The Handmaid’s Tale (S02E04) “Other Women”

Well, I had a vague hope that the pilot at the end of last week’s episode was not going to take her to Canada and the people who dragged her off the plane were actually Mayday operatives saving her, but that was immediately dashed.  June is once again in the clutches of Gilead.

She’s at the Red Center where she’s being given a choice to stay there until the baby is born then be executed, or agree to go back to the Waterfords and once more be Offred the Handmaid.  Dead June or live Offred.  Not great choices.  She goes with curtain number 2.  The Waterfords welcome their ‘kidnapped’ Handmaid with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Very soon after June’s return, there is a baby shower.  Not for her of course, for Serena Joy.  The Wives sit in chairs in a circle and the Handmaids stand behind them.  June is sitting in a chair off to the side, pretty much ignored, until she states matter of factly that she felt the baby kick for the first time the previous night.  Boy, does that bring the conversation screeching to a halt.

Meanwhile, the Commanders are having a manly man version of a baby shower, which involves food, booze, skeet shooting, and some serious snarkiness.  (Frankly, it sounds a lot better way to spend the afternoon than at a baby shower, even with the snark.)  

One of the toughest scenes in the episodes was June’s conversation with Alma while she’s sitting on the stairs.  Ofglen 2.0 lost her tongue for defending Janine, and we know what happened to Alma, and she has the burn scars to prove it.  What’s worse is that Mayday is no longer helping Handmaids.  June’s actions had some terrible and far reaching consequences and she no longer has the allies she once had.  Not even Rita, who endured a vicious and unwarranted slap from S.J. in response to a simple comment from June about her own baby shower.

Flashback: June is approached by Luke’s ex-wife Annie, who begs her to end things with Luke so they can try to make their marriage work.  Yeah, June doesn’t come out smelling too good, and it definitely gives you a new side of her.  Worse still is the voicemail message June hears Luke leaving for Annie, which is horribly vicious and mean.  I never cared much for Luke and this honestly makes me like him even less.  When he tells June he loves her more than he ever loved Annie, my immediate thought was that he’d probably say the same thing to the next chick he starts banging.  When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening.  Later, we see another flashback.  June and Luke, now married with a child, are in a coffee shop with Hannah.  June looks up and sees Annie, who is looking at them with a sad expression, before walking out.

After the shower, Aunt Lydia suggests that she and June go for a walk.  They walk by the river past the wall, where a man is hanging.  Oh dear God, it’s Omar, the Econo-guy.  His wife (Heather?) is going to be a Handmaid, and their son has been given to another family.  June is devastated, actually allowing herself to be comforted by Aunt Lydia, who tells her that June did these things, but Offred is innocent, and if June allows herself to become Offred, she doesn’t need to feel guilt for what June did.  It’s seductive stuff, and June seems to fall for it.

The shower ends with yet another one of Gilead’s ceremonies.  The Wives and Handmaids stand in a circle holding threads of red and blue that have been knotted together.  S.J. and June are in the middle of the circle, S.J. standing, June kneeling.  Aunt Lydia joins their hands and then wraps the threads around their clasped hands, symbolizing their oneness, or something along those lines.  June seems to be embracing her Handmaid identity, or it might be more accurate to say she is trying to erase her June identity.

That night, S.J. goes into June’s room where she’s in bed sleeping.  S.J. spoons June and talks to the baby.  It’s weird and creepy because this is Gilead.

June comes downstairs the next morning, puts on her cloak and wings, takes the basket and shopping list, and goes out.  Nick sees her and starts to tell her he’s working on getting June out, but it seems like June is no longer in residence.  She simply says “we’ve been sent good weather” over and over.  I’m not certain she’s faking, I think she may genuinely have lost her mind, at least temporarily.  She stands outside the gate, patiently waiting for her shopping companion. It’s heart breaking.

A lot happens in this episode.  It’s easy to hate Serena Joy, and oh boy, is it easy to hate Aunt Lydia, but we’re supposed to root for June without hesitation.  When we see Luke’s ex-wife Annie confront June, it kind of makes you realize that June isn’t completely without blame.  And Luke, what would he have become in Gilead?  He doesn’t show much respect for Annie, and possibly not for June either.  How quickly would he have succumbed to the idea that men are superior?  I suspect quite quickly.  I suspect Holly believed that too, and that’s why Holly didn’t want June to marry him.

Other Things:

– I assume that as long as a Handmaid is pregnant, there are no Ceremonies.  Do Commanders ever get assigned more than one Handmaid?  Otherwise there are a lot of wasted months that could be spent knocking up another Handmaid.

– Do you think Annie became Handmaid?  Why or why not?

– Given the number of Audi commercials that air during the show, were you surprised that the Commander’s car was a Mercedes?

Quotes:

“I wish I had a pig ball.”

“You didn’t make her say anything.  This wasn’t your fault.  Not that part.”

“And the ransomed to the Lord shall return.”