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.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 3: Baggage Recap

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In episode 2, Baggage, June reflects on her complicated relationship with her own mother, Holly, as she faces leaving her daughter, Hannah, behind in Gilead when she escapes. June is moved from the Boston Globe offices and makes her way closer to freedom, so the reality of what she’s doing hits her in this episode. In Canada, Moira’s already physically free, but she and the other refugees must grapple with the lingering effects of what Gilead did to them and what it forced them to do.

June jogs through the Boston Globe building on what looks to be a well-traveled route. She’s been hiding there for two months and is still maintaining her shrine to the executed employees, with candles burning in remembrance. The employees must have loved candles. You’d think she’d have run out a long time ago. It’s a freedom of speech miracle.

She remembers her mother saying that women are so adaptable that they can get used to anything, and wonders what she’s gotten used to without realizing it. This mirrors Aunt Lydia’s statements that normal is just whatever you’re used to, and things in Gilead would begin to feel ordinary and normal to the handmaids before long.

Moira also still jogs, but she jogs through the streets of Toronto. Her route takes her past the refugees’ shrine for their lost American loved ones. It’s not so different from June’s shrine, except it’s outside.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 2: Unwomen Recap

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Episode 2 is Emily’s episode, the episode of the Unwomen, the gender traitors, the sinners and the resisters. We follow Emily and Janine to the Colonies to get a look at what Gilead is like in another part of the country. And we watch Emily’s back story as a wife, mother and university professor. Emily fights for freedom of expression and sexuality, while June is taken to stay at the former offices of the Boston Globe newspaper, where the entire staff was executed for their part in maintaining the American right to freedom of expression. They each deal with the enormity of the loss of this freedom in their own way.

June rides to freedom, or at least her next hiding place, in the open flatbed of a delivery truck and muses about the meanings of freedom, both symbolic and practical. She wonders whether the Resistance can really get her out, or if the infection that is Gilead is so deep inside her that she’s no longer capable of escaping it.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 1: June Recap

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Welcome back to Gilead! Things are still as much fun as ever, as you can see from the photo above. June is on a roller coaster ride this episode, going from punishment for standing up to Aunt Lydia during last season’s finale, to special treatment because she’s pregnant, to barely being tolerated by Serena (so, back to normal), to a sudden chance at escape. As always, June is never sure where any of this is leading, but she’s not the kind of gal to stay home and knit sweaters, so she jumps into every opportunity, feet first.

“Whether this is my end or a new beginning, I have no way of knowing, and so I step up into the darkness within. Or else the light.”

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

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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.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 12: Postpartum Recap

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Also: Eden’s Choice, Handmaid or Surrogate? & Emily and Herr Friar Commander Lawrence

This week on The Handmaid’s Tale, the characters try again to make their lives make sense. They tell themselves whatever lies or fantasies are necessary to keep going in Gilead. But, as always, the truth wins out in the end. What makes this a fascinating show is the combination of what each character is striving for, with how they cope when they inevitably lose their dream. Reality can never live up to the fantasy of a long hoped for dream, so even success is a form of loss, when you have to accept the imperfect real world in the place of your perfect imaginings.

This episode looks at the consequences of getting what you wish for. June is out of the Waterford’s house. Serena has her baby. Eden has found true love, after her marriage didn’t live up to her expectations and nothing she did could turn it into a happily ever after. Commander Waterford has the prestige and promotion that come with being a father.

But June is lonely, bored, and misses Holly. Serena is essentially a single parent and her baby is continuously fussy. Eden’s love is forbidden. And Fred knows the child didn’t spring from his own loins, so he doesn’t even try to bond with her. To him, the baby is a status symbol, tool to help him control Nick and bait for getting June back.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 11: Holly Recap

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It’s a girl.

June doesn’t accomplish a physical escape in this episode, but she manages something almost as subversive- she gives birth to her baby girl alone, away from the toxic elements of the Gilead birth ceremony, and away from Serena Joy’s grabby hands. Then she curls up with HER baby, sleeping, sharing heartbeats and breath, and telling stories, without interruptions. That’s what a mother in America today can do with her newborn. But June wasn’t even supposed to be allowed to see or hold Holly before Serena did. Serena will view this as June having stolen those precious first moments, but she’s lucky June didn’t manage to make it to Canada with the baby.

This is a quiet episode, since June is alone in the closed up house where she saw Hannah last week. The silence is only broken by an argumentative visit from the Waterfords and June’s flashbacks to Hannah and Charlotte’s births, all of which serve as the counterpoints to what she could be experiencing as she gives birth. She doesn’t have emotional or medical support for the birth, but the baby is active and appears healthy. The only two people who matter are there, and get to have this time together before Gilead separates them, possibly forever. Holly will have a kernel of security deep inside her, from knowing somewhere inside that her mother wanted her.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 10: The Last Ceremony

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Episode 10, The Last Ceremony, plays out like an extra intense episode of a nighttime soap opera, with the characters letting their masks slip far enough to reveal their true feelings, whether it’s safe to do so or not, and various schemes, evil and otherwise, playing out. When those masks slip, the characters see themselves and each other for who they really are, and it’s not pretty. The end of June’s pregnancy and the change in circumstances that it will bring has everyone on edge, making them distracted enough to make serious mistakes that can’t be undone.

The episode begins with Emily preparing for the Ceremony, the handmaids’ reason for existing and monthly rape fertility routine. June’s voice narrates the ways that the handmaids’ typically cope with the regular, ritualized rapes, mainly through dissociation. They pretend they aren’t connected to their bodies, they pretend that the man is nothing more than a bee pollinating a flower, they take their minds somewhere else. There are undoubtedly handmaids who plan their revenge during these moments.

Emily looks as pinched and unhappy as she has since she came back from the colonies. She winces in pain a few times. Her current serial rapist Commander doesn’t look so good as he works his way through the act. He’s becomes uncoordinated and stumbles away once he finishes. Moments later, he collapses on the floor. His wife goes to him, then yells at Emily to run for help. Emily, still on the bed in the position her captors left her in, says, with only a hint of snark in her voice, “The chances are better if I lay on my back.”

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