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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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 9: Smart Power Recap

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Travel isn’t what it used to be, now that most of the US has become Gilead. If there’s one thing we learn in Smart Power, it’s that the people on both sides of the US-Canadian border miss the easy tourism relationship they used to share. Fred tries to blithely assume that the relationship will return to normal very soon, but the gay diplomat he’s speaking to disabuses him of that notion very quickly. The situation only devolves from there, as the Waterfords and Gilead manage to p*ss off the nicest country in the world so much that they’re thrown out of Canada, with angry protesters at the airport following them right up to their plane.

I really wish the Canadians had thrown them in the Canadian gulag. They might have had to build one just for Fred and Serena Joy, but it would have been worth it. Why hasn’t the UN been able to bring them up on charges as war criminals yet? Why aren’t the refugees in Little America speaking out? Surely Gilead deserves to be sanctioned by the international community for human rights violations, if nothing else. They don’t seem to have much trade with the rest of the world, or good relations with powerful countries to protect them from punishment.

I guess there’s no international “Believe the women” movement happening in this universe, at least until the end of the episode. We can only hope that Moira and Erin have found their true calling, and find a way to keep the attention on Gilead’s abusive practices.

If episode 8 was about longing, episode 9 is about disappointment and facing reality. No one gets what they want, expectations aren’t met, circumstances are reduced, consequences must be accepted. It’s an episode full of lost princesses, as if the movie Enchanted met Alice in Wonderland then got high with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Our feisty princesses spend the hour making plans and considering options, but they don’t even know which universe they’re living in half the time. Is it the universe where unwomen are brought back from the dead and bring their babies back from the dead? Or the universe where wives who have saved their husbands from unfounded charges of treason are whipped for not obeying their husbands? The universe where a plucky Jezebel can jump in a car, make a run for the border, and somehow make it to freedom? Or the one where refusing to murder a friend will get your tongue cut out? Or another appendage maimed or amputated? Every decision is high risk, now that Gilead and the Waterford home have become unstable and unpredictable, and more often than not, the result will be disappointing, if not disastrous.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 8: Women’s Work Recap

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“We do our work in the evenings. She writes, I read. In another life, maybe we could have been colleagues. In this one, we’re heretics.

“I was already on the naughty list. An adulteress. A fallen woman, as Aunt Lydia used to say. But this is new territory for Serena, I think. How does she feel about falling? She seems pretty f**king happy.”

In the background, the Commodores’ Easy plays, with the lyrics, “easy like Sunday morning.” There are cups of tea and baked goods scattered around Fred’s cosy study. If not for their outfits, this could be a working brunch between two professional women before the war.

Episode 8 of season 2, Women’s Work, begins with Serena and June doing the work they were paid to do before Gilead stripped them of their rights and identities. We’ve never seen either woman look so focussed, relaxed and happy.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 7: After Recap

This episode deals with the aftermath. The aftermath of Ofglen2 Lillie Fuller’s suicide bomb, the aftermath of Commander Pryce’s death and the power vacuum it leaves, the aftermath of Gilead’s tyrannical policies and the resulting reduction in fertile women, the aftermath of Gilead’s purges, the aftermath of Luke and June’s marriage. Sometimes there is a resolution or at least a sense of closure, sometimes there is not. The deaths from the suicide bombing will likely haunt Gilead for a long time to come.

“After” begins with the funeral of the handmaids who died as a result of the bombing. It’s a beautiful spectacle, as the handmaid ceremonies tend to be. The handmaids wear red and black, with red veils completely covering their faces and tucked into their collars, keeping them anonymous and vaguely horrifying. They walk in formation to the cemetery, and surround the caskets, which are laid out in a circular formation. Seriously, if I didn’t know better I would have thought I’d accidentally clicked on a horror movie that includes a cult of creepy young women.

Aunt Lydia says the prayers over the fallen, while the handmaids repeat the phrase “We remember them” after each line. Eventually, the women remove their veils.

Aunt Lydia: I wish I could give you a world without violence. Without pain. That’s all I ever wanted. And in their names, dear lord, we remember them. Of ryan, Ofleo, Ofhal, Ofzev…

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 6: First Blood Recap

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It’s the click heard round the world. Or, round Gilead, for now. Gilead continues to dig its own grave, creating handmaids with nothing to live for, who literally can’t be forced to answer questions, even under torture. Who better for Mayday to keep working with, when the other handmaids thought they’d been abandoned completely, than the handmaid who’d had her tongue cut out? The symmetry of it is utterly perfect. Ofglen2 was the one handmaid who started out wanting to be there, and Gilead couldn’t even keep her loyalty. Their system radicalized her into a voiceless suicide bomber instead.

But Ofglen2’s moment comes at the end of an episode full of moments, and she won’t be the only hardened soldier in this army. Let’s give them all their due.

The episode opens on Dr Donnie giving June an ultrasound. The baby looks fine, despite the subchorianic hematoma that caused the hemorrhaging. June and Serena are both relieved. Serena wonders if June should take estrogen to prevent another hemorrhage, but Dr Donnie thinks they should wait to see how June does. He asks if there were any complications with June’s first pregnancy. She replies that Hannah came two weeks early, which Donnie judges close enough to term to be acceptable.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Episode 5: Seeds Recap

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There will be blood.

You’d think an episode called Seeds would be full of metaphors for growth and fertility, especially since the main character is pregnant. Those metaphors are there, to be sure, but only in the most macabre, twisted versions possible, as befits the malignant culture of Gilead, which relentlessly suffocates anything that tries to grow.

Fittingly, the seeds of the title are seeds of destruction and rebellion. The tiny kernels of hate, hope and despair that push characters over the edge into that realm where they have nothing to lose or something worth fighting for. It’s a different motivation for each character, and a deadly rollercoaster ride through the episode to get to the point of resolve. Women’s blood is spilled, and Nick, the one male ally in Gilead, has his heart broken. But the seeds are unwittingly planted by the agents of Gilead itself.

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HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 Analysis and Commentary

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They Should Never Have Given Us Uniforms If They Didn’t Want Us to Be an Army.

After watching the 2017 Emmy Awards, Metamaiden and I finally got around to our long-planned rewatch of HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale. We watched it when it aired weekly in the spring, along with everyone else, and loved it. I didn’t write weekly recaps because I know the book, having read it in the 80s, and I haven’t figured out how to write about ongoing series based on a book that I already know.

So, after binge rewatching the entire season, we present to you the compromise post: our typical season ending discussion.

 

Review

I’m not going to bother with much of a review. This series has won 8 Primetime Emmy Awards, and every one of the winners for Handmaid’s Tale deserved it. There could have been multiple winners in the various outstanding actress categories. The acting, cinematography, production design, and direction all deserve the many accolades they’ve received.

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Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Watch the New Trailer

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Hulu has released a new trailer for its upcoming series The Handmaid’s Tale. The trailer is set to air during Super Bowl LI on Sunday, February 5th. Hulu premieres the 10 episode series on April 26th.

In this trailer we get a glimpse of some the main characters: Elizabeth Mass as Offred, Joseph Fiennes as The Commander, Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, Madeline Brewer as Ofwarren, and Samira Wiley as Moira. We hear The Commander and Offred having a conversation. He says they only wanted to make things better, but better doesn’t mean better for everyone. It reminds me of my favorite George Orwell quote, from Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” In Gilead, they aren’t even pretending everyone is equal.

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