The Handmaid's Tale: "Women's Work"
June 6, 2018 6:03 AM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

A sick baby tests Offred and Serena; Janine finally faces Naomi.
posted by Bibliogeek (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
June is right, Emily would be SUPER pissed if she knew what June and Serena got up to in that office.

Seems like they were toying with the idea of June's complicity with Gilead. It's an interesting do you balance #resist with surviving in a broken system? Are you obligated to always be fighting? Emily would say yes. But then again, Emily seems much more likely to throw herself in front of the king's horse, as it were.

Also, Serena, the way to show your gratitude for someone going all in with you on traitorous acts is not a FUCKING MUSIC BOX. It could start, start, with letting June see her daughter, and, oh, I don't know, NOT STEALING THE BABY FROM HER WOMB.
posted by Bibliogeek at 6:14 AM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

And again with the super dark cinematography. I get that Gilead is not super fond of electric lights in the home, but given that I think the point of the scene of June walking down the hallway was her facial expressions, it would have been nice to be able to see them.

I'm trying to work out what about Janine healed the baby. It seems a little too pat otherwise. I'm wondering if they're going with touch starvation as the illness, given the foreshadowing that that Mrs Putnam didn't even seem to like baby Angela/Charlotte. It is known to be linked to high infant mortality in orphanages - babies that are not cuddled can "fail to thrive" and eventually die. I'd side-eye the best neonatal specialist in the world not knowing that, though perhaps she thought she was on thin enough ice that criticizing the parenting would get her killed or unwommaned.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:25 AM on June 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

posted by Grandysaur at 1:06 PM on June 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm trying to work out what about Janine healed the baby.

The failure to bond was my first thought, not any actual physical neglect. As you alluded to, insufficent physical contact, mirroring, affection, emotional responsiveness, etc. has been linked to higher mortality rates and failure to thrive (orphanages provide great--horrible to read about--case studies). It's no accident that Janine is shown half-dressed for that skin on skin contact.

The real question is whether the powers that be apply the wisdom of Solomon and return Jenine to the household.
posted by blue suede stockings at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I do think the baby's miraculous recovery was a little neat (as was the Doctor Martha saying, basically "there's no medical reason for this baby to be sick!" Like, maybe it wasn't her place to say "actually hold this baby sometimes, you dumbasses!" but still). But yeah, I think that baby just needed some actual love and physical contact.

I want Janine to catch a break! I do hope the decision is "Oh, she should be our nanny!" Because I have come to love poor, sweet Janine (who is quoting Star Wars and talking about Alien) and despite everything that's happened to her, still remains so much herself. I only want the best for her.

But I've seen this show, so ...

I do hope the show ends with Serena stabbing Fred several times and then June setting him on fire. He is such a gross creep. He's a good example of a mediocre white man given a tiny bit of power. Which he then, of course, abuses. (I know that's the point.)

Serena remains so incredibly complicated and I love her and I hate her. I do like how this season is playing with the idea of complicity -- Serena helped build this world, and she obviously hates it, but she also believes in it, so she goes along and takes whatever power she can (until her power is taken from her). June goes along because she knows it's a way to not be abused more and get whatever little power she can (but she also hates that -- like the final scene with Fred -- she knew she needed to do it, but she hated herself for it). It's a way to try to fight within the system.

(Are Emily's wife and son still alive? For some reason, I think they're not, but I don't remember if that was ever clarified. We saw them at the airport last and it was implied they escaped. But June knows her daughter and husband and friend are all still alive. I think she's much less likely to say "fuck all of this!" because she has family out there that she still thinks she can get back to.)

Nick is still boring and kind of awful. Like, maybe your poor child bride isn't going to read your things and none of this is her fault, OK? Maybe he show some consideration for the teenage girl who's been put in this terrible situation for once. She's trying so hard to do what she thinks is expected of her and all he can do is resent her for it. I really hope she doesn't turn on June and joins forces with her because really, she's in as bad of a situation.

(They don't have to set Nick on fire or anything because he's too boring for that, but I would like them to go "later, loser!" at some point as they run off to Canada. Really, June, I know you don't have a lot of options, but you could do so much better. And I have to say, personally, it's a bit creepy for me that Eden shares my real name. Because it's not that common of a name, after all.)
posted by darksong at 4:27 PM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Serena remains so incredibly complicated and I love her and I hate her.

Yvonne Strahovski's face and voice when she answered June through her bedroom door were so at odds. Her performance does so much for the character.

The neonatal specialist putting her scrubs on and listening to the other doctor exclaim about her being there brought me to tears. Seeing her get her stethoscope back too.

I did love June quoting "someone" saying, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them."
posted by gladly at 7:21 PM on June 6, 2018 [25 favorites]

Serena looking at her bruises tugged at my heartstrings. BTDT a few times with my late husband. I didn't buy Fred's apology at all.
posted by luckynerd at 8:28 PM on June 6, 2018

"Take all those machines away, make sure she feels safe and warm, and hope for the best" is probably as close as Dr. Martha could get to "this baby is dying of neglect because you people are monsters" without being shot or banished.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:31 PM on June 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

And replacing "it's crazy but it's true" in the lyrics was a nice touch because there is nothing at all crazy about Janine only wanting to be with baby Charlotte/Angela.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:04 AM on June 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I didn't buy Fred's apology at all.

Fred enjoyed playing June and Serena against one another, and I can see why Gilead depends on the classes of women never allying with one another. When he saw the music box and the flower in June's bedroom, he knew he needed to assert himself over them. I don't think a beating will be what causes Serena to see the light, but I hope there's some dawning awareness that she helped create this monstrous world, and she can also help destroy it.
posted by gladly at 5:42 AM on June 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

I also thought it was strange everyone was just calling Janine ... Janine. June definitely was, and not very quietly or privately, but I feel like someone else did, too. I don't know if that was just sloppy on the writers' part or if that means something.
posted by darksong at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2018

Aunt Lydia also calls her Janine.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:55 AM on June 7, 2018

I think it's purposeful, part of June and Lydia being the ones who are best able to connect with Janine and keep her tethered to reality. June using it with Serena Joy seems equal parts trying to humanize her so SJ will grant her request and not confusing the audience by having to keep track of Janine's current handmaid name.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:29 AM on June 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

So Janine brings up Alien in regards to the everyday body horror of being pregnant and June says she liked the sequel better. It's probably silly to read too much into a throw away pop culture reference but it's hard not to notice the shared theme of forced surrogacy.

While Alien is the story of a woman who outsmarts a monster in order to survive and escape, in Aliens that woman has to defeat the queen monster to save a child and herself. Again, that seems like heavy stuff to foreshadow in the breezy dialog between June and Janine, but the parallels are there.
posted by peeedro at 7:03 PM on June 7, 2018 [15 favorites]

wow what an episode. I continue to be amazed by this show.

And replacing "it's crazy but it's true" in the lyrics was a nice touch

They didn't replace the lyrics, "it happens to be true" is in the first verse, if you keep listening into the credits, eventually she sings "it's crazy but it's true" in the second verse. It's implied she's been singing that song a long time, over and over, because when Aunt Lydia wake the Putnams up is when she restarted the song again at the first verse, but the scene started with her finishing up the song that go-round, and "happens to be true" is repeated, so it sounds like she's not doing the "crazy but it's true". I dunno why I'm pedantic on that trivial bit, but it's such a great song to pair with that scene.

And actually, "Easy" was perfect to open the episode on. Them having an easy time with each other with Fred out of the house, working together. Serena admitting she detests knitting is such a lovely detail.

I think it's purposeful, part of June and Lydia being the ones who are best able to connect with Janine and keep her tethered to reality.

I was wondering that too, why everyone kept saying Janine instead of her new "Of" name. The dual purpose of grounding her while not confusing the audience since we haven't heard the new name yet was effective.

The neonatal specialist putting her scrubs on and listening to the other doctor exclaim about her being there brought me to tears.

SO MANY MOMENTS in this episode was just so close to bringing me to tears (I've been holding it all in today, with the news of Anthony Bourdain and now watching this show, if I let it out for a moment I don't think I can stop, and I have to be productive). Serena's face vs voice to June through her bedroom door, Janine's cries watching the Putnams receiving the news about the baby in the other room, June's face breaking down after having to apologize to Fred... ugh this show.
posted by numaner at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

SO MANY MOMENTS in this episode was just so close to bringing me to tears

THISSSSS. The scene that broke me was the bit where Dr. Martha looks at her stethoscope with tears in her eyes before putting it on. Ugh, my heart. And Ann Dowd deserves so many Emmys for her incredibly nuanced portrayal of Aunt Lydia. I hated that character in the book and now I'm sympathizing with her, which I don't want to do. Such fantastic acting this season.

I also chuckled at the "someone once said, men are afraid women will laugh at them line...." I'm sure Atwood was smiling when she saw the script.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:23 PM on June 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Okay my predictions:

(1) June and Serena will eventually team up again to burn it all down. They already know how to manipulate the Eyes and put out edicts in Fred’s name. He’ll die or be killed and in the confusion they’ll make enough changes to gather some momentum, with other women behind them.
(2) except Eden, whom one of them will end up killing, because she’s a true believer and she’ll try to stop them.
(3) Nick will help them up to that point (getting the Guardians/Eyes to stand down?) but then leave them in disgust.
(4) easy segue into the next season based on Naomi Alderman’s The Power.
posted by olinerd at 6:25 PM on June 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

June and others have been calling her Janine since last season. I feel like we had a couple scenes of her not responding to her handmaid name until everyone gave up and just started calling her Janine all the time.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2018

So much in this episode, god. And again I am reminded so hard of the tenuous balance of victim/ally/peratrator in one person a home with domestic abuse. June going to Serena, and getting the buttoned down “I’m fine”; realizing that Serena can’t afford to be on her side anymore and may “need” to kick down, goes and tries to ally with Fred for some protection or favour but comes up short there too.
posted by Iteki at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2018

Man, the men just ruin everything, don’t they. Serena and June are in a happy kind of stasis while Fred is in the hospital, but then you can see it in June’s face when she finds out that Fred is coming home — she and Serena will end up being competitors for his attention again. And June knows Serena can’t handle that, because June has the one thing Serena can’t give to him.

The fucking patriarchy pits us against each other as a way of controlling us.

That whipping scene was extremely triggering because my mother was married to a man when I was a child who viewed that as an appropriate form of punishment for me. FUCK THAT.
posted by Brittanie at 11:12 PM on June 30, 2018

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