The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Episode 1: Night Recap

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We’re back for season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale in Gilead with June and the gang, since June selfishly nobly didn’t escape in the season 2 finale. She stayed to rescue her first born daughter, Hannah, who had ordered June to try harder to be her mother just a few weeks before the escape attempt. June sent baby Holly/Nichole safely to Canada with fierce mama bear and dragon slayer Emily, knowing that she could trust Emily with the life of her child.

June also stayed in Gilead to help the Resistance, so that all women and girls could be safe from rape, torture and murder. Even if she can’t get Hannah out, she can try to make a better place for her to grow up in. Most of the people in June’s life take a while to understand the sacrifice she’s made. Serena is inspired to make a big change in her own life, as well.

Recap

The season opens with the standard reminder of what’s come before. Season 2 ended with June handing Baby Holly Nichole to her fellow handmaid Emily, and telling her to call the baby Nichole. Then she sent her younger child to safety in Canada, where she knew her loved ones would take care of her. Having fulfilled the promise she made to Holly before she was even born, that she wouldn’t grow up in Gilead, now June turns away from saving herself and toward her older daughter, Hannah. She made Hannah a promise, too, a promise to try harder.

In season 3, June will try harder.

June prays for safe passage for Nichole and Emily as she runs away. She worries that Nichole won’t know her or forgive her if they ever meet again. But, she’s at peace with her decision. “I’m sorry, baby girl. Mom’s got work.”

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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 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 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 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: 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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