The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 4: Other Women Recap

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This week, it’s Aunt Lydia’s turn. June is back under her control at the Red Center, and it’s Lydia’s job to turn willful June into submissive handmaid Offred. Her goal is for Offred and the baby to go back home to the Waterfords, so they can finish the pregnancy in the best environment for the baby. Lydia uses every punitive and manipulative tool at her disposal to break June, and continues once June is back in the Waterford home. Serena Joy and Rita aren’t spared from Lydia’s training either. Lydia is relentless, actively encouraging June toward a mental breakdown and dissociative disorder.

The main themes of this season are motherhood, isolation and loneliness, but other women is another one. Each of the women that we’ve come to know is facing a challenge this season, and they each need to decide who they are as a woman, and how they relate to other women.

Does a woman see herself as an island, only responsible for herself and her own needs? As a sister, mother and daughter, responsible for the well-being of her family? Or as a member of her community, however she defines it- the handmaids, Gilead, the human family?

Janine is doing her best to spread her love for her lost child out to her community, making her world a better place. Emily has tried to live as an emotional island, but Janine is challenging her to rethink that. Serena’s inability to have children has forced her to focus outward, but June’s pregnancy is giving Serena hope that she’ll be able to have a more intimate relationship with a child.

We don’t know Lydia’s back story, so we don’t know her motivation, but we know she’s intensely focussed on the community of Gilead’s mothers and children. She devotes her life to bringing more children into the world and sees herself as an important guiding and protecting force for the handmaids and mothers.

June is trying to come to terms with her pregnancy and the loss of Hannah. Having seen Hannah recently, her sense of having abandoned her first child is that much stronger, but now she has a second child to worry about. She’s juggling that with her need to make sure she herself survives, in addition to her desire to follow in her mother’s footsteps to fight Gilead.

Lydia preys on June’s desire to fight, and shames her for it. She encourages the other handmaids to blame June for their punishment for refusing to kill Janine. These other women were all grown ups who made their own choices, but sometimes it’s easier to blame someone else for pain than accept responsibility. Lydia knew this when she sat June down to eat her hot lunch in front of the shivering handmaids in S2 ep1, and the manipulation worked.

Other women don’t always have our best interests at heart.

June has a new livestock tag inserted in her ear. She’s one of Gilead’s cattle again.

They keep her chained in the basement, just like the pregnant woman who tried to kill herself. Lydia used her to scare June into eating meals in s2 ep1. June, at least, has daylight. And she has 71 flowers on her comforter. She muses about pig balls, which were (are?) used to keep pigs happy and make the meat more palatable, when the pigs are being kept in horrible conditions before slaughter. June feels like one of those pigs, and wishes she had a pig ball.

I’m not going to harp on what the pig ball says about the treatment of farm animals and the types of people who are willing to treat other sentient creatures that way, or the fact that it’s not okay to drive pigs insane either. I will say that being reminded that this kind of disregard for pain and suffering is common in the food production industry always makes me glad I’m a vegetarian.

Aunt Lydia senses that June is ripe for the picking and brings her a fresh red dress. June is wearing a nightgown. Lydia hangs the dress across the room from June as an incentive. Then she notes that Offred is eating well.

June gets up and slowly hobbles over to face Lydia. Her chain and ankle cuff must be made of iron, since she’s having such a hard time moving. She insists her name is June. Lydia, knowing she has all of the power in the situation, ignores June’s words. She straightens June’s nightgown so that it covers her properly, then tells her that the Waterfords still want their baby badly enough that they’re willing to give Offred another chance, if she promises to be a very, very good girl.

Lydia: “June will be chained in this room until she gives birth. And then June will be executed. Offred has an opportunity. It would be better for the baby.”

She moves the dress closer and leaves. June is angry and bitter, but not stupid. She wants to live.

‘I wish I had a pig ball.’ June is pictured as the epitome of the trapped wife- barefoot, pregnant, in chains, and wearing a simple, virginal white dress, ready for her fate to be decided. Does she go to the executioner or back to the marriage bed (Madonna vs Harlot)?

As they arrive at the Waterfords, Lydia tells June that if she wants to stay at the Waterfords she’ll have to prove she’s worthy. Bass drums, thunder and horns playing low ominous notes sound as she enters the house, while a dark wind rises. There was probably a raven sitting on top of the house calling out words of doom, and a bad moon on the rise. There’s definitely an out of control fire in the fireplace. We are very gothic this season. VERY GOTHIC.

June has forgotten that she’s not a person, and needs to be reminded to look down in submission.

Fred joins June and Lydia in the living room and welcomes Offred back. He explains that it wasn’t easy getting her back from her kidnappers, since the terrorist networks have become insidious, but they wouldn’t give up until they could bring her back home. Lydia goes right along with this fiction, proud smile on her face, while June is amused.

Fred: “You have been through quite a trial, haven’t you?”

June: “Uh huh.”

He almost pulled off the sincerity. Serena sweeps into the room with a bible verse on the tip of her tongue. After a stiff greeting, June is sent to her room.

She realizes that kidnapping is the perfect explanation for her extended disappearance. This way the Waterfords can still keep her baby and Gilead can look powerful and effective against their enemies. Let’s note, they did legitimately catch some Resistance members and shut down part of the black market/underground railroad chain. The story isn’t totally fake.

June’s prison cell room has been emptied out and now contains only her bed. She sits on her windowsill and looks outside. Serena stomps up the stairs and into June’s room. She grabs June by the throat and holds her against the wall for several seconds, complaining that June was gone for 92 days. Serena was left to worry and to miss almost the entire first trimester. Once Serena lets go, June reminds her that if June’s baby is safe, Serena’s baby is safe.

That evening, while June is soaking in the tub, the power goes out. Moments later, Aunt Lydia bursts into the room with a lit candle, telling June not to worry about the lights going out. She gives June a washcloth to make sure she washes “down there” to keep the “nasty bacteria” away, which is just bad language usage and bad science. But this is about is about Aunt Lydia running a boot camp and being invasive, so she stands and watches June, commenting every step of the way. June needs to relearn that she doesn’t own her mind, body or will, anymore.

As she’s drying off, June feels the baby kick for the first time. She sits on the edge of the tub for a moment and contemplates this new person inside her.

The next morning, Lydia is there again, opening the curtains and throwing off the covers with threatening cheer. Rita brings June’s dress up to her. When Lydia leaves to make June’s special pregnancy smoothie, Rita gives June back the packet of notes that she got from Mayday. No one ever sent for them.

Rita says it was terrible in the house while June was gone. She can’t risk being found with them. June puts them back behind the tub, then goes downstairs. There are extra Marthas in the house, preparing for Serena’s baby shower.

Lydia calls June back to the kitchen for breakfast. She’s prepared a green vegetable smoothie that nauseates June. She forces June to drink it anyway. June promptly vomits it back up, all over the kitchen table. Lydia makes another.

Note to self: Don’t ever go up against Aunt Lydia in a battle of wills.

The wives are generous with gifts for Serena and the baby. They feel bad that she’s missed so much of the pregnancy, and begin to talk about the baby kicking. Serena thinks it’s too early. June speaks up and says that she felt the baby kick for the first time just last night. Serena is ready to explode at the reminder that she not the one who’s pregnant. The other wives try to continue on with the party.

Quick transition to Serena’s head actually exploding  Serena shooting at June’s head the Commanders shooting clay pigeons. Putnam appreciates being invited, even though he can no longer shoot. He’s a good sport about things, I’ve gotta give him that. The man understands how to play the long game.

Cushing will be sent to Canada soon on a diplomatic mission, but Fred is pushing to be sent instead. Pryce is clearly the leader. Putnam sucks up to whoever’s got the most power. They are all upset that Canada has imposed sanctions on Gilead for human rights violations, and feel that the way they run their country is no one else’s business. Fred’s ready to stand up to the Canadians over it. If he were the one sent to Canada, that is.

Pryce asks Fred how things are at home.

Fred: “It is a blessing to have my house in order.”

Pryce: “Back in order.”

Fred: “Yes.”

Pryce: “Good. Family is very important.”

Fred: “I agree.”

Pryce suggests they pray for a successful pregnancy and birth.

He really can’t stand Fred. Sees right through him, and Fred can never quite figure out what he’s done wrong. It never occurs to Fred that not all of the commanders are religious hypocrites.

Serena takes a break from the shower to smoke a cigarette on the back porch. Lydia joins her, and begins her program of training and subjugating Serena in earnest. She can see what a toxic environment the Waterford house is, and she’s trying to get Serena to lighten up on June. Given what a stiff, proud woman Serena is, Lydia knows that the odds of her loosening up of her own free will in time to benefit the baby are minimal. Since a healthy pregnancy and birth are by no means guaranteed in Gilead, part of Lydia’s job is to make sure that everything in the environment is conducive to a full term pregnancy. Other than the small matter of the birth mother’s enslavement, of course.

So Lydia needs to pull rank with Serena and convince her to be nice to June, for the baby’s sake.

Lydia lets Serena know that she understands how hard this is for Serena, and that God will forgive her for resenting June. When Serena makes a cutting remark about June, Lydia replies that June is strong, so the baby will also be strong. But Lydia lets Serena know that she needs put the baby first now, not her own feelings about June or needing a handmaid. Serena still doesn’t get it, and makes another remark about June. Lydia says that she’ll take care of June. Then she takes away Serena’s cigarette and puts it out, telling Serena that she has to quit fuming smoking because it’s bad for the baby.

June takes a break by sitting on the stairs by herself. Alma stops to talk to her. She says that MayDay has gone silent and isn’t helping handmaids anymore. Ofglen had her tongue cut out as punishment for standing up for Janine at the stoning. Alma’s scarred and misshapen wrist from her punishment is visible. She tells June that Ofglen’s punishment isn’t her fault. Not that part. Which implies that other parts, like what happened to Alma, were.

Aren’t the handmaids adults, capable of making their own decisions?

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Let the little children come to me.

 

The next part of the shower is a ritual binding the mother, handmaid, and baby. The handmaids stand in an outer circle, while the wives stand in an inner circle. The mother-to-be/wife, Serena, stands in the center, and the pregnant handmaid, June, kneels in front of her. Their hands are placed one on top of the other. Lydia binds them together with a red cord and a turquoise cord. All of the wives and handmaids in the circles are also connected by lengths of turquoise and red cords.

Serena quotes a bible verse, “Behold he who does great and unsearchable things.” The others chant, “Wonders without number.” Serena responds by saying, “Let the little children come to me.” The others respond, “For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Serena repeats, “Let the little children come to me,” many times, with the group responding with their line each time.

June is supposed to repeat, “For such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” with the others each time, but she’s unable to. The pregnant handmaids don’t even get their own separate lines to speak, because that would acknowledge that they are the birth mothers of these babies.

It’s a powerful ritual. The two circles have the effect of a womb enclosing the baby and mothers. The mothers are bound together to care for this child. And the wife is calling the child out of its birth mother, to choose her as its mother once its born. The cords show that Gilead can’t escape, even subconsciously, its essential nature. It’s ready to tie people up and force them to carry out its wishes.

But the blue and red are also reminiscent of veins and arteries. The cords are the blood supply flowing through the womb of the community, to the mothers. The blood supply flows between the baby’s two mothers, making them inseparable and feeding them both. This is meant to be a supportive relationship. Except for that whole enslavement thing that keeps getting in the way.

June remembers when she met Luke’s first wife, Annie, before June and Luke were married, but when Luke and Annie had been separated for 3 months. Annie confronted her in a public place to ask her to stop seeing Luke. At first Annie just wanted June to give her and Luke a chance to work out their marital issues. When June wasn’t receptive to her, and politely suggested she should be talking to Luke about this, Annie gradually became more aggressive. By the end she was blaming June for stealing her innocent husband from her happy marriage and calling her names while chasing her out of the building.

All of Annie’s problem’s become June’s fault, and June is just the selfish witch who stole another woman’s husband. At that point, in Annie’s twisted mind, neither Luke nor Annie bear any responsibility for the break up of their marriage. June knows this isn’t true, but women are socialized to accept blame. She can’t help but wonder if it really is her fault.

In the flashback, when June gets home, Luke is on the phone yelling at Annie, telling her to leave June alone and to talk to him instead. It turns out he’s leaving a voicemail message instead of speaking directly to Annie. June says that he shouldn’t have called Annie to stick up for her. Luke replies that Annie is trying to wreck his life. Then he corrects himself and says “our” life.

Such a prize, that guy.

June lets her guilt get the better of her, and reminds Luke that he wasn’t even separated from Annie when he started seeing her. Maybe he’d still be married to Annie if she hadn’t come along. Luke tells her not to feel guilty, because she didn’t take him from Annie. He loves June more than he ever loved Annie.

Also, he’s an adult with free will, not a loaf of bread. He’s choosing who to sleep with, no one is taking or stealing him. June can’t give him back to Annie, because he’s a person, not an object.

I hate the language that describes people in romantic situations as objects, so much. And then we wonder why sexual assault happens.

June isn’t convinced that it’s not her fault, but Luke tells her to stop thinking this way, saying that this is what Annie does. She manipulates situations and tries to drive a wedge between people. He doesn’t want June to let Annie get into her head. Her loves June so much, and they’re going to get married and be happy.

They did get married, and they were happy. Then Gilead tore their family apart. June comes out of her fugue state sad and tired and resentful.

Since the shower is over, Serena and Rita are tidying up the stack of presents. June looks at the pile and muses out loud that after her shower for Hannah, they ended up giving away half of the gifts, there were so many.

Serena is so blinded by rage at this simple remark that she turns and hits Rita as hard as she can, knocking her to the ground. She can’t hit June while she’s pregnant, after all. Obviously, Serena’s going to need a bit more practice before she understands how to build the perfect emotional environment for the baby. Lydia hustles June out of the room before the situation escalates.

I hope Rita spits in every dish she serves Serena for the rest of her life, and finds a way to slowly poison her. Something that makes her skin look terrible before it kills her. The Russians are fond of some poison that does that. I’m sure Rita can find it.

Serena goes to Fred, who’s listening to jazz in his office. She wants June out of the house immediately. Fred reminds her that she doesn’t want to miss the rest of the pregnancy, and she’s strong enough to handle June.

Lydia takes June for a refreshing walk down to the Wall. Of course there’s a lecture involved as well. She tells June that this situation is difficult for herself and Serena as well. After all, June was a fallen woman. Lydia is just trying to give her the best chance she can have.

At the wall, a black man’s body is hanging with his head covered. Lydia says that he’s a man June knew, who drove a bread delivery truck. That would be Omar, the man who was supposed to take her to meet the Resistance plane, but took her to his apartment instead when the safehouse was compromised.

She forces June to kneel on the ground and look at Omar’s body while she tells June that Omar’s wife is now a handmaid and their son has been placed with another family. He’ll never see his family again. Gilead has shown the mother and son mercy, and given them a chance at a better life, instead of executing them.

Lydia: “Of course if you asked them, this would not have been the path they would have chosen. But you didn’t ask them, did you? You chose for them. Such a selfish girl. Who killed him? Answer me please. Whose fault was it? Huh?”

June has been sobbing and shaking, probably going into shock, ever since she realized it was Omar’s body. Lydia has to hold June’s face in her hands and look June in the eye to get an answer. June is very close to checking out.

June whispers, “My fault.”

Lydia: “Who induced him to commit such a crime?”

June: “I did.”

Lydia: “Offred? And why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen? Answer me. Offred.”

June: “To teach me a lesson.”

Lydia helps June up, sensing she’s broken.

Lydia: “To teach June a lesson. June did this. June ran away. June consorted with terrorists. not Offred. Offred was kidnapped. Offred is free from blame. Offred does not have to bear June’s guilt.”

She kisses Offred on the forehead and holds her while she cries.

Later that evening, June kneels in the living room in front of the fire. She asks the Waterfords to let her stay with them, here at home. She’s not yet worthy of their kindness, but she wants to try to be good.

Lydia is satisfied. Serena is not. Fred is turned on. Nick is worried, maybe a little relieved. Rita just doesn’t want to get hit again.

June is in some kind of near catatonic, dissociative state, thanks to Aunt Lydia’s remedy for headstrong girls who are going to get themselves killed.

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All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Late that night, Serena can’t sleep. She goes to June’s room and lies on her bed behind her, head pressed up against June’s belly with her arms around the baby. And around June. She quotes Julian of Norwich, female medieval Christian mystic: “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

The quote is spoken by Jesus, who Julian of Norwich thought of as a mother aspect of the Holy Trinity. It means that people should put aside their negative emotions and sins in favor of a more optimistic view of life, which will allow them to be closer to God and Jesus. Interesting that Serena not only says it to the baby, she says it to June when June needs to hear those words the most. When June needs to find a way to move past her impossible day-to-day life, and take a leap of faith to believe that things will work out in the long run, somehow.

Then she says, “Mama loves you,” and leaves the room without another word.

Which mama? Serena or Jesus? Which you? June or the baby? Or both? Serena is definitely establishing ownership of her child here, but her choice of quotes is not an accident.

Whatever Serena’s intentions, June’s not in any sort of mental state that would allow her to be receptive to overtures from Serena Joy. June gets up to lie on the closet floor and look at the Latin quote scratched into the wood. It’s been sanded off. All hope gone, she chants to herself, “My fault, my fault, my fault.”

She remembers a time when Hannah was a toddler and the family was at a restaurant. While Luke went to get the food, June noticed Annie standing across the room, staring daggers at her. Annie was clearly thinking that Luke was her husband, and Hannah should’ve been her child. After a minute, Annie leaves. At least she doesn’t cause a scene this time.

In the present day, June thinks, “I have done something wrong. Something so huge, I can’t even see it. Something that’s drowning me. I am inadequate, stupid, without worth. I might as well be dead. Please God, let Hannah forget me. Let me forget me.”

In the morning, June dresses and goes downstairs, then outside to do her daily shopping, as usual. Nick tries to apologize for failing to get her out of Gilead. June keeps walking, saying, “We’ve been sent good weather.”

She continues to think nothing but that as she waits for her shopping partner.

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We’ve been sent good weather.


 

“We’ve been sent good weather,” becomes a mantra meant to chase dangerous thoughts from June’s head. She’s taken herself back to the beginning of season 1, when the handmaids would say little more than that to each other in order to keep them selves safe.

June’s final speech in the closet is frightening because it’s so real. Women are taught to feel this way from birth. The something huge that June did wrong was to be born a girl in a society founded on biblical ideals that punishes women and girls for Eve’s supposed original sin.

I’ve listened to women privately berate themselves like this for my entire life. Women who don’t blame and loathe themselves as standard operating procedure are considered arrogant, cold, conceited and over-confident. Or, y’know, men. The scary thing is that self-loathing among women, especially young women, has gotten worse over the last 50 years, not better. The Aunt Lydia’s of the world are real, and come in many forms.

The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t show June being pushed into pathological self-blame and self-loathing from multiple directions as torture porn or as exploitation of the character. They were illustrating the very real phenomenon that women face in the real world today, then taking it to an extreme. This is science fiction, which has always had a societal role of examining what would happen if a culture stuck to its current course without change or moderation. In this plot arc, The Handmaid’s Tale is showing us what happens when there’s nothing to raise a woman back up from society pushing her down, even when she’s being blamed for something that’s absolutely not her fault. June has lost her entire support structure, and is shouldering the burden of crimes she didn’t commit, so she can’t logically defend herself against them.

When Annie blamed June for ending her marriage, June felt some guilt, but she had Luke to remind her that he was the one responsible for ending the marriage, not her. She had her friends to remind her that her relationship with Luke was and real and valid. In Gilead, everyone, even the handmaids who are the closest thing June has to friends, are reinforcing the notion that June bears the responsibility for everything bad that’s happened around her.

She’s being told that any time she exercises any agency, she ‘s destructive, literally maiming and murdering others, even when she also saves a life. She’s being told that every action she takes to meet her own needs is selfish and destructive. This is not as far from reality as you’d hope. Mothers face criticism for meeting their own needs constantly. Women’s decisions are questioned regularly. Stereotypes about women’s physiology that make it seem as though we’re unable to function normally during (insert normal female bodily function of your choice here) still run rampant.

And let me assure all of you out there in readerland, as well as June: When a married man starts looking at other women with an interest in dating them, his marriage is definitely already in trouble. Whatever went wrong between Annie and Luke was already wrong before June ever showed up, or he would have given her a once over, thought she was cute, and then moved on. Grown men are not children who can be bribed with candy and they aren’t objects who can be stolen. The women men use to cheat on their wives don’t have some magical power over them. Put the blame for the affair where it lies, on the cheating spouse.

That’s not to say I think it was okay for June to start her relationship with Luke while he was still living with Annie. But, unless June was engaging in a criminal level of stalking and harassment against Annie, the break up of the marriage was between Annie and Luke. Clearly, June wasn’t. If anything, Annie was on the verge of harassing June.

Kelly Jenrette was nominated for an Emmy for her turn as Luke’s first wife, Annie, in this episode. She definitely made an impression. She was so intimidating that I was worried she was going to snatch Hannah and run during the restaurant scene.

Despite her harsh treatment at their hands, this episode represents a turning point in June’s relationships with Serena and Lydia. They both have gained new respect for June’s strength and resiliency, after seeing how much it took to break her. And they’re truly frightened by how far Lydia had to go to break her, and just how broken her mind is.

Lydia had June’s best interests at heart in this episode, in her own overzealous way. June has used up her second chances, and the only reason she’s still alive is her pregnancy. If she continues to accumulate infractions against the rules, she’ll be sent to live in the Red Center basement and won’t get another chance to avoid execution. Lydia just went through that with the mother who drank drain cleaner. She doesn’t want June to end up the same way, so she knows she has to use every measure at her disposal.

Breaking someone’s mind is a draconian solution, but at least June is alive and can heal. A dead woman has no options. Lydia needs June to maintain enough of a relationship with the Waterfords to be seen as a viable handmaid, so that another family will want her after the baby is born. If she goes back to the Red Center early, she’ll be seen as a troublemaker. Then June will be sent to the Colonies or executed.

Serena saw parts of June for the first time in this episode. The shower ritual was powerful and affected her deeply, just as it affected June. Though she can hardly admit it to herself, Serena didn’t just see a rival kneeling in front of her, she saw a sister in Christ. Serena, of all people, knows that the bible verse she was quoting really refers to all of us being equal before God. She saw a scared, humbled, pregnant woman kneeling before her, and she couldn’t deny that this was a human being in need.

That’s why she hit Rita so hard when June reminded her that she was already a mother in a long ago, more fair world where Serena and June were equals. Serena’s brain was already cascading through the implications of what she’d just realized. She didn’t need to be reminded that she’s party to a whole lot more injustice. And, of course, Serena doesn’t want to admit any of this to herself, so the obvious surface reasons of resentment and possessiveness still apply, plus there’s the added stress of Serena being extremely conflicted within herself.

Serena is proud and stubborn, so she’ll fight the truth. But she saw June’s deterioration at the end of the episode and knows that Lydia must have done something horrible to cause that sort of change. She missed her sparring partner while June was gone, though she’d never admit it. She doesn’t want to live with a catatonic June.

And a very small part of her is beginning to piece together just how unfair Gilead is to all women, from the elite wives who aren’t to allowed read or take part in public life, to the Marthas who have nothing of their own and live by the whims of their mistresses, to the handmaids who live with routine rape and baby theft. Serena is a fighter, and she can’t unsee what she now knows. Sooner or later, this knowledge will begin to affect her choices.

I hope we run into Heather (or even Omar) in the future. I have a feeling the story Lydia told June wasn’t completely true. I’m certain that it wasn’t June who got them caught. The safehouse was already compromised by the time Omar met June. The people who were arrested there would have been tortured and given the Eyes information that led them to Omar. If they found Omar because of June, they would have come to Omar’s apartment and captured June as well.

They also didn’t know she was in the plane, or they wouldn’t have been shooting at it so randomly. She came close to getting shot, and that wouldn’t be allowed. Fred was bluffing when he suggested they’d tracked her down. She was accidentally found. Either the driver led the Guardians to the plane, or they knew it was coming because they found the safehouse.

It’s just as likely that one of Omar’s neighbors turned them in for being Islamic. If everyone can hear everything, then they could have been heard praying, or talking. Or Adam could have accidentally said something.

There’s also the chance that it wasn’t even Omar on the wall. Lydia is a master manipulator and will do anything to achieve her goals. She can’t physically harm June, so she has to mentally break her. It’s awfully convenient that Omar was on the wall down the street from the Waterfords, when he lived in another section of town. Shouldn’t his body be scaring the Econopeople? Omar could have taken his family on the run, and that could be a look-alike body.

There were lies told all through this episode, until June’s mind broke trying to withstand them.

It’s a bleak irony that Heather became a handmaid after her judgy refusal to understand June’s position, either as a handmaid or as an escapee. There but for the grace of God… Never forget it. Especially in Gilead.

I’m so glad that June first felt the baby kick when she was alone. It’s something she deserved just for her and her baby anyway, and right now she probably needs the incentive to bond with the baby. This will help make the baby feel real. But she also needed something positive and real in this episode where she’s surrounded by forces who are lying to her and trying to break her, while she has no support to keep her own spirit intact.

A child can give someone a powerful reason to keep going and to bring themselves back from the brink. During pregnancy, the mother has an intimate relationship with the baby that no one can take away. June knows this from her first pregnancy. Feeling the baby kick should have reminded her of that. No matter what the forces of Gilead do to June, they can’t stop the baby from being hers biologically.

That’s another reason why the kick made Serena so angry. She wants every drop of motherhood and resents everything that June gets and she doesn’t. She’s so ridiculously insecure, when she holds all of the power, long-term. She’ll have decades of unique, special experiences with the baby, just like fathers do. She’ll be the one the baby depends on and thinks of as home. She’s ruining the pregnancy for herself by being so jealous and possessive.

The transition from the baby shower to Fred shooting the clay pigeon may have been the greatest transition this show has ever done. Also, it’s perfectly understandable that the men needed to go shoot inanimate objects while that party was going on. It might have helped if they’d made shooting one of the baby shower games, too, so the women could shoot something. With rubber bullets or paint balls, just to be on the safe side.

The baby shower gifts are all old-fashioned toys made from wood and fabric, with perhaps a bit of metal, as you’d find in pre-World War 2 toys. The lack of plastic and brightly colored paint in children’s toys is another way in which Gilead has removed toxins from their environment that we have in ours.

This coincides with them giving up cell phones and drastically reducing the use of other entertainment technologies. Fred uses his laptop sparingly, and uses a record player with LP records to play music, rather than any digital source of music. I don’t think we’ve seen a television anywhere in Gilead. Someone please tell me if you remember seeing one, and what was playing on it! (We’ll eventually see them in Canada, but I mean Gilead.)

As always in Gilead, the bible verse from the shower ritual is a misquoted mash-up of misused verses. The first two lines are a roughly correct version of Job 5:9. The 2nd two lines are a very edited version of Matthew 19:14. The Job verse makes sense in the context of the ritual. The verse from Matthew doesn’t make sense at all, unless they’re putting Serena/ the mother/ wife in the place of Jesus and God. That would be the height of irony in Gilead. But the words sound right to anyone who hasn’t read and understood the bible, like most of these women, and all of the women who will come after them.

Do you suppose Serena will speak to the baby in anything but bible verses? The woman seems to have the entire bible memorized, along with quotes from many sermons and Christian writers.

Julian of Norwich lived ~1342-1416. She’s still on the Catholic Church’s waiting list for canonization.

 

Images courtesy of Hulu.

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