The Handmaid's Tale: "The Word"
July 11, 2018 2:18 AM - Season 2, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Serena and the other Wives strive to make change; Emily learns more about her new Commander; Offred faces a difficult decision.
posted by Bibliogeek (49 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how I feel about June staying behind. The shot of her staying behind was, to use Rita's phrase, badass but I hope that next season will be heavily based around the resistance and her involvement in that.

I cried all the way through the scenes of the Martha's running her through backyards and fields.
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:28 AM on July 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I had forgotten that the punishment for reading was to lose a finger. For a second I seriously thought Fred had had Serena lobotomized or something.

The Underground Martharoad was amazing.

"Don't do drugs!"
posted by elsietheeel at 7:49 AM on July 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Sonia Saraiya (Vanity Fair) did not like the season ending.
Todd VanDerWerff and Constance Grady (Vox) seem hopeful but unconvinced.

I think I have just Too Many Feelings about it to know which way I come down until I can eventually summon the stamina to watch it again.
posted by lauranesson at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2018

Well that was a dumb ending on all fronts. I think this might end my watching of the show.

I don't believe Serena would have done what she did, I don't believe June would have renamed Holly for Serena, and I don't believe June would actually think she'd be more able to help Hannah as a runaway handmaid than from Canada.
posted by jeather at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2018 [26 favorites]

Sorry Serena, you still did this to yourself, and the baby's name is Holly.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I guess next season June is leading the resistance... going undercover as a Martha for Commander Lawrence. Remember, these people don't see women, only the uniform.
posted by Pendragon at 1:27 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I thought it was a pretty plausible ending. June's previous escape attempts were as much about getting her baby out as getting herself out and she has always been committed to Hannah and getting her out too.

Serena has had an increasingly bad time in Gilead and shown increasing signs of dissatisfaction and rebellion all season and Eden's death and her own maiming have shown her that no woman is safe in their world.

June has always had a tendency to stick up for other women when she could and I can see how after seeing the Martha network in action, and that Serena finally waking up, she might be motivated to stay around and burn it all to the ground. Admittedly there is also an element of plot machination to make the next season all about the rebellion. It could be a very satisfying watch!
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

When Fred asked Eden's father "you have another daughter?" I was sure he was going to ask for her as a replacement bride for Nick.

The Vulture review pointed out "nothing curtails the adventurous spirit of a season two like a season three" and that about sums it up for me. A better episode would have ended with June standing at the truck and considering her Sophie's choice, to parallel last season's "into the darkness, or else the light". This feels like the characters have spent a year trapped on a diabolical Ferris wheel that periodically stops to let on more misery but never really goes anywhere.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:11 PM on July 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh! And Eden's Bible broke my heart. I have a Bible downstairs with stickers on the spine and all marked up with colored pens and pencils, like any former teenage girl who was once in a youth group and considered herself a serious scholar of scripture. I bet Serena does too.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah I thought this was a strong ending, setting up June joining the rebellion next season. It was pretty heavily telegraphed the entire season that this is where she will end up. Like Hannah Gadsby said, "There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.", and we've seen that in June. The negative reviews are saying that she's being dumb, but I think at this point she's smart enough to know how to survive and also not get more people in trouble. And she's now seen a commander willing to do the right thing, as well as Serena. I think that stare at Lawrence's car at the end was her hope coming back and giving her a reason to stay and fight.

Also, so many moments where I was just like... oh no this is going to end badly, because that's how the show has been so far. Like Serena or Fred walking in on June and Nick holding their baby, Serena not giving back the baby, and point during the escape that someone could've spotted them. The only moment that it did end badly as I feared is for Serena getting her pinkie cut off.

But holy shit Emily! Yeah girl! Man I wanted her to slap aunt Lydia or something but she straight up stabbed her! So I wonder what made Joseph Lawrence turn his views around, but I guess we'll find out.

And go Marthas! I loved Rita's look at Fred at the end when he realizes what's happening.

So Nick must be in on it too? Or maybe he realized in the midst of all of that he can stall Fred?
posted by numaner at 5:10 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

So many of these episodes - from this season and the last - have ended on the false note of June staring into the camera with determination or mischief or anger in her eyes, only for the next episode to reveal that it was meaningless, as she is subjected to the next brutality. It's starting to feel like an extended experiment in "Here's some fresh and innovative takes on really shitty things that can happen to women", with minimal back-and-forth, just a catalogue of atrocities. And since I don't care about spoilers I read the VF article and...that's just a stunted, exasperating and false way for season 2 to end.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

Consider if this show had ended with June getting on the truck. And then reunited with Nick and Moira, with Holly. That would have been satisfying and a find end to a fine two year run.

But then what of Hannah? Hannah is still trapped in Gilead. I had a hard time swallowing June choosing to stay behind to join a resistance myself. But maybe it's more than that, maybe she's there to rescue Hannah. Inspired by the resistance of the Marthas and of Joseph. It's dangerous and terrifying but it will make for a good season 3. The key thing is it's June still trying to save Hannah.

I love the character of Joseph. Finally a little levity and chaos in the world. Also a man who's not just a religious zombie, someone with a bit of teeth to him. I think the show has been very smart in making men supporting characters all through the show, and relatively one dimensional. I like the focus on women. But perhaps Joseph will go somewhere in season 3 and that would be fantastic.

I do hope they figure out how to bring back Ann Dowd. The stabbing felt like they were writing in options depending on contract negotiations. But she's a great actress and Aunt Lydia is a good character. Maybe they give her a redemption arc, after humanizing her a couple of tiny bits this season.

Speaking of humanizing I had a very hard time with June showing any sort of forgiveness to Serena. I'm sorry your dumb ass got your finger chopped off but you made that bed. Then put your Handmaid in it and held her down while your husband raped her by your suggestion. I suppose my heart should be big enough to accept even Serena can have a moment of redemption. But it's not.
posted by Nelson at 8:32 PM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not buying this ending at all
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:42 PM on July 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

June sure has a knack for letting other people put their lives on the line for her, only to waste their efforts.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:17 PM on July 11, 2018 [21 favorites]

I don't believe Serena would have done what she did, I don't believe June would have renamed Holly for Serena, and I don't believe June would actually think she'd be more able to help Hannah as a runaway handmaid than from Canada.

I like trends in shows these days that (perhaps) show less than idealized characters that may not be functionally in the "best of all possible scenarios." I can totally understand Hannah being enough reason for June to stay, as her primary motivation -- to feel that she couldn't leave, even if it were (arguably) tactically expedient. June's certainly going to kick some major ass in the process (I predict), but her primary motivation is that she simply cannot leave Hannah after the encounter with her daughter earlier where Hannah asked June why she didn't come for her previously. (Waterford's comment about Hannah emphasized his control over Hannah and her potential danger.) June cannot stand there and exit when she knows that her daughter cannot leave -- and this time if she left it would be by means of June's volition, rather than being forced to be apart, which is overly heartbreaking to her.

Also, there's no guarantee that there can be effective tactical moves done from Canada, as they've all seemed pretty inept so far. But June also has no idea at this point what tactical moves could be realized if she leaves. She hasn't herself been easily rescued, for that matter, and she has no reason to think it'll happen for Hannnah. Any wrong gamble on this would perhaps put Hannah farther away from her permanently. (Also, I just realized that Hannah is at risk considering the actions of June. There was a hard scene earlier indicating that daughters were punished as the result of the failures of the parents. Who knows how that could play out.)

In my mind, the whole scene is June simply not leaving her daughter (flashback to her singing to Hannah here is important), and will die trying (steely resolve in the closing shot). I also think that it matters to June that she is the one making the effort -- at serious personal risk, perhaps as a point of redemption for herself -- rather than trying to work out something through secondary parties. That's what happened when she last saw Hannah, and it was exceptionally painful because Hannah didn't understand the disconnect. June's redecided what her primary sacrifice should be as a mother, and that's all that matters right now. If she takes down Gilead in the process, that's frosting on the cake.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:46 AM on July 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yeah, it's kind of strange of people to think June would make rational decisions. June has been shown to be prone to emotional, spur-of-the-moment decisions, like slapping commander Dickhead.
posted by Pendragon at 12:53 AM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a little detail in the background of Mrs. Putnam's house, we see a Martha holding and cuddling the baby. Given the previous theories that Angela's failure to thrive was the result of Mrs. Putnam having the least possible contact with 'her' baby, it looks like the solution was to pass the responsibility over to the household staff.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:57 AM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was a weird ending to the season overall. It all felt a bit rushed through and it felt very much like "well, we need to move all these things in place to get to the end." The whole "girls should be allowed to read the Bible" thing was introduced and then, oops, Serena got her finger cut off as punishment! It all happened so quickly, especially for a show that seems to like to drag things out.

I would've liked if the secret network of Marthas had a bit more set-up (although, looking back, maybe that's how Emily met her lover). I would also like if I cared at all about Nick.

I don't think June's choice at the end was necessarily surprising, but I still have a hard time buying her as a revolutionary badass. So many of her actions in this show have been about her own self-interest (and well, that of Hannah). Maybe the end was meant to be "No, now I'm in it for everyone" but it didn't feel earned.

Joseph is an interesting character but I also hope the undoing of Gilead isn't through him exclusively. This is a show about women so I'd like there not to be a man who solves everything (even if he was the one who destroyed it all to begin with).

I'm still optimistic about season 3 but I can also imagine there may be a point where I just give up on it in the middle of an episode. I guess we'll see what it brings.
posted by darksong at 6:20 AM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love the acting and direction of the series, but let's be honest, the plot mechanics used to keep June back in that house, or hell, even still alive and unmarred are comically ridiculous.

Which is fine, I watch it to see June eventually kill everyone in the room, in some form or another. But telling the Commander to fuck and then slapping him and still being around just rings false.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The first episode of the season was about June making the choice to leave Hannah and hoping that Hannah would forgive her for it later. That's paid off when we see that Hannah felt abandoned and didn't understand why her parents left her. Fred betrays Serena, Eden's family betrayed her. If Emily makes it out and can confirm the horrors of Gilead, it's powerful. June couldn't do that knowing that Hannah's adopted family would likely give her up to whatever torture Gilead had for her.

Serena's arc was too rushed, but I loved seeing all of the wives abandon her so completely when she started to read. Compare that with the Marthas solidarity. I really hope we get more of Rita next season. That actress is phenomenal, and I think the Marthas and Handmaids acting in concert could be very powerful.

But telling the Commander to fuck and then slapping him and still being around just rings false.

Perhaps, but I think we've seen enough that the Commander absolutely gets off on it. He likes exercising his power with a woman he can force outside of Gilead's rituals.
posted by gladly at 6:35 AM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I agree the whole device of Eden's Bible and Serena's brief attempt at political influence was too crammed into this one episode. I think the writers got in a bit of a jumble trying to fit this story in with June's story. Too bad, I found the artifact of her annotated Bible so poignant.

That very negative episode review jeather wrote has stuck with me. The show has now done too many fakeouts of "June's about to escape! Yoink, nevermind." I do not want another season like this one.

I'm hoping season 3 goes somewhere different. The core of this show is explaining Gilead; how it arose and how it functions. The systematic exploitation of women by society, partly as metaphor and partly as grotesque scifi dystopia. I'm hoping they show it from a different perspective this time. Not of a victim woman trapped inside a house, as well done as most of that has been. Maybe June joins the Martha resistance. She becomes Joseph's new handmaid as cover. She spends all her time operating an underground railroad. It'd be a great foil for showing the society from other angles.
posted by Nelson at 7:46 AM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think June renamed Holly to NIchole for Serena. I took it that she did it for Nick.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:48 AM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Perhaps, but I think we've seen enough that the Commander absolutely gets off on it. He likes exercising his power with a woman he can force outside of Gilead's rituals.

Good point, he essentially enjoys the "challenge" of June and trying to bend her to his will.

After some more thought, I think the episode suffered from trying to do too much in one episode. As a viewer it felt much like whiplash from sudden acceleration.

My favorite part of the episode was Josh Lyman doing the right thing. Damn straight.

The relationship between Serena and June has been the most interesting to watch over the course of the series and obviously one of the most painful. Two women in that situation, one mostly be choice, the other by force, with all the different leverages of power that they use for themselves, and for and against each other. It's hard, brutal and at times moving. While Hannah is obviously June's focus, I do wonder what, if anything she'll do with Serena, who clearly needs some saving.

That said, and baring any massive changes, it looks like Season 3 could and probably should wrap things up. The show has been stretching things out for a bit now, but it starting to feel a bit long. While the series has been working for me because of it's explicit pronouncement of how wrong all it is, it's been incredibly brutal to watch at times and there's little interest in seeing more of that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 AM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The problem with the finale is not that June's choices aren't rational, it's that they're entirely out of character.

Alan Sepinwall's take is much like mine, so I'm going to quote him.
The season ends not with June taking her baby across the border to reunite with her husband and perhaps make plans to liberate older daughter Hannah, but with June handing the infant to an understandably dismayed Emily and declining to get in the van herself. The van drives off, June pulls on her hood, glares at the camera and walks out into the rain as Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” plays.

It is meant, I think, to be a triumphant moment: June trying to live out the song’s title by destroying Gilead (or, at least, rescuing Hannah) from the inside. But it plays as perhaps the dumbest reset button in the history of TV reset buttons, capping off a season that has already pressed said button far too often.

Again: June has a chance to escape THREE different times and never makes it. She suffers no real consequences the first two times. Nick is returned from his misadventure with the Guardians like nothing happened, even though Gilead otherwise doesn’t seem to allow for the “No harm, no foul” rule. Even the return of Emily and Janine from the Colonies – to replace the Handmaids killed in a terrorist bombing – felt like the show trying to revert to its most familiar status quo by any means necessary. Miller is apparently committed at all costs to the idea of June living in that house with the Waterfords, even though Fred has never been a particularly interesting character and Serena is a bundle of seemingly irreconcilable belief systems from which Strahovski’s performance creates the illusion of consistency. (Serena wrote most of the laws on which Gilead is based, and it takes June to remind her that “her” daughter won’t even be allowed to read? And June’s decision to let the baby be called by the name Serena gave her was absurd, as if both June and the show are forgiving Serena her myriad, devastating sins because she has a change of heart after finally suffering herself from this fascist hellscape she helped create. Feh.)


It may be that Miller has some fiendishly clever workaround to this problem, but it sure feels like the only reason Offred doesn’t get into that van is because the show would be over if that happened – or, at least, this version of the show would be. There are ways to tell stories of June’s life in Canada, and/or to choose a different Handmaid to be the new Offred, and our eyes and ears in this nightmare. But the former loses much of the current premise’s tension, and the latter marginalizes the genius of Moss or says goodbye to it altogether. It’s totally nonsensical for June to turn around and go back to Gilead, but it’s also the only way forward for the drama that finally put Hulu’s original productions on the map, including the kind of Emmy haul last year that Netflix and Amazon are still dreaming about.
One of my consistent complaints this season has been their obsession with creating stories only for June, even though there are many more interesting characters with more interesting stories to tell. (My other consistent complaint has been that they changed the world too much -- from the danger and secrecy from backchannel talk in s1 to everyone just chatting merrily from the start of s2 so that they could send the episode with the explosion out with screeners to reviewers.)

I do think this show got lucky with its resonances (though we sure didn't get lucky), and s1 was telling Atwood's story anyhow -- now that they need to continue it on their own, it shows that they don't exactly understand what was important about the book. June isn't supposed to be a superhero, and Gilead doesn't fall because of One Mother Who Saves Her Daughter. But really, it's fine -- the showrunner sees something very different from what I see in this world, and has interests in what stories he wants to tell that are not mine, and we can part with me finally moving BSG out of Top Three Finales I Hated Most.
posted by jeather at 9:00 AM on July 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

Few stray thoughts:

I’m really surprised that June hasn’t been mutilated by now. Like probably her younger.

This episode had a lot of people using June and Emily’s names who normally would object to that.

Commander Lawrence is interesting and yay for saving Emily but shit he sure is an asshole to his own wife.

When the wives showed up to the council meeting, it really felt like the two white ladies who got their babies are ready to jump ship when there’s no way they would have made that choice before they got their babies.

We need to know more about the Martha’s but also Rita specifically. She’s the only person in that house we haven’t gotten a backstory from.

Nicks totally dead now. The commander didn’t really like him before and now he’s gotta be toast. Although if June comes back to the house. There’s a chance the Waterford’s would keep the around to make another baby since that combo worked once.
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2018

I think for most of this season, June's able to get away with so much because she was pregnant and then had a successful albeit difficult birth, and they built their entire government around the fact that fertile women should be cherished and kept safe. Even Janine was only sent to the colonies because she endangered the baby's life. June never showed that she would go that far, so they kept letting her get away with all these offenses. But Fred knew that controlling her meant using her daughter, and it was effective. And he knew that outing her offenses so far also meant outing his own rule bending, and the council already looked down on him because of Serena. Serena suffered the mutilation because of her public offenses, but June's private offenses didn't make her suffer as much. The rape, a slap to the face and a threat is all Fred can do without drawing attention to June publicly. And of course there's his obsession with her that he doesn't have for Serena.

The last flashback scene also struck me as meaning that she can't go back to Luke without Hannah, as some kind of personal mission. And if she got the baby out, surely she can get the daughter out.
posted by numaner at 11:49 AM on July 12, 2018

Although if June comes back to the house. There’s a chance the Waterford’s would keep the around to make another baby since that combo worked once.

But... how on earth is June going to be allowed back at the Waterford's? She's a handmaid who has gone missing under mysterious circumstances several times, and now she appears but the Waterford's baby is missing? Surely Fred is not going to be able to pull enough strings this time that Gilead society is going to overlook a missing child. I mean, how does the commander get to even remain commander when 1) his wife is disobedient 2) his handmaid frequently goes missing 3) a young wife in his household was executed for adultery 4) his child has DISAPPEARED. Never mind the fact that Nick is going to be looking at June like I TRUSTED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF OUR DAUGHTER; Serena is going to be looking at June like I TRUSTED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF MY DAUGHTER; Rita is going to be looking at June like I TRUSTED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR DAUGHTER. Why on earth would any of these people put their faith or support June at this point after she's begged all these people to take care of her child and she's just handed off her nursing infant to someone else for safekeeping? Oh, right, Hannah. Hannah, whose memory has never kept her mother from trying to escape before suddenly becomes the catalyst for June sending her infant daughter on a dangerous and difficult journey to the border in the arms of a stranger without means to feed a nursing baby. After having our noses rubbed in the belief that motherhood is a deep and motivating force it's suddenly no longer a thing where tiny helpless baby Holly is concerned. Okay.

But then again, I am sure that June back in the Waterford's is exactly what's going to happen and there will be some weak handwavy plot moment to "explain" why Offred is back in the same place, along with everyone else. Even though Nick and Rita should be executed if we're to believe that Gilead runs on paranoid authoritarianism. But since there were no repercussions for the bombing other than two of the most disobedient and difficult handmaids being brought back from the toxic gulag (like, there are no other handmaids in the entire rest of the country?), apparently consistent authoritarian values are only used to move the plot along. Sorry Eden. Even though you're supposedly pious and fertile, a murderous, deviant handmaid's life is worth more in Gilead.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe June won't end up back at the Waterford's. That would be a surprisingly strong plot move that I am not counting on at this point after all the other shenanigans.

TLDR: the plotting in these stories has become increasingly untenable and I no longer trust the writers to get it right. Which makes me sad because the acting and photography are quite good, and there's no reason that they couldn't be consistent with such strong world building in the first place. Sigh.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

I don't think she'll be going back to the Waterfords, I think she'll be hidden with Lawrence. You don't introduce somebody played by Bradley Whitford, not kill him off, and then not having him starring in the next season.

two of the most disobedient and difficult handmaids being brought back from the toxic gulag

They brought back a bunch, in that scene where they pulled them from the line as they're walking back from the fields in the colonies. Presumably that is the only colony nearby for that entire region. The Handmaids present at the bombing were much more than the group we've seen regularly with June and Alma. From the reports it sounded like a lot more Handmaids were killed than Gilead officials. And fertile women are rare these days, so they couldn't risk not using those they know to be fertile.

Sorry Eden. Even though you're supposedly pious and fertile, a murderous, deviant handmaid's life is worth more in Gilead.

She hasn't proven to be fertile, and her infidelity was very public. In fact, I think if her father had called the Waterfords directly, I think Eden could have survived, with Isaac being scapegoated, another "kidnap". If there's anything Fred is more worried about than losing June, it's that he wants to keep all his bullshit as private as possible.
posted by numaner at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

So MGM and Lot18 tried to release a Handmaid's Tale Brand of wines, two reds, named after Ofred and Ofglen, and a white, named after Serena. It's truly terrible. They were pulled from Lot18's website within 9 hours.
posted by numaner at 2:34 PM on July 12, 2018

I've read and heard quite a number of people say that it's not believable that Serena would give up the baby. I disagree because it seems to me that the show has spent a lot of time developing her character this season, all leading her to this point where she really does something that is otherwise unthinkable for her to us. That speaks to her desperation and the sudden realization of how horrifying it all is.

Her loneliness after losing all intimacy with her husband. The business trip where she met the mysterious stranger and was tempted with freedom, while witnessing people's perceptions of her as a quaint oddity to be mostly politely ignored, at best. She's just witnessed Eden's father be praised for having turned his daughter in to be executed while being confronted with her powerlessness against the same thing happening to her daughter.

I also find it believable that she could carefully move a roomful of wives to agree with her in approaching the Council via the proper channels (though she clearly both overestimated and surprised them when she decided to read out loud). She was a published author with a history of speaking for political movements, who was instrumental in the early strategies for creating Gilead. And now she has lost a finger.

I really believe that it has finally dawned on Serena that she helped create hell for herself and her daughter. I don't excuse or forgive any of her complicity, but I think she finally understands that she can't protect her daughter in Gilead. I believe that she would give her daughter up at this point, because her primary motivation has always been to be a good mother.

And that's why June changes Holly's name to Nicole.
posted by juliplease at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Alan Sepinwall's take is much like mine, so I'm going to quote him.

Oh, the mansplaining of the handmaid's tale. Just what I've been waiting for my whole life.
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:36 PM on July 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

The last flashback scene also struck me as meaning that she can't go back to Luke without Hannah, as some kind of personal mission. And if she got the baby out, surely she can get the daughter out.

I thought it showed June's deep love for Hannah and established Luke's deep respect and love for them both. I took it as setting up Luke to be a key part in caring for Nichole and helping get Hannah out from the other side. I didn't see June's feelings for Luke playing into it one way or the other. Quite the opposite.
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:40 PM on July 12, 2018

I'm not a man, as it happens.
posted by jeather at 5:53 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was referring to Alan Sepinwall.
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:53 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

These end of season reviews both make me despair and show what a strong and challenging work of art Handmaid’s Tale is. For example, the way these reviews and the summaries of the them in the NYT take bits and pieces of well signposted and well developed character arcs and dismiss them as unbelievable instead of discussing the harsh realities of how our own is world reflected in where the story went. They take apart the style and ignore the substance.

For example, how utterly plausible it is that Fred would have his wife’s finger chopped off because he lost a bit of face in front of the lads.

But no, let’s talk about how it’s not real life. As though it’s not the case that every piece of fiction ever created uses artifice and set pieces to make a wider point. Like, that’s the whole bloody point of fiction. That’s how it works.

And now the conversation is about how the story is told instead of what the story is saying. Just one more silencing technique in long history of ways to ignore the stories of women.

Well some of us are listening and we look forward to the next instalment.
posted by roolya_boolya at 6:26 PM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you want people to about a particular subject, you gotta tell a good story.

Yeah, what defines "a good story" varies greatly. HT clearly seems to have stumbled with certain number of people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on July 12, 2018

I can totally buy into June staying because of a “Leave no child behind” situation. Unfortunately, I am getting tired of June. I want to spend more time in Gilead, I just want want to do it with other characters. I want to see how the wives join the resistance.
Sorry, June, it’s not you. It’s me.

Also: NEW MAPS! We know where the bombs went!
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:04 PM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

This episode was written by a man (as are more than half of all episodes). The showrunner is a man. I don't feel that a man who writes reviews for a living writing a negative review of this episode -- the plot of which is well beyond Atwood's story, and reviews that are similar to ones I have seen by women (one of which I also linked) is at all mansplainy.

I want stories of and about women -- but also I want them to be BY women. How the story is told is part and parcel of what the story is saying.
posted by jeather at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

After him being unable to control his Handmaid, his driver’s wife, and his own wife, Gilead would have had Fred and his entire household executed. Women aren’t citizens in Gilead, they are always some Man’s responsibility.

Cutting off a mere woman’s finger is an implausibly lenient response to Fred’s (household’s) many transgressions.
posted by monotreme at 1:51 PM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Cutting off a mere woman’s finger is an implausibly lenient response to Fred’s (household’s) many transgressions.

It works thematically as stand in for the Old Boy's network, but fails linearly/logically because we haven't seen anything that would support Fred's house being left alone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:01 PM on July 13, 2018

I feel like a female showrunner would have at least thought through how the baby’s supposed to eat on the long drive to Canada without June. It’s not like they can pop into Walmart for diapers and formula.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:30 PM on July 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

Not necessarily? If it was me, I wouldn’t have had June make that decision, but I didn’t even think of the formula until I read it here.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:28 AM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

A few episodes back when Emily’s second commander died during the ceremony, my first thought was that she somehow killed or poisoned him. Her reaction was just so nonplussed. And we’ve seen her drive over a guard, poison Marissa Tomei (LOVED that episode) and now stab Aunt Lydia. Emily is a beast. That said, I don’t believe for a second Lydia is dead.

I KNEW Emily’s new commander was less invested in gilead the moment she stepped into that art-filled house. That actor is SO creepy though. I hope we get to see more of him.

The thing about June is that, at least in the book, she’s a bit of an unreliable narrator. There are a lot of moments in the book where we get a glimpse of what I can only describe as Stockholm Syndrome with her. So her motivations in this season might not be 100% rational, and for now at least, I’m okay with seeing where they take this, even though I hated the ending and was yelling at the TV “oh no baby what is you doin?”
posted by Brittanie at 5:46 AM on July 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don’t know, I’ve often thought this season of what it must be like for June. Despite the bleakness and abuse, to find some sort of love, or connection at least, with Nick and to genuinely love this baby they had. At the same time, she must have also felt this undercurrent of disloyalty to her husband and their daughter.

And then all of a sudden she’s escaping! While the Marthas clearly had a plan, June didn’t know anything about it until it was time to run. There at the road, alone, maybe it all became real, this idea of ending up in Canada, facing her husband with this baby, but not their daughter? Wouldn’t that feel selfish, like a terrible betrayal— choosing herself and another man’s baby, but abandoning her first daughter? What would she say to Luke? Would she be able to live with herself, with the decision to leave without Hannah? That was all there for me when she was showing Hannah’s picture to the baby and tucking it in to her blanket.

And then as she’s wrestling with all this, Emily is there? Totally unexpected! To me, it felt like a spur of the moment decision to hand her baby to someone she trusted so she could actually stay and try to get Hannah out too. Sending the baby back sends a message to the world about what’s happening in Gilead, but then with photo in the baby’s blanket, June can also send a clue to her friends and family that she’s still fighting for Hannah.

I don’t think June had a dumb plan, because I don’t think she even had a plan! Handing over the baby almost wasn’t even a choice, just an instinct she acted upon when the opportunity presented itself. It is hard to imagine how this is all going to work out, but I guess that’s the ground season three is going to cover.

Regarding the baby’s name — does calling her Nicole make it undeniably clear that the baby who makes it out belonged (“belonged”) to the Waterfords? Would that serve some political purpose?
posted by kittydelsol at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh good point! Also, I had a hint that the name was going to stick because the captions said "Nichole coos" (yes, that's the spelling in the show). I also wonder if it's both to honor Serena's decision and sticking it to Fred by having his named daughter out there.
posted by numaner at 6:03 PM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

trapped on a diabolical Ferris wheel that periodically stops to let on more misery but never really goes anywhere.

June is freshly birthed (I was nucking futs post patrum a while and that is not hyperbole) and Stockholm’ed and gaslight and written by and run by men like she’s following a magic eightball plot machine written by an ai who has read the blurbs of too many romance novels. More Emily, dammit.

If she’s gonna get Hannah out it’s the only way she can see to do it. But she’d have to be totally underground; no pretending to be a Martha. She’d have to dye her hair (henna) and heal her ear and be damned good. And or pass as a fat guy? Haven’t seen those. Hide out at Jezebels out on the rough now that it’s less cold (I was in Boston for the recent heatwave. It’s not all snow all the time).

Lawrence was a stupid Maguffin though.

Liked the new maps though surprisingly it all conforms to “modern” borders (I figure the Chamizal line would have moved).
posted by tilde at 4:16 PM on July 15, 2018

And then as she’s wrestling with all this, Emily is there? Totally unexpected! T

Before Emily showed up, I saw putting Hannah’s folded pic in the swaddling as she’s sending the baby to the hubby (like Victorian charms for babies with tokens given up for adoption).

I expected Lawrence to drive Emily and June and Holly to the border.

I think she said Nichole at the end so the Waterford’s would know she sent “their “ baby away.
posted by tilde at 4:22 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

As soon as Serena started reading, I knew that she was going to lose a finger, and that frankly, she played right into the hands of the men to serve as a perfect example and threat to everyone in Gilead. See, no-one is immune, not even high-ranking Commander's wives!

The Commanders' wives are so caught up in their privilege and superiority that they believed the bullshit rhetoric. But for all of the Gilead-produced cult around pregnancy and the value of babies, Gilead never intended to protect any of the girls--not even Commanders' daughters--from harsh punishment at the slightest "moral failing." Serena's horrified realization of this was a punch in the gut; it's awfully on-the-nose for our current political climate. (Do conservative women watch this show, and when will they recognize that the long knives are going to come for them, too?)

I enjoyed Commander Lawrence in all of his his weird, menacing insouciance, but I found his white knight thing at the end to be pretty implausible, frankly.
posted by desuetude at 8:55 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Woof. That was a lot of episode.

I think we've seen all the permutations of June at the Waterfords'. I don't know how the show can manage it, but the alternative (somehow back to status quo) just doesn't work.

What happens when you take veterans of the military and intelligence community and force then into domestic servitude? Something a little like marthanet? We rarely see what skills people had pre-gilead, but some of them would be able to survive, endure, resist, and escape.

I was actually considering as I watched the way that at each obstacle, June had to trust a stranger to take the baby in order to move forward. There was an allegory for progress and society there. Finally, she handed her to Emily (who is the murderer I would most trust my child with) but she stayed. I think the show failed to link her reasoning for that decision. In retrospect, sure, stay for Hannah. But at the time staying seemed neither likely not logical. Maybe they can make it work dramatically at the end of series three by finally letting June get into the back of a vehicle and go somewhere.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:59 PM on August 12, 2018

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