The Handmaid's Tale: The Last Ceremony
June 20, 2018 1:29 AM - Season 2, Episode 10 - Subscribe

A frustrated Serena becomes desperate; The Commander tries to make amends with Offred; Nick pushes Eden farther away; Offred is faced with an unexpected reunion.
posted by litlnemo (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had to make the post so I'd have somewhere to say how overwhelmingly difficult this one was to watch. This week in particular. Usually I'm pretty tough and don't get emotionally destroyed by the episodes, but this one got me.
posted by litlnemo at 1:31 AM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


No worries! I just got home from 4 days away, and spent the day catching up on the last 4 days of the politics thread, and thus was behind schedule for posting.

It of course meant that after spending the day reading about the horrors of ripping children from their mothers, I came here to watch....a child be ripped from her mother's arms. Emotionally destroyed is, indeed, a good descriptor.

The timing of last weeks episode with Canadian diplomacy and this week's episode..... just....fuck.

Donating money doesn't seem to be enough, and my representatives are already doing everything they can, it seems.

We say it almost every week, but the parallels between Gilead and present day America, down to the current headlines, is chilling.
posted by Bibliogeek at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was trying to ignore certain videos in the news lately, because I don't think I can handle them without turning into a sobbing mess. And I was right. That one scene broke me. So while I'm already bawling I went on twitter and found the videos of the children I've been ignoring, furthering my break down. But it was necessary to see that these things are not just in our entertainment now but life has become what art has warned us. This show is somehow so in tune with what's happening right now, even though this was all filmed months ago.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch this episode again, at least all of it. But it was so very good.
posted by numaner at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The episode's writer, Yahlin Chang, gives some insight.
posted by numaner at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


from the director: The audience should be as dislocated and discombobulated. They should feel: 'Fuck. What now?'"
posted by numaner at 12:42 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


ffs HT, a significant ray of light is long overdue. Too grim.
posted by alrightokay at 6:57 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


That fucking destroyed me.
posted by roolya_boolya at 7:28 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


"You deserve this." Chills.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:01 PM on June 20, 2018


I was betting that the group with her daughter had to leave because they saw local patrols heading their way. I wasn't too surprised at the end. Just devastated by the middle.

I still wonder what Nick's motivations are in all of this. Is he that much in love with June, somehow, or is he sick of this new society? I feel it's the latter, given that he's been driving the commander to the whorehouse all this time. I just don't quite get where he's at. He doesn't really think he has a chance with June at this point, does he?
posted by Catblack at 8:13 PM on June 20, 2018


ugh why did they just not hightail it to canada
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:31 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, that was NOT the right thing to watch whilst sat in Pret in the Gatwick departures lounge ...
posted by myotahapea at 4:05 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was betting that the group with her daughter had to leave because they saw local patrols heading their way. I wasn't too surprised at the end. Just devastated by the middle.

I still wonder what Nick's motivations are in all of this. Is he that much in love with June, somehow, or is he sick of this new society? I feel it's the latter, given that he's been driving the commander to the whorehouse all this time. I just don't quite get where he's at. He doesn't really think he has a chance with June at this point, does he?


Yeah so - is Gilead really so well-organized that a driver of a Commander can't offer a reasonable explanation for being somewhere to a patrol? That the patrol definitely knows some foolishness is afoot, enough to shoot him?

But we didn't see Nick really getting killed or anything. We saw a brief struggle and a shot - was it an extraction? Did he and the Commander put in place a plan to make June think that he was killed? Is he just trying to get out of the household? Is that why he's been so moody and wack - because he loves June but has been putting together his own extraction plan?
posted by entropone at 5:31 AM on June 21, 2018


CW: I'm going to write about June's assault.

I don't want to absolve the Commander or Gilead of this assault, but this was Serena raping June. They were in Serena's bedroom, in her bed. It's the most explicit demonstration of how the privileged Gilead women get what they want by victimizing other women. (How significant is it that the new commander is a black man who won't need a handmaid?) And, afterwards, Serena's face is disgusted, but it seems more like she's disgusted by how messy it was rather than what she and the commander did. Possibly by how into it the commander was. Ugh.

The TV Club reviewer for this episode wrote about the June/Hannah reunion:
Instead, we get one of the finest sequences in this show’s relatively brief history, acted marvelously by Elisabeth Moss and company. Confronted with a reunion for which she was wholly unprepared, June reaches inside herself and finds the strength to parent. She pulls her shit together as fast as she can and makes the best use of her cruelly brief window with the child that was wrenched from her arms. It’s okay to be mad at us. It’s okay to like your new parents. It’s okay to be happy. I love you, your daddy loves you, we will try to find you, but please live your life. Love your parents. And be safe. Do as you’re told. Find a way to exist in this merciless world.
posted by gladly at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2018 [10 favorites]


god just reading a recap makes me wanna tear up
posted by numaner at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if you’re reading this and haven’t already seen the episode it’s definitely ok to put off watching it for awhile if you are already stressed. Combined with the family separation madness and other IRL stuff this one didn’t exactly do wonders for my mood or willingness to engage with humanity.

Moss just won all the TV awards with this episode alone Such a brilliant portrayal and true depth. I hope everyone involved went to an amusement park or something after shooting this one—so goddamned bleak.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I hope everyone involved went to an amusement park or something after shooting this one—so goddamned bleak.

I suggest watching with someone who can give you a hug afterwards... or a stiff drink?
posted by mykescipark at 10:09 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wondered why the patrol that caught Nick didn't search the house. Did they see tracks of the other car and assume that anyone else involved already left? With that much snow there were surely footprints showing multiple people. I thought it might have been a setup to take out Nick specifically because Waterford has been trying to get rid of Nick before June rubbed it in his face that the baby is not his.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:25 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


I like that theory and the commander that had Nick’s back died in the bomb right? But the commander isn’t going to leave June out there. He’d definitely have her brought back. She’s even already tried to escape once.

Hannah couldn’t have been more than 7. And she was, what, 3 when they took her, so Gilead can’t be more than like 4 years old. It’s a little hard to believe that Nick’s wife doesn’t get why he doesn’t love her. I mean, he could at least try to say sentences longer than 4 words to her but she must have until ber recently assumed she would get to pick the person she married. The poor thing literally fell for the first person to show her some genuine attention.


Was the commander or the wife the one suggesting the rape? That whole thing was totally unnecessary and gratuitous. IMO pretty much the whole episode was torture porn.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:25 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


"he could at least try to say sentences longer than 4 words to her but she must have until ber recently assumed she would get to pick the person she married"

I'm thinking she was raised in a family that was already Gilead-ready before Gilead happened. I feel awful for her. A lot of recaps I've seen have treated her as a villain already -- and she may do a villainous betrayal at some point -- but she is a victim too and breaks my heart, honestly.
posted by litlnemo at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


I like that theory and the commander that had Nick’s back died in the bomb right? But the commander isn’t going to leave June out there. He’d definitely have her brought back. She’s even already tried to escape once.

I forget why the Commander wanted Nick gone - can somebody fill me in?
But yes, Nick's "real boss" died in the bombing.

I don't agree that Waterford wants June back. If he knows the baby isn't his, he might be more than willing to dispose of both of them and save face among his commander pals by saying that they both died in childbirth.
posted by entropone at 3:31 PM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


This episode made me think about how cultures and religions put rules and rituals in place but human beings are messy. Rules get bent, rituals get perverted. Nick is given a wife by the religious law of Gilead but they can’t make him love her or even care about her. The ritual where the commander’s wife mirrors the birthing process turned on Serena Joy and made her feel foolish. The ritual of implantation was perverted into rape. The more the religion forces these rituals and fake responses, the more perverse the religion becomes.

I kept thinking during the rape scene that I would have been calling it rape and telling the commander that he was a monster possessed by Satan. Anything to try and reach his conscience. I guess he did feel guilty, hence the arranged visit.

I hate I have to wait a year for the next episode.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:59 PM on June 21, 2018


Wait, episode 11 is on 6/27/18 with the season finale episode 12 the following week.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:01 PM on June 21, 2018


Even better (?), there are 13 episodes this season, so we have three more. The final episode will be available on July 11.
posted by gladly at 7:41 PM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


June damn near successfully escaped, why would you put her in a car for at least an hour to a remote location with just a driver? How does Fred have the power to arrange this improbable scenario but not have a cover story in place with security patrols? Why is it apparently taking place in an unauthorized shut-up Commander's house? Why are security patrols randomly checking on an unoccupied property at the EXACT MOMENT that this reunion is occurring?

Gods, I HOPE this was a conspiracy to take out Nick, but otherwise the whole arrangement for June to see Hannah is so sloppy that it makes no damn sense. Also, do Hannah's new parents know about this rendezvous? Because she's going to be a defiant mess for months and is going to have a hard time keeping this secret at that age.

Also, yes, Nick is such a useless lump. Instead of just emitting self-absorbed grunt while Eden is sobbing about you not loving her, maybe explain to her that this marriage thing is hard because he's a grown man and she's fifteen years old? I agree that she's not a villain; she seems to have come from some sort of super conservative evangelical upbringing that fits in with Gilead (there is PLENTY of this going on right this very minute, it's not farfetched.)
posted by desuetude at 8:52 PM on June 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Was the commander or the wife the one suggesting the rape? That whole thing was totally unnecessary and gratuitous. IMO pretty much the whole episode was torture porn.

IIRC (only watched once, and under less than ideal circumstances) Serena was the one who suggested the rape, when she and the Commander were in the greenhouse. She wants 'her' baby RIGHT NOW and wants June thrown as far away as possible. After the Braxton-Hicks event Aunt Lydia wouldn't consider inducing or any other 'unnatural' methods for a fortnight (?) so Serena hit on the old wives' wisdom that sex can trigger labour. The subtext was painfully obvious in that scene, though; both Serena and Fred absolutely understood that Serena was suggesting they rape their pregnant handmaid under cover of 'ceremony' and 'what's best for the baby', and both of them were not only fine with it, but seemed to enjoy the power this loophole allowed them.

My read is that this is largely an excuse to brutalise June, much as gladly wrote above, and even if I had had a shred of sympathy for Serena before this it would be utterly wiped out now. Serena wants to punish June, and she found a perfect way to do it that gave her total deniability yet allowed her to get off on holding down another woman while her husband rapes her, at her suggestion. And I would agree that if Serena was upset by anything during that scene it would be that she found it a bit messy; I believe there was at least a part of her that truly enjoyed using the tools of a system created to subjugate women to physically and mentally torture a woman for no reason other than to assert her superiority over that woman.

Serena is a fucking monster.
posted by myotahapea at 6:45 AM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Ahh, see I thought that she was steering him away from something like a forced c-section because that's just beyond the pale but the natural thing leading to the rape, I didn't see that and now I do. Shades fallen. Utterly evil.
posted by h00py at 7:45 AM on June 22, 2018


How does Fred have the power to arrange this improbable scenario but not have a cover story in place with security patrols? Why is it apparently taking place in an unauthorized shut-up Commander's house? Why are security patrols randomly checking on an unoccupied property at the EXACT MOMENT that this reunion is occurring?

It might be a setup, I don't quite believe it was a random patrol, maybe arranged by Waterford to get Nick out of the picture or someone else. I felt it was quite weird that Fred would risk it to let June meet Hannah again.

I cant wait for next week.
posted by Megustalations at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2018


I guess he did feel guilty, hence the arranged visit.

When he says "you deserve this" (re: the upcoming visit) I got the sense it was more out of malice than guilt. Like, "you asked to be transferred to her district so you can secretly watch your daughter grow up over time, how about instead you'll see her this once, see that she is already forgetting you in her new life, then you will never see her again." While I'm certain it was a huge relief for June to see her, hug her and find out she is what passes for doing ok in that world, I think he is banking on it being more devastating in the long run.

It could also have been a setup for Nick - June hits on the point that the baby is not his; he gets Nick imprisoned killed. If he has it arranged for June to be "saved" somehow by seeming coincidence or otherwise (they can always claim Nick gave up the info under torture) then he gets to devastate June with feelings about her daughter and Nick out of the picture (possibly dead) which in turn will devastate June further. Which is probably what he believes she "deserves".
posted by mikepop at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I definitely assumed it was a setup and that Fred's "you deserve this" meant "you deserve to get what you most want in the world and then have it literally ripped away from you for a second time, also to be abandoned when labor is imminent so you can either die in childbirth or deliver alone and starve to death with the baby in this isolated empty estate". Plus as a bonus he could have Nick disposed of. Everything's coming up Waterford!

(on preview: jinx, mikepop!)
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:03 AM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Serena is a fucking monster.

Another point of resonance with real-world events: Serena is a lot like Melania Trump. Like Serena, many of us wanted to sympathize with Melania because we know her husband is an abusive monster. And like Serena, she may indeed be a victim of him on some level, but she is complicit, and when given the chance to do the right thing, made it clear that she didn't care to do so.
posted by lunasol at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


god just reading a recap makes me wanna tear up

Confession: I have not watched a single episode this season because I just can't. But I need to know what happens so I keep reading the recaps. The EW recaps are actually recaps (ie, they tell you what happened) if anyone else is tempted to follow this strategy.
posted by lunasol at 12:39 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that there are still three more episodes this season; this felt like a season finale to me.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:56 PM on June 22, 2018


I'm glad there are more episodes! If they left us hanging like that for a year this show would be crossing over into torture porn territory.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:32 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Serena is a fucking monster.

Am I the only one reminded of Cersei Lannister? That ultra-thin icy smile....
posted by msalt at 2:41 PM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't think Serena is monster, though her actions were of course monstrous. She's a great character, speaking to how the best of intentions can be so horribly twisted, especially when people have power to do as they wish.

But yeah, that was a hard scene to watch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:25 PM on June 24, 2018


The same could be said of Cersei. She wants to protect her kids, she loves Jaime, etc.
posted by msalt at 1:35 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh totally. Perfectly natural feelings, taken to an extreme because of the power she has to put those feelings into actions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:07 AM on June 25, 2018


This episode was really fucking hard, even several weeks later after the atrocity of American ICE troops snatching babies from their mothers at the border has sunk in.

This episode turns a corner with raping June again. In the past the rapes were all in the guise of some purpose. Impregnating fertile women or simply giving pleasure to the Commanders at the expense of the Jezebels. This was rape purely as an ugly power move, a punishment, and I'm really fucking angry I had to watch it. I mean I'm OK that the show went there, I think it's a necessary part of the story they're telling, but it was awful to watch.

The child separation is just too much right now given the monstrosity of the Trump administration. I don't even know where to begin. All I can say is Elisabeth Moss is a phenomenal actress. In the hands of almost anyone else this scene would have risked being maudlin. She made it real.

Agreed that the larger story here doesn't quite make sense. I can't imagine that Fred, as dumb as he is, would put June in a car with the suspected father of "their" child. No way was this intended as a kindness. I'm a little annoyed that June didn't sense the opportunity and try to make something of it, much less dumb-ass Nick. But she's too broken and he's too dumb. It's just a series of horrors.
posted by Nelson at 9:38 PM on July 8, 2018


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