings the baby over and hands her to Emily. She tells Emily to, “Call her Nichole. Tell her I love her.” Then she closes the door and gives the signal for the jeep to leave.

Once the jeep is gone, June cries for a moment. Then she gets herself under control, pulls up her hood, and turns to leave, ready to begin her fight.



Serena’s Doors and Windows

So many closing doors this episode, in scene after scene, with storylines reaching turning points. And so many people looking through windows. But the only opening window I can remember was when Serena opened the greenhouse window as June was trying to escape with Nichole. God closed many doors, but only opened the one window. Serena became more open to outside possibilities, and that will potentially open up everything else in Gilead. If anyone can ultimately bring down Gilead, it’s the woman who had the vision for it in the first place.

June and the baby’s escape felt so much like the von Trapp family’s escape from the Nazis at the end of The Sound of Music, with the Marthas standing in for the nuns and Commander Lawrence playing Max the cynical agent. Serena was Rolf, the Nazi boyfriend who discovers the family as they’re leaving the convent. Captain von Trapp says to Rolf, “You’ll never be one of them.” Rolf ultimately betrays the family and whistles for the search party. Serena did better when she was tested. She let Nichole go, so that she could climb the Alps cross the Canadian border and make her way to a better life.

The last time we saw Serena bleed, she’d been shot after speaking to a hostile audience before the war. She didn’t give up after being shot. It galvanized her to fight harder, and to push Fred to fight harder. Her passion and vision willed Gilead into being.

Now we’ve seen her speak to another hostile audience, and end up bleeding afterward again, injured by her detractors again. What will this defeat spur her to do? She’s bleeding on the inside and outside this time, having lost her daughter and her finger. Last time she lost her ability to bear her own children. This time she gave up her adopted daughter, which she may regret, but she knows in her heart was the right thing to do. What kind of strength will she find inside herself? Or will this blow be too much?

June and Serena’s Journeys in Season 2 and the Future

June’s arc this season was to come to terms with her feelings about her mother and each of her daughters. She needed to learn that she was as strong as her mother, and could be as much of a leader. She also needed to learn that she could leave her own child with other people in order to fight for what’s right by coming to understand why her mother did that with her.

June was preparing herself to separate from the baby one way or another for the entire pregnancy. She also prepared herself to leave Hannah behind. Then she saw Hannah, and realized how abandoned Hannah felt. With Eden’s death and the revelations surrounding it, June realized that Hannah isn’t safe, even if she’s being raised by a seemingly loving commander. Hannah needs to be brought out of Gilead sooner rather than later.

June knows that Emily will love and care for Nichole. She knows that Luke and Moira are both safe in Toronto and aren’t that hard to find. Nick told Luke that she was pregnant, and June left Hannah’s photo with the baby. Moira works at the refugee center and was a handmaid herself. It won’t take much for Luke and Moira to connect with Emily and figure out that Nichole is June’s baby. Then Nichole will have at least three loving parents.

The other part of June’s arc was showing us why she would choose to stay in Gilead and fight. I don’t think she’ll spend next season trying to escape. She might even send Hannah out to Luke and Moira, and stay behind to continue the fight.

Each escape attempt taught her something about Gilead, its people, its history and her own family. She’s seen first hand now that all kinds of people disagree with the way Gilead is run, and they’ve all found ways to rebel, some large, some small.

She’s learned more about the sacrifices her mother and others made trying to stop the Sons of Jacob from taking over. And she’s learned that she can live up to her mother’s image, even if she’s not exactly like her mother. She feels a responsibility to continue her mother’s fight and to help bring down Gilead for the sake of her daughters.

We don’t know where June is going after the credits role, but we do know a few facts:

-Fred didn’t actually search the house. He only looked in the nursery and June’s room.

-Nick stopped Fred from telling the authorities that June was gone. Nick may or may not have told anyone that the baby was gone, but he took his time either way, so that June had time to get out.

-June didn’t actually go far from the Waterford’s house and wasn’t gone long when Emily got picked up. She can likely get back to the Waterfords and have been gone around half an hour, maybe less.

-Other than Fred, everyone else in the house was complicit in the babynapping.

-We have examples of entire households being punished for serious infractions. We heard Fred and Serena assuming that no one would believe that they weren’t involved if June disappeared again.

-Given all of that, it’s in Fred’s best interest to publicly say that June wasn’t involved in the babynapping. It can be blamed on Emily, who is the person that will cross the border with the baby, and who also attacked Aunt Lydia.

-It’s not actually that difficult to cover up June’s involvement. She could easily have been somewhere else in the house, maybe with Serena in the greenhouse. If she was distracted by the fire, she wouldn’t have heard him call her. Remember, Fred didn’t see Serena during this period, either.

-Emily is already a criminal, with a record of violence. Lawrence will probably have to say that she climbed out of her bedroom window after attacking Lydia in order to keep his own household safe.

-We already have the example of Janine stealing Angela out of the Putnam’s nursery in season 1, so it’s not much of a stretch to say that Emily snuck into the Waterford’s nursery after setting the fire, stole Nichole, then left the message on the wall. It’s also not hard to believe that she’d have the connections to get out of Gilead.

Fred might even believe this story.

When you think about it, Fred really doesn’t have a choice. The others can blackmail him into not turning them in. He’s already been embarrassed by Serena’s behavior in front of the council. Losing control of his entire household would make him look so weak that it would be just as bad as being part of the plot. He’s done for either way. The only way he can keep his public power and position is to look the other way at home.

June may or may not continue as their handmaid. Fred wanted to try for a boy, so that may be part of the deal the others make with him to keep the household intact. June and Nick just won’t actually do anything that would get her pregnant.

June could also end up with Lawrence, either openly by going through the Red Center process, since she’s no longer needed at the Waterfords, or underground, by making her way there and asking them to hide her. She could be a Harriet Tubman-like figure, moving quietly around in the shadows, organizing operations and escapes.

But it makes more sense to keep her at the Waterfords. She and Serena work well together when they’re cooperating. They challenge each other to be better and work harder. After Fred spent this season becoming power mad, the rest of the household could quickly bring him down next season, and I think we’d all love to see that. They could make him their puppet in the council, advocating for more freedom for women and girls. Serena and June could write more laws together. Or they could just quietly do end runs around him as members of the Underground Resistance, working right under his nose to bring down Gilead.

Or they could let Fred do his thing and mostly stay out of his way, pretending to have learned their lesson. The problems arose this season when people wanted things from each other. If no one wants or expects anything from Fred at home, and they all appear obedient, he won’t look very closely at anything. They could be running a school and a printing press out of the garage and he probably wouldn’t notice, as long as June plays sex kitten once a week.

Serena won’t become part of the Resistance right away, of course. She’s going to have to go through massive grief and rage first, and it’s hard to pick who it’ll be directed at. Maybe everyone. But eventually she’ll remember that she still has a responsibility to protect the girls of Gilead, and that there’s the possibility of a baby for her once she gets out.

While June has been becoming stronger and more confident inside, Serena has been broken down. In season 1, Serena was confident of her position in the world and the power she wielded. She was certain her sacrifices were worth it because Gilead’s birth rate was up and she knew she’d have a child of her own soon.

In season 2, Serena was exposed to all of the corruption, violence and inequality in Gilead that she’d been shielded from before. It touched her personally in ways she couldn’t ignore. She was forced by her own moral code to break the laws of Gilead to save her husband, her household and her friend’s child. She saw that Gilead is so inflexible and immoral that the rules can be bent when the Commanders feel like it for their own selfish reasons, but not to save the life of a child. Especially if there are girls and women involved.

Had Angela been a baby boy, Fred might have felt differently about letting the Martha treat him. The Commanders have lost sight of the fact that baby girls are needed for childbearing, and Serena will never lose sight of that fact.

At the same time, Serena’s own personal worth and power were eroded to the point that she had nothing left but motherhood, and even that was made irrelevant in the end. Serena let June take the baby in her escape attempt because Serena knew that she wasn’t going to be allowed to be Nichole’s mother in a true sense. In the original concept for Gilead, the mothers had jurisdiction over raising the children. Serena realized that with the commanders’ power grab, she’d be little more than a nanny, with all important decisions made by Fred. She’d always be waiting for Fred to decide that she or the child had made an unforgivable error and they needed to be separated forever, possibly killed.

That was what broke her. It wasn’t losing a finger. It was losing the role of Mother, of being charged with raising precious souls to live according to God’s Will. That’s what kept her going through everything else that the commanders took away when they formed Gilead and shut her and the other women who’d been part of the revolution out.

That’s what will revolutionize her. She may not have her own child any more, but that leaves her free to mother everyone’s children. She won’t end her crusade to teach the girls to read so easily and she won’t forgive Fred for this betrayal. That wedding ring vibrating on her nightstand signaled the end of their marriage for real. If/when she puts it back on, it will be to play the role of Mrs. Waterford. Serena Joy will be a freedom fighter once she recovers from her losses.

But both June and Serena are organizers and leaders. The Marthas and Guardians are already organized and work together at least sometimes. With June to organize the handmaids and Serena to organize the wives, the network can become that much larger and stronger. The handmaids were hard to organize before because they were too scared to share names and talk openly. But now that they know each other better, having operatives that move from house to house could be useful.

With the cooperation of the wives, anything is possible for the Resistance. They would have the freedom of the house while the commander isn’t home, not to mention the information an obedient wife might be privy to. They’d have better access to cars and travel.

There’s a reason that politicians’ and diplomats’ wives make good spies. They meet everyone the husband meets and travel where he travels, but they aren’t watched as closely. They’d just need to convert or distract Guardians here and there, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Maybe Fred will find himself with a very obedient wife and handmaid next season.

ETA: Off to the Resistance we go.

Silencing the Women of Gilead

There are multiple references in this episode to silencing women’s voices. Serena speaks of Lillies, the flower associated with goddesses, virtue and funerals, but also the handmaid who had her tongue cut out and became a suicide bomber. She was silenced in one way, so she learned to speak in another way.

Eden let her refusal to repent speak for her, before she was silenced forever. Eden had the last word though, as she found a way to speak after death through her Bible and the notes she carefully and illegally left inside. Eden and Lillie may have died, but their actions allow them to live on and inspire others. Their voices were amplified, not silenced.

Lydia says to Emily that it’s as if she’d cut out Emily’s tongue, another reference to Lillie, then Emily stabs and beats her. Emily has also been taught that using her voice is useless, but violence will be listened to in Gilead. She, like Lillie, had violence perpetrated upon her body, which Aunt Lydia continued to gloat about. Emily isn’t naturally a killer or even violent, but a harsh, violent society teaches its citizens a new language.

Ironically, Aunt Lydia, Gilead’s enthusiastic enforcer of women’s silence, is silenced herself. We don’t know what effect that will have on her, but Bruce Miller hinted that it might be more complex than we’d expect. Aunt Lydia experienced multiple betrayals in the finale, between Emily and June. She views herself as helping and protecting these lost female souls and doing God’s work to bring precious new life into the world. To realize how much they hate her is a revelation. It sounds like she might have an identity crisis and reexamine everything she’s been doing. The question is, will she come out of it more loyal to Gilead or more sympathetic to the Resistance?

From showrunner Bruce Miller’s interview with Deadline:

This was a spasm of violence by someone and Aunt Lydia is going to have to deal with that. What does it mean to be reviled in that way by these girls who she knew? She will return next year and deal with what happened to her. She will also have to deal with what happened next, a child that was born in Gilead is on its way out to the border and that’s a terrifying thing for her. That’s the thing she works the hardest to create, that’s who she is.

Commander Lawrence also silences his wife, going so far as to lock her in her bedroom when he deems it necessary. She still sneaks out to talk to the “girls” and share his secrets. He still calls her “my love”, so we don’t have the full story there. Sometimes silence is necessary for protection and safety.

After years of abuse and torture meant to silence her, a mental breakdown that left her silent, then a recovery that has shown June’s resilience and ability to survive, she comes into the finale once again fed up with Fred and Gilead’s harshness and hypocrisy. During the episode, Fred hits June for speaking out of turn, then tells her that a woman’s mouth is a deep pit which causes men suffering and misery.

There are some interesting sexual connotations there, but it’s also flat out abuse that’s meant to break her. Fred wants June to be silent and obedient outside their prescribed spaces for flirtation and sex. In their conversation later in the kitchen, he makes it clear that he’ll give her leeway to speak as long as she remains sexually “fun”, but overall he expects strict obedience. He wants her true voice silenced. She may only speak as his puppet.

This is the not-quite-silencing cat and mouse game that Fred plays with June, trading sexual favors for bits of freedom, then calling her manipulative and greedy. Generally, she’s only allowed to speak within her proscribed role. Anything else will meet with swift punishment. He allows her to step outside of it at times because he’s sure of his power over her and their battles are sexually exciting for him. His sadistic tendencies are becoming more and more obvious.

Lately, Fred’s lost control of her, because his leverage was weakened during her pregnancy, which gave her protection he couldn’t bypass. If June is still in the Waterford household next season, she’ll be silent or cooperative because she’s playing a role, not because she’s given Fred any power over her, though he does still have the threat of harming Hannah to wield over her. Rita and Serena may have some power to keep Hannah safe from him for the time being. Hannah is currently the beloved daughter of another Commander, so Fred wouldn’t be able to move against her openly.

The most obvious silencing this episode is the silencing of Serena and the wives at the council. Even though the rules allowed wives to address the council, the men had clearly forgotten that was even in the bylaws. The condescension and anger they were greeted with tells us that wives will be banned from the chamber, and probably the building, going forward. Serena won’t be the only wife who is punished. Every wife tacitly disobeyed her husband by presenting a “radical” idea without prior permission, making the husbands look weak. They’ll all pay for it.

Serena, the leader and largest threat to the Gilead social order, was punished the most publicly and harshly. They’ll continue to punish her until either they think they’ve broken her or she’s dead. They need her to be silenced, and to lead the other wives into obedience. But first they need to stamp out whatever bits of pride and self-determination she has left.

Or at least to think that they’ve broken her. The Marthas have already given us the template for becoming an obedient, invisible woman who is living a double life. It’s time for the handmaids and the wives to learn from their example. The commanders get off on dominating submissive women who were once powerful and accomplished. Giving them what they want, with an occasional show of spirit so it doesn’t look too suspicious, will allow them to operate independently in the background.

Serena has already shown us that her strength and will aren’t broken. She was up and working in her sanctuary, her greenhouse, within hours of her surgery. Hours after she was severely punished for a small act of defiance, she defied everything that Gilead stands for to say goodbye to Nichole and send her away to live a better live. Serena is made of steel, and nothing but death will silence her. Like Eden, probably not even death. She’s a writer and public speaker. Her words and actions will live on to inspire others, for better or worse.

Gilead can try to silence the women, but the message of resistance is passed from woman to woman and lives on. Women who appear silenced might just be the most defiant of them all, as we discovered with the Marthas, who usually stand quietly in the shadows of Gilead, and with the women Gilead has harshly punished, who’ve gone on to inspire others to take action.

The Changes in Gilead: From Motherhood to Obedience to Polygamy?

To the leaders of Gilead, silence equals obedience, the most important function of women. Over the course of season 2, obedience has been raised higher than motherhood and children, the ostensible reasons that Gilead was created. The women of Gilead were meant to be respected and revered as mothers who were saving the human race from extinction. That was supposed to make the sacrifices the women made worth it. Now, as Serena said, they all have nothing.

In the new Gilead, women are incubators of little value, and their children, male and female, appear to have little value. Isaac was drowned in that pool as well as Eden, and there are as many men on the wall as women. Girls are in more danger at a younger age, since they can be enslaved, maimed or murdered for more, and lesser crimes, but boys likely catch up as they get older and face temptations. Then the danger of death looms in adulthood, through execution and through war.

As motherhood is being devalued in Gilead, the role of women as sexual playthings is being reintroduced as socially acceptable. Before Fred told June they could have “fun” trying for another baby, Commander Grinnell also used the word “fun” when he asked Fred about June in The Last Ceremony. In season 1, Commander Putnam lost a hand because he treated the Holy Handmaid Janine as a mistress. Pryce was gathering evidence to get rid of Fred because of his perversions and corruption. But with Pryce gone, the Commanders now openly compare notes on how their handmaids are in bed.

They shouldn’t even know how good their handmaids are in bed if they’re following the rules, since the Ceremony doesn’t give them much to go by. By showing them admitting that they know this, in a room full of all of the Commanders in the District, we’re being told that the taboo has been lifted. Handmaids are fair game for whatever kind of abuse a commander wants to heap on them.

Fred is also certain that he can keep June in the house for as long as he wants, when one of the reasons for rotating handmaids has been to keep them from usurping the wife’s position or becoming a second wife. When Gilead was created, the husbands were careful to create rituals and roles that would keep the wives happy. All of the women in mainstream Gilead society had some form of protections in place, even though the rules overall were harsh. Now, the leaders assume they have ultimate power in Gilead, and don’t need women for anything but as sex slaves and baby makers.

The commanders are drunk on their own power and corruption. They are out of control and fulfilling their every fantasy, while living in a cocoon that keeps them from seeing the reality of life in Gilead for everyone else. They see themselves as God’s chosen ones, superior because they are the winners, and think that God puts the thoughts in their heads, so their ideas are equal to the Word of God.

We’ve seen Fred twist the Bible to say what he wants it to say, more than once now, and Gilead as a whole is founded on the same sort of twisted interpretation. The commanders’ interpretation of God’s Word is clearly still evolving to fit their changing circumstances and beliefs.

Given the way that the commanders have seized absolute power and silenced all voices that challenge them, the way they interpret the Bible to suit their needs, the way women’s role in society has evolved from being respected as the mothers of children to being nothing but the slaves of men, and the way the treatment of the handmaids has already changed, I think that the commanders will consider turning their favorite handmaids into concubines before long.

There is ample precedent for having a wife (or two) and a concubine (or many) in the Old Testament. It’s never specifically prohibited in the Bible. Cherry-picking of verses and selective editing can give them all the approval from God they need.

There is also ample historical and modern day precedent for religious offshoots of Christianity to practice church-approved polygamy in the US. The Mormons are the most famous example, having practiced polygamy as part of church doctrine for decades during the 19th century until the church officially banned the practice in order for Utah to be accepted for statehood. Founder Joseph Smith had dozens of wives, while influential leader Brigham Young had 51 wives who bore him 56 children.

When the official Church of Latter Day Saints banned polygamy, members who refused to cooperate left to form their own polygamous Mormon fundamentalist groups. The practice continues on today in groups such as the Apostolic United Brethren and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

We’re watching the commanders become more secular and more decadent. Fred seems to always have a drink in his hand when he’s at home. We’ve heard more popular music playing in the commanders’ offices this season. They are building new, opulent buildings to celebrate their successes and putting on extravagant parties. They will give themselves more women if that’s what they want, and it’s definitely what they want.

They might also try to get rid of their first wives, but that would make them adulterers, unless they twisted their own laws even further. It makes them appear more powerful to have multiple women, and with a virtuous wife already in place, they can make the sinful handmaid a concubine without guilt. Then each man will have his very own Madonna and whore.

Meanwhile, they aren’t noticing the growing resistance and how much the Guardians are letting slide.

(I can’t tell you how much I want the Commanders to just go for it and decide polygamy is okay for them, but no one else, taking all the hot young women and leaving even more of the Guardians without women. Please, Ms Atwood, Ms Moss and Mr Miller, you know you want to! Imagine the international reaction, and what it would do for the Resistance.)

Baby Nichole’s Big Adventure

Bruce Miller told TVLine that in season 3 Nichole “is quite a popular young girl. There’s lots of people who want her, including a whole country of Gilead, if she happens to get out.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she gets out. The Marthas and Commander Lawrence seemed VERY organized and plugged in.

Miller’s statement is very exciting, because it sounds like Fred is going to turn Nichole’s kidnapping into an International Incident. She could be Gilead’s answer to Helen of Troy. He was already agitating for the return of the refugees/illegal immigrants when he was in Canada. Imagine how he could escalate that position when the refugee is his daughter.

It will be fascinating to see how a refugee infant seeking political asylum from an extremist misogynist regime will be handled by Canada and the world. Nichole could become the symbol of the fight to save the women and children of Gilead. I can imagine Emily on her speaking tour, bringing Nichole out at the end of rallies to show the little baby girl she saved from the rape and genital mutilation that happened to her, and the Romeo and Juliet style death that happened to Eden. The child who wouldn’t even have been allowed to learn to read or choose who she married.

Luke might also take an interest in Nichole and use her against Fred. Miller said that “the focus of [Luke’s] fury is Fred. All of a sudden, Gilead and the Gilead system has been reduced to Fred Waterford and he’s going to find a way to get Fred.” We could end up with Luke on one side of the border with Nichole and Fred on the other side with Hannah, shouting at each other, “As long as my child is safe, your child is safe.” But, realistically, it will sound more threatening than that. More like, “Send Nichole home, or we’ll start chopping off parts of Hannah and sending them to you in a box.”

And what role will Serena and June play in all of this? Will they play along and cry about the missing baby for the cameras so that they can maintain their cover and continue their Resistance work? Will June be underground and out of sight? Will Serena decide to escape Gilead and admit that she chose to send the baby away?

If both mothers admit they gave consent for the child to leave the country, no one in the international community would side with Gilead in wanting the baby returned. If the world thinks the baby was truly kidnapped, they might feel compelled to reunite her with her parents. But it’s hard to imagine Fred alone being able to gain enough sympathy from the rest of the world for them to hand over the baby girl. If DNA tests are done and it’s discovered that neither he or Serena are the biological parents, then all bets are off, since the adoption was forced to begin with.

That brings up the question of whether Nick or June have any living relatives who made it to Canada. If not, custody would seem to either go to the state, to Emily, who was given the baby by June, or to Luke, who’s June’s husband and the father of her other child. The next question is whether Canada would let the American Embassy handle the situation, or if they’ll take over and try to take custody of the baby.

The country of Gilead might decide to go to war or push their relationships with other countries to the brink of war over this, since they’ve been building up their border patrols and trying to shut down the borders already. They would have the sympathy of the Gileadean citizens to fight for the return of a baby stolen by a crazy, violent handmaid. Gilead would feel that a handmaid can’t be allowed to get away with a crime that huge.

Baby Nichole is going to be a troublemaker, just like her mama and grandma.

John 1:1 and Teaching Daughters to Read the Word of God

“In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God. And the word was God. In him was life and life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness.”

In this verse, the Word refers to Jesus Christ and the record of his time on earth. It also refers to God, as Jesus is one with God. Serena is implying that the daughters of Gilead cannot know God and achieve salvation without understanding His Word. In order to fully understand His Word, they should be able to read and contemplate it like any other modern citizen.

The commanders don’t want the girls and women to read the bible because keeping them ignorant gives the commanders much more control over that half of the population. Future generations of women won’t even be able to read illicitly, because they won’t have learned how. At least in theory.

The wives knew their daughters wouldn’t be taught to read, but hadn’t really thought it through. They probably thought they could get a special dispensation for THEIR daughters. These intelligent, highly educated women hadn’t really thought about what it meant that their daughters wouldn’t receive any education at all beyond homemaking skills.

Like Serena, they went along with the changes to the plans for Gilead, even though it stripped them of their rights and took away their purpose in life, because they believed in the cause they’d fought for and didn’t understand what the changes would ultimately mean. Until now, they’ve been insulated from the worst of Gilead, but their husbands have been gradually increasing their power and shifting away from Gilead’s original goals. The new goal is to give as much power to the men in charge as possible, and to ensure that they maintain it. The secondary goal is to indulge their misogynist fantasies of a world in which women are nothing but whores or walking incubators.

There are already no old or seriously disabled women in Gilead, except for possibly the mothers of the people in power. It won’t be long before the number of women sent to the Colonies or killed increases, especially among the infertile, ugly and middle-aged. The older wives who are educated will be the first to go, when Gilead makes simply having been taught to read or having gone to college a sin. Then they’ll gradually work their way down through the years of schooling until only the young hotties who never learned to read are left. Since they’ve also done away with age of consent (and consent, period) and pedophilia laws, it won’t take long for girls like Hannah to be considered old enough for men like Fred. He was already looking appreciatively at 15 year old Eden.

Fred and the commanders feel that they are the ones who are in charge of their women’s religious education and salvation, and they will interpret the Bible to them as they see fit. I don’t think we’ve heard an accurate Bible quote from Fred all season, and that’s the way he prefers it. He wants Nichole to grow up only knowing his version of what God wants from women.

This season, Serena and the wives were still, somehow, operating under the false impression that Gilead is an honorable country that wants the best for its citizens, instead of the dark, totalitarian state that it is. I think Serena understands where she lives now, but I’m not sure that the other wives do yet. When you’re one of the privileged, it’s easy to keep thinking that someone else was stupid, and you’ll keep being smarter.


The Martha Relay Race

I wrote about why it would make sense for the Marthas to be the backbone of the Resistance in the recap for Season 2 Episode 9: Smart Power. The operation that got Emily and Nichole out of Boston was pulled off by more than just Marthas, but they were the instigators and organizers. Cora and Rita both disappeared at various times during the episode to set up the operation. With 6 Marthas taking part in the relay, plus Rita and Cora taking part in the planning, that makes at least 8 Marthas who were actively in on the scheme.

Lawrence, his driver, Nick and the driver(s) of the getaway vehicle were also part of the plan. There were also people involved who staged the car accident and the fire, assuming the fire wasn’t set by one of the Marthas in the relay. The plan was made for June and the baby, but was flexible enough to allow the last minute addition of Emily. It was an intricate plan that required many people to be in the right place in the right time. All of those Marthas had to be free to make a run to the yard at the right moment.

It was a truly impressive feat, pulled off with military precision. I hope Cora was the one who planned it. I really want her to have been someone impressive in her former life, like Secretary of State. Both Cora and Rita were Marthas for the Waterfords in the book, which makes me wonder if the Waterford staff will move to the Lawrence household next season, or if Cora will just end up having a significant role.

More Photos

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Maps of Gilead and Interpretation

The first map is the one Fred was studying at the end of episode 13. Original screencap and discussion of interpretations is HERE on reddit.

On this map, it appears that the blue areas are under complete Gilead control. The red areas are occupied by rebels but still considered Gilead (by Gilead). The pink and yellow are Gilead districts and probably include colonies, but the difference isn’t clear. It may have something to do with level of rebel activity or safe habitability. On this map they show nuclear explosions and the danger zones around them, but they don’t show which areas were made uninhabitable by chemical or biological warfare or accidents, for example. The yellow areas could have seen more fighting of all types, making them less habitable in general. Or the pink could be more populated, but have a large concentration of rebels, since pink areas tend to border red areas.

To me, the most intriguing area in the rebel zone in New Hampshire and Vermont. You can see it clearly in this enhanced view of the party map. It’s a little more shaded than the other occupied areas on the party map. But on Fred’s map, it’s black. Looking around the red and pink areas, we can see that they vary in shade, with Florida getting quite dark, while the northern mountain states are pale pink. My theory is this is a key to how many rebels are in the area. The darker the shading, the higher percentage of the population are with the rebels. The yellow areas are probably uninhabited or lightly inhabited no mans zones.

That means that Gilead has lost most of New England. It also means that Emily and Nichole only have a few miles to go before they reach friendly territory. Almost all of the drive to Canada will be through rebel controlled territory.

The other question that I have about the black section in particular is: Could it mean that Gilead is actively at war in that section? Are the rebels an army being supported by foreign governments? That section looks like Gilead is experiencing a targeted invasion meant to reach its centers of  power, rather than simply random Resistance efforts or an underground railroad trying to get people out. I hope we get to see Emily drive through that zone next year, so we can find out who’s controlling it and if it’s being actively fought over or not.


As usual, I live in no mans land.

This is from The Handmaid’s Tale Finale party. Someone took photos and posted them on reddit HERE.



*Isaiah 49:24-26: “24 Can the plunder be snatched from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be delivered? 25 For this is what the LORD says: ‘Even the captives of the mighty will be taken away, and the plunder of a tyrant will be retrieved; I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children. 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be drunk on their own blood, as with sweet wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”


Images courtesy of Hulu.

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