The Handmaid’s Tale: Every Recap in Order

Links to every Metawitches post related to Margaret Atwood and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in order, so y’all can skip the tag. I’ll add future seasons (and the rest of S3) as they arrive.

Season 1

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Watch the New Trailer– Series description and trailer analysis.

HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Analysis and Commentary– Review and in depth analysis.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 9: Heroic Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep9 June & Aunt Lydia

Episode 9, Heroic, is probably one of The Handmaid’s Tale most controversial episodes. Almost the entire episode takes place in Ofmatthew/Natalie’s hospital room, where she is brain dead after being shot by a Guardian in episode 8. Natalie is comatose, but kept alive as an incubator for her baby for as long as possible in order to give the baby the best chance of survival. Little care is given to her comfort and none to her potential wishes. She is now blatantly referred to as a vessel for the baby and nothing more, ultimately the only role that matters for the women of Gilead.

It was shocking enough to watch as a pregnant Black woman was shot by the Handmaid’s Tale version of the police in the previous episode. In this episode, we watch as her body is treated like an inanimate object by almost all of the many people who file through her hospital room. Natalie is reduced to frequently malfunctioning life support for her womb, an obstacle in the way of the healthy baby boy they want to eventually harvest from her, just as they’ve stolen her previous three children.

Season 3 aired in the summer of 2019, long before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths in May and March of 2020. It’s a reminder of the long history of racism, medical mistreatment and violence in the US; of the continued commodification of women’s bodies, especially those of women of color; and that everything in The Handmaid’s Tale novel/S1 has already happened somewhere in the world/history. It’s all still happening in the US and globally. The series continues to be grounded in reality, no matter how extreme it seems.

It’s a genius move for Aunt Lydia to punish June for her harshness toward Natalie by sentencing her to remain kneeling in the room 24/7 until Natalie gives birth. Natalie was annoying, but after 5 years of Gilead’s abuses, she was also mentally fragile. She did what she hoped would allow her and others to survive, just like the rest of the handmaids. June’s constant presence in Natalie’s hospital room, swathed in handmaid’s red, reminds those who enter that Natalie is a human being, not just a vessel.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 5: Unknown Caller

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep5 June at Lawrence's Desk
Episode 5 focuses on reunions and espionage, including a callback to the “coconuts and treason” of S2Ep9. Following up on the protest video of Luke and Nichole from the previous episode, Serena makes a deal with June, who then negotiates with Luke, so that Serena can fly to Canada to visit Nichole. Serena’s contact in Toronto is once again Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger), the US official who offered her asylum during her diplomatic visit to Toronto with Fred in season 2.

Recap

Now that she’s received visual confirmation of Nichole’s successful escape to Canada by way of the video from the previous episode, in voiceover June muses on her gratitude for her daughter’s freedom. She gives credit to God, herself and the resistance network who set up Nichole and Emily’s journey North. Attaining freedom for their children is the dearest hope for handmaids. Rather than resenting her for achieving this dream instead of them, the other handmaids are happy for her. If one child can make it out, perhaps someday the rest can, too.

After seeing him in the video, June’s longing for Luke becomes unbearable. She remembers how strong her sexual desire for him was in the past. Now she dreams of more simple pleasures that remind her of her individual identity, such as hearing his voice say her real name, having his arms hold her and feeling reassured of his love. She’s also confused about exactly what she feels for Luke now. She loves him, but is it the same love that she felt in the past?

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 4: God Bless the Child Recap

Handmaid's Tale S3Ep4 June & Natalie Square Off

Episode 4 brings the handmaids to a community baptism ceremony for all of the babies born recently, including Janine’s daughter, Angela. Nichole is notedly missing from the ceremony. Later, the handmaids are invited back to the Putnams for a reception, under the supervision of a still recovering Aunt Lydia. The baptism reminds June of her two children and her former life, while the party brings her back into contact with the Waterfords. In Toronto, Emily finally meets with her wife and son in person.

The episode continues this season’s exploration of identity, moving beyond the third episode’s focus on retaining one’s self, despite overwhelming pressure to submit to Gilead’s ideology. This week, the focus turns to Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological phenomenon that occurs when a hostage gives in to their captors’ world view out of exhaustion, despair and fear.

We saw the beginning of a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in June in episode 3, as she accepted that she couldn’t fight Gilead on its own terms and stay the same person she’d always been. Lawrence convinced her that she needed to get her hands dirty in order to be effective, and in this episode she mourns the person she used to be while beginning to explore new possibilities. She’s pulled in a few different directions.

How far is the new version of June willing to go to achieve her goals? Lawrence avidly watches her transformation. He may be helping her, but he’s also still a cat playing with mice.

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