The Handmaid’s Tale (S02E02) “Unwomen”

Okay, I can’t even pretend that there will be a lot of wisecracks for this recap.  It was devastating and heartbreaking and lots of other words that basically means I was bawling by the end.  So, let’s begin our recap of the episode that I’m going to call ‘The One Where Emily Rules.’

We get our first glimpse of the Colonies, and they are about as much fun as you’ve been told.  The women are shoveling dirt into bags, and I’m not sure why.  What are they doing with radioactive dirt?  Emily isn’t looking good. A bell rings and the women put down their shovels and kneel, but it’s not to rest, it’s to pray.

Flashback: Emily is a college professor teaching biology, and neatly puts an arrogant guy in his place.  Later, she speaks to,another student and encourages her to not let the guy get to her.  Despite seeming like a really great professor, she is later told by her boss (hey! John Carroll Lynch!  I love him!) that she won’t be teaching in the spring for idiotic reasons that basically boil down to the fact that she’s gay.  As is he.

It’s Miller Time in the Colonies, only instead of cold brewskis, we have black market Tylenol.  Some newbies are brought in, including one of the Mistresses, (Marisa Tomei!) and if looks could kill, this would have been a much shorter episode.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

June is wandering around an abandoned office building.  She seems peoples’ cubicles, decorated with photos and mugs and other personal items.  It seems to be the headquarters of the Boston Globe.  We can probably assume that Gilead is not big on things like a free speech, still it’s quite jarring when June runs into a row of nooses.  Of all the things that there seems to be a shortage of, apparently rope isn’t one of them.  Nick arrives, and a freaked out June demands that they leave immediately.  Nick tells her that it’s not that simple and she needs to lay low for a while.  Logically, it makes sense, but June is definitely not in a ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ frame of mind and they fight.  Then they have angry sex.  Then not-so-angry sex.

Back at the Colonies, no one’s having any kind of sex.  Just filling bags of dirt.  Ten bags a day or they don’t eat.  Emily dresses the Mistress’s blistered hands.  It seems that the Mistress had an affair.  Hubby was too busy fooling around with the Handmaid to notice.  (Seriously, is there one single Commander who isn’t fooling around with his Handmaid?)  Emily gives her some antibiotics (expired) to combat the e.coli in the water.

Flashback: Emily is walking along on of those glass-walled covered walkways that are up in the air and connect one building to another.   She sees a bunch of people staring in horror in a direction she can’t see.  The word ‘faggot’ has been written on the ground.  She hurries down and around to see her boss hanging. Yeah, time to get outta Dodge!  Only she’s too late.  Her wife Sylvia and son Oliver can go to Canada because Sylvia is a Canadian citizen, but since their marriage is no longer comsidered valid, Emily has to stay behind.

And this is when I began to cry.

Once more to the Colonies.  The Mistress is sick.  Yes, she took the pills.  She’s writhing in pain while Emily coolly regards her.  She demands to know what Emily gave her.  Emily tells her she’ll be sick for a few more hours before it’s over.  She is found the next morning tied to a cross.  None of the other women seem overly broken up.  The bus arrives and one of the newest newbies is…Janine.

June is watching a ‘Friends’ DVD, and Chandler is getting a lesson on the 7 Basic Erogenous Zones.  She begins to gather personal items from people desks and creates a memorial. It’s a memorial to the people who had worked there and were killed.  But in a greater sense, it’s a memorial to the Fourth Estate and what it represented, to freedom of speech, to the free press, and to everything that Gilead isn’t.

The episode ends not with it’s usual killer song choice, but with a broadcast of the Red Sox winning the World Series.

Other Things:
– Is it me, or was this episode really dark?  I don’t mean the content, though it was, but actually hard to see what was going on sometimes?
– Emily says they got the Tylenol by trading duck eggs for it.  Where did the eggs come from?  Do they keep poultry?  Is the poultry radioactive?  Are the eggs?  And who are they trading with?
– Did you notice that the horses had gas masks but the women didn’t?
“So you thought it was time to hide the dykes?”
“I can’t.”  “Try.”
“Every month you held a woman down while your husband raped her.  Some things can’t be forgiven.”