The Handmaid’s Tale (S02E10) “The Last Ceremony”

Okay, well, this week’s episode was really tough. I mean, none of them are a piece of cake, it’s just too grim a story to be light viewing, but this episode was harder than most. For those of you who need a trigger warning, we’ll, consider yourself warned.

It mostly concerns two shocking events. The first is the efforts the Waterfords took to encourage June to go into labor. When what everyone think is June starting labor turns out to be a false alarm, S.J. is humiliated. After all, all their friends are there. There is food, and elaborate flowal arrangements, and cigars. (Don’t people check these things? It’s not like Braxton-Hicks contractions are particularly rare.). S.J. wants the baby out of June and June out of the house, ASAP! Fred, who thinks June has been spoiled by his lenient treatment, agrees. The natural ways are best, they decide and what is more natural a way to induce labor than sex? So yes, the Waterfords rape June. It’s hard to watch, and I have no doubt it was hard for the actors to film. June, not surprisingly, is traumatized. She gets some revenge though, when she confirms what Fred has probably suspected all along; that the baby she’s carrying isn’t his.

The second event is very likely a result of that revelation. It’s apparently a secret from S.J. He puts a silent and withdrawn June into his car and gives Nick directions. He drives through the snowy landscape to a large and beautiful house in the middle of nowhere. June and Nick go inside, and there is a Guardian who firmly states “ten minutes” though June still doesn’t have a clue what that means. She goes into a room where a woman dressed as a Martha is waiting with a little girl. And the little girl is Hannah. No surprises there, it was pretty likely that was what Fred had arranged.

The reunion and subsequent parting is almost as hard to watch as the rape scene. At first, it seems like Hannah doesn’t even remember June, but then she asks what happened to her when she was hit on the head. The Guardian is in a hurry to get going. Eventually, June tearfully tells her to be good and to go home with her Martha. They drive off in their car. June is inside and sees another car drive up almost immediately, and Guardians start to question Nick about what he’s doing there. They don’t buy his story, and he is shot and driven off. I guess one of them takes the Waterfords’ car too, because in the end, June is left alone at the house in the middle of nowhere, with no way to get away.

Okay, I think it seems fairly obvious that this was a set up. Fred’s been trying to get rid of Nick for a while, and now he has even more reason to do so, and if he needed an accomplice, Isaac most certainly has reasons of his own to want Nick out of the picture. Is June also a primary target, or just within the accepted range of collateral damage, especially since he now knows the baby is absolutely not his?

We’re approaching the final few episodes, things are really beginning to happen. I admit, I think this season felt a little stretched out, like maybe we could have done all this in 10 episodes, but I’ll reserve judgement until the season ends.

Other things:
– Okay, Emily’s Commander basically drops dead after the Ceremony. Am I the only who thinks Emily is still messing around with poisons?
– So, we’ve answered one question: if a Wife proves fertile, the couple is not assigned a Handmaid. I wonder when they determine that a Handmaid is needed?
– Why does it feel like it’s always been winter, even though about a year has passed since June joined the Waterford household? Maybe it’s me, but it feels like there’s always snow on the ground.

Quotes:
“I think the best way is the most natural way.”

“I’ll tell the baby about you.”

“One detaches oneself. No more to you than a bee is to a flower. Not me, not my flesh. I’m not here.”