The Handmaid’s Tale S02E08

S.J. and June have settled into a pretty cozy routine, working together while listening to music, S.J. doing the writing, June doing the editing. June voiceovers that in a different world, they might have been colleagues, and tells S.J. that she’s a really good writer. I wonder if this surprises June, who probably can’t imagine anyone voluntarily giving up work they clearly enjoy and have real talent for to stay home and slowly go out of their mind with boredom. However, this is all about to end, because the Commander is coming home. Both women say “Praise be” but it’s pretty obvious that what they’re both really saying is “FML.”

When Fred comes home, everything kind of shifts back to normal. S.J. is literally and figuratively shut out of his work. Back to being a lady of leisure.

June meets Janine (her new walking partner?) on the way to the market. She is happy with her new posting, but since she defines a good posting as one where she doesn’t have to give the Commander blow jobs, I’m guessing her bar for ‘good’ isn’t very high. Her happiness is short lived, because she gets the news that Angela is sick.

A sick baby in Gilead is pretty serious news. S.J. mentions to Fred that there may be something else they could do for Angela, and says that one of the next neonatologist innthe world is right here in Gilead. Fred’s all for it, until he learns that the doctor is a woman, currently working as a Martha. S.J. is genuinely stunned that he wouldn’t arrange a one day transfer for the doctor so she can examine the baby. So S.J., are you new here?

In the end, not only are arrangements made for the doctor to examine the baby, but for Janine to visit her. S.J. is instrumental in both, convincing a very reluctant Naomi to allow it. Since the doctor tells them that extensive testing has turned up nothing organic, they should take the baby off all the machines and make her feel warm and comforted and loved. The assume that means there’s no hope, but possibly she could have suspected failure to thrive due to lack of affection (Naomi does care about the baby, and I’m sure Angela knows that) and was given her recommendation as directly as she dared. Anyway, they do that, and they let Janine hold her.

At Chez Waterford, Fred is Not Happy. It seems he learned that S.J. forged his signature on the transfer order for the doctor. He calls both S.J. and June into his study, where he asks if they’ve been doing this kind of thing all along. He isn’t angry at June, instead blaming S.J. for dragging her into her transgressions. S.J. wants to know what in Gilead could possibly be more important than helping a sick child. His response, that obeying her husband is more important, stuns her. I think S.J. is beginning to realize that the Gilead she gave up her work to help create is not the Gilead that actually exists. Fred starts reading from the Bible about women submitting to their husbands, as he removes his belt. A horrified June is ordered to stay as Fred beats S.J., hard and for quite a long time. Wow.

Things aren’t any better in Nick and Eden’s apartment. Eden has been redecorating (tomorrow she’s making curtains!) and while neatening Nick’s things in his trunk and came across the packet of letters. She insists she didn‘t read them, but I really don’t think Eden can be trusted.

After a long and unhappy night, the Putnams and Aunt Lydia wake up in the hospital room. Janine is still awake, and has removed her Handmaid uniform. She’s cuddling a happily cooing Angela, skin to skin, while singing ‘I Only Want to Be With You.’ Angela looks remarkably healthy for a child who only hours before was on the brink of death. There is much rejoicing in Gilead.

Last week’s episode was a little boring, and I think there was a lot of setting up of events as we approach the end of season 2. It looks like S.J. may be turning against a Gilead, and if she teams up with June that could be really interesting to see. Next week, our two parallel storylines converge when Fred goes to Canada. That should be really interesting to see too.

Other things:
– There is a theory that Naomi is poisoning Angela, but I don’t know. She seems the type to want to stay on the top of the social food chain, and even though she clearly couldn’t care less about Angela, if it ever came out that she killed her, punishment would be swift and ugly.
– When S.J. tells Naomi that Angela was a gift from God and the woman who gave birth to her, that seems like a turning point for her. I think that’s the first time anyone has ever referred to a Handmaid as a person instead of just some kind of auxiliary womb.
– Did you ever wonder what the other Wives gave up? Naomi is a nasty piece of work, but did she also give up a successful career as a lawyer or a race horse trainer or an archeologist? Or was she just told she’d have to give all that up to be a mother, a role she clearly doesn’t care about? Are all the Wives completely on board with the Gilead thing?

Quotes:
“I do truly detest knitting, to be frank.

“You sound just like one of them.”

“Someone once said, men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”