Warning: Spoilers for “The Handmaid’s Tale” beneath!
Has hope lastly come to “The Handmaid’s Tale”?
Season 2, Episode 9 sees Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) journey to the Great White North for diplomatic talks. The commander is there as a negotiator. Serena, whom he’d whipped with a belt simply days earlier than, is pressured to accompany him to indicate the world what a “robust Gilead spouse” seems like.
During their keep in Canada, Serena is confronted with the chance to show her again on Gilead completely ― within the type of a really good-looking American official named Marc (Sam Jaeger) ― and Commander Waterford is pressured to look each Luke (OT Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley) within the eyes.
Meanwhile, in Gilead, Rita (Amanda Brugel) and June (Elisabeth Moss), whom Serena has determined will depart the Waterford home as quickly because the child is born, are left on the mercy of a younger, vicious Guardian named Isaac. During the Waterfords’ time away, June enlists Rita and Aunt Lydia to guard her little one from the commander.
But arguably the episode’s most affecting confrontation is between Nick (Max Minghella) and Luke. The two males who love June are introduced collectively, and it’s their shared efforts that get the tales of Gilead’s ladies out into the world. When Nick returns and tells June that Luke is alive and Moira has executed the unattainable and escaped, that hope ― and righteous anger ― is transferred to June. Resist, sister.
Emma: This episode, we received an Airbnb joke, a scorching new American official and a Rihanna song over the credit (only one week late, Laura)! Is this what “having all of it” seems like as a viewer of “The Handmaid’s Tale”?
But, jokes apart, motion is constant out and in of Gilead, and it appears like hope ― actual, considerably longer-lasting hope ― would possibly lastly be current on this present. I do know we began off the season speaking about what a terrifying chore it’s to look at “The Handmaid’s Tale,” however I’ve to confess that each week that passes I get an increasing number of into it. Initial ideas?
Laura: I simply lastly stopped crying for lengthy sufficient to have some ideas.
This was my favourite episode of the season thus far. We can lastly hate Serena! She had some moments of empathy in earlier episodes, some moments of compassion ― however now we see that her eyes are absolutely open to what Gilead is. She is aware of that she is complicit within the systematic rape and captivity of different ladies and that she herself is being oppressed. She is aware of the spiritual justifications of the regime are bullshit. She is given an out: A highly regarded American man presents her a visit to Hawaii and an opportunity to talk out towards Gilead, which might free her and so many different struggling ladies from a brutal patriarchal regime. And what does she say? “So far, all you’ve supplied me is treason and coconuts.”
Then she throws her Hawaii-themed matches into the fireplace, signifying that she’s made her selection. She’s going to uphold the regime. She’s absolutely complicit. We don’t need to attempt to sympathize together with her anymore.
Emma: Maybe I’m a sucker, however I’m nonetheless extremely intrigued by and even empathetic towards Serena. It could be too straightforward to have her break with Gilead so shortly. As we’ve mentioned, she is probably going finally irredeemable. And but… This episode is stuffed with little moments that bely the cracks in Serena’s Strong Gilead Wife facade. She is near tears for many of the scenes she’s in. She flinches when Fred touches her shoulder and asks her to accompany him to Canada on a diplomatic mission. Her face lights up when she sees the liberty of motion and selection that the ladies of Canada nonetheless have ― to work, to make out within the streets, to stroll round with their daughters and lift them nonetheless they please. And her face falls when she sees the best way Canadian folks deal with her ― a mom and daughter don’t even wish to share an elevator together with her.
Serena shouldn’t be used to being a pariah, however now she actually is one, each outdoors of her nation and inside her personal home. She’s so very alone. But, being Serena, as an alternative of reaching out for a lifeline or an ally, she digs her heels in. That’s why she throws away the Hawaiian matches that U.S. official Marc offers her, matches which have a cellphone quantity on them that she may name for a possible escape route.
And that’s additionally why she decides that Offred should go as quickly as doable. I’m positive she sees June because the corrupting drive that made her really feel unfulfilled by her circumstances. They labored collectively and solid a friendship, and now the emotions these issues elicited can’t be taken again. Serena’s eyes are absolutely opened, however she’s not but robust sufficient (and much too cussed) to return on the system she’s devoted her life to creating. I don’t sympathize together with her, however I do nonetheless have some empathy left.
Also, can we discuss how the dynamic between Serena and the commander has shifted? The complete episode it felt like he was attempting to get her again on his aspect, reassure her one way or the other. He says they’re “fortunate.” He offers her accountability, tries to make her really feel valued: “Canadians assume ladies listed here are oppressed, that they’re unvoiced,” he says. “I would like you to indicate them a powerful Gilead spouse.” And but … don’t all of these statements land so in another way now that he’s made it clear that he’s able to and prepared to commit violence towards her?
Laura: Yes, one thing has clearly modified between the commander and Serena since he viciously beat her. I feel the aim of that beating was to remind her that she is, in truth, his property, not his equal. And it did have that impact. And now he’s asking for the robust Serena again, the one who helped him make Gilead what it’s, as a result of he acknowledges that Gilead can’t survive if there aren’t any robust feminine voices prepared to defend it and to uphold its lies.
But Serena, for now, appears to be have been overwhelmed into submission and silence. She doesn’t say a lot throughout this episode ― she accompanies the commander to Canada, however she isn’t the identical activist Serena from pre-Gilead occasions that captivated the room and made her voice heard. Instead, it’s the Jezebels who find yourself talking the loudest from Gilead and having essentially the most affect, giving “The Handmaid’s Tale” its first Me Too second of the sequence.
Emma: That scene completely wrecked me. We see tons of of girls, presumably former Gilead residents, holding up indicators across the commander’s safety element that say “I AM ____” with their names. These ladies are offended. They’re yelling, and some even throw issues on the vehicles. The indicators are important as a result of in Gilead, ladies are wives or Marthas or aunts or handmaids. But outdoors of Gilead, they’re human beings with distinct identities.
Before I dive into my ideas on the protests, although, I simply need to touch upon how eerie it was to look at this episode towards the backdrop of President Trump entering diplomatic talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and engaging in a war of words with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Not a direct parallel, however nonetheless a darkish reminder of what’s at stake on a human stage when world leaders come collectively or half methods. (I used to be particularly struck by the reminder by the American ambassador that Moira and Luke and all of the Gilead refugees are merely company of the Canadian authorities. Before this episode it hadn’t occurred to me that they might merely be deported again to Gilead.)
But again to the protests: To me ― and judging from the best way we have been each sobbing throughout these scenes, you would possibly agree with me ― these have been essentially the most affecting moments of the episode. We lastly received to see what it regarded like when essentially the most highly effective in Gilead are pressured to confront their nation’s former residents. Except this time, because the commander feedback, these folks can’t be managed. They will not be sure by the oppressive guidelines of Gilead. They’re free to talk up.
Earlier within the episode, Moira wonders what good it would do to talk out. And but, it’s the tales of individuals in Gilead that find yourself making an actual distinction and forcing the Canadian authorities to take deportation of unlawful immigrants and commerce off the desk. Nick (bless his scorching little face) will get the letters that June had been holding on to for months to Luke, and Luke in flip will get them revealed.
Overnight, a public uproar erupts and finally adjustments the path of diplomatic talks. Canadian residents converse out, Gilead refugees converse out, and tons of of former Gilead residents collect across the commander’s automobile because it leaves for the airport. They’re all holding indicators with their actual names. I absolutely wept when Moira reclaimed her identify, holding her I AM MOIRA register entrance of Fred’s window, forcing him to see it.
“Not Ruby, asshole,” she mutters beneath her breath. And I actually assume even the commander regarded rattled in that second.
Laura: The moments that affected me essentially the most have been when Luke held up the large photograph of himself and June and their child, forcing the Waterfords to confront the actual girl that they enslaved. And the dialog between Luke and Nick, when Nick lastly tells Luke that June is pregnant (although he lies about whose child it’s), was so extremely heartbreaking. We lastly see these two very totally different worlds colliding within the type of two males who’re genuinely each in love with June, and Nick appears to understand in that second that he has no proper to her in any respect, as a result of their relationship was solely enabled by her abduction and captivity. Talk a couple of tragic-ass love triangle.
I feel one more reason this episode is so affecting is that the writers have executed a extremely good job situating Gilead within the current second and forcing us to really feel what it will be wish to have a society like that current right now. There are references to Airbnb and H&M on this episode, making it clear that that is all occurring within the current day. So when the Jezebels are lastly in a position to get their tales out to the world, you actually really feel these parallels between them and all of the real-life ladies who’ve lastly come ahead previously 12 months to carry males accountable for years of sexual harassment and abuse.
In that approach, this episode actually explores the concept of protest. We noticed in an earlier episode the handmaids use drive as a method of rebel; a girl strapped a bomb to herself and attacked Gilead. But it didn’t appear to have a lot impact in any respect. Here, we get the sense that it’s really these ladies’s voices and their tales reasonably than a bloody revolution that might be able to convey down Gilead as soon as and for all.
Emma: Such a great level! The commander even says that the fear assault is what opened up diplomatic prospects for Gilead. Those letters ― these tales ― are what shut them down.
I discovered myself actually unsettled watching the best way Canadians reacted to those Gilead officers. It made me marvel if that’s type of the best way persons are beginning to see us, Americans, from the surface. That’s a part of the oddity of watching this present. Obviously we really feel as if our stand-ins are the handmaids, however is Serena form of our stand-in as nicely? I’ll be desirous about that for the subsequent week.
One other thing I needed to say about Serena is that we’d have been tipped off to the messaging that would ultimately break her. Marc mentions the lies her husband’s authorities perpetuates about ladies’s fertility, and even if she already is aware of Fred is the infertile one, it appears to get to her. “Gilead blames the fertility disaster on ladies, their sinfulness,” Marc says. “We see the issue typically originating with males.”
He additionally means that American scientists ― who we will solely assume are all gathered between Alaska and Hawaii ― have made strides within the years since Gilead was established. “Now consider it ― a child of your individual. And freedom,” Marc says. I imagine that imaginative and prescient is seductive to Serena, even when within the second she insists that she has a baby on the best way and would by no means depart her dwelling.
Laura: Yes! Not to get all faculty movie class on you, however I did take a type of, and I needed to notice using cigarettes on this season as a logo of Serena’s numerous temptations. She throws the matches into the fireplace, however she hangs on to the cigarettes, suggesting I feel what you stated ― that part of her continues to be curious and tempted by the alternate life that Marc specified by entrance of her.
Meanwhile, in Gilead, June is beginning to plan for the likelihood that her child would possibly really develop up on this horrifying theonomy with Serena as a mom and a wife-beating rapist for a father. She asks Rita and ― gasp! ― Aunt Lydia to be the newborn’s godmothers. We see a second of tenderness between June and Lydia, who has been quite a bit kinder to her since she grew to become pregnant and has even proven some maternal moments.
But man, how determined do it’s important to be to ask a girl who actually burned a woman’s hand off on a range and stored you chained to a mattress to be your child’s godmother? Dystopia certainly.
Emma: Pretty rattling determined ― or no less than good sufficient to acknowledge that Aunt Lydia is a real believer, and meaning she’s a real believer within the sacredness of youngsters. I’ve stated this earlier than, however we so badly want an Aunt Lydia flashback episode. We get our first allusion to the ache that exists in her previous when she discloses to June that she had been the godmother to her sister’s little one, however he died when he was simply four days outdated. “Sorry,” says June. And Lydia’s response is so odd and so off and so telling: “It wasn’t my fault.”
The different overarching message of this episode gave the impression to be about patriotism. What does it appear like to betray your nation? (As Serena swears she’d by no means do, and Marc insists she already has.) What does it appear like to like your nation? To me, essentially the most patriotic second of the episode, and actually the sequence, was the protests. In the aftermath, Moira and Luke maintain a gathering of refugees at their residence, and somebody begins to sing “America the Beautiful.” Suddenly, the entire room is singing.
It jogged my memory of the day after the 2016 election. I received on the subway to go to work the subsequent morning ― the town felt funereal ― and whereas I used to be ready for the prepare, an older male busker began singing “America the Beautiful.” I don’t know what it’s about that tune, nevertheless it has the flexibility to be so attractive and so haunting. It broke me then and it breaks me now.
Laura: Yes, that second actually will get on the feeling of watching your nation fall into darkish occasions. There are even a pair mentions of immigration and border safety on this episode to convey dwelling the parallels to our present-day flirtations with fascism.
I like your level about patriotism ― I feel it’s particularly related now, as the talk rages on as as to if it’s patriotic or not for soccer gamers to kneel through the nationwide anthem. Can protest itself be patriotic, or do you have to blindly assist your authorities no matter the way it treats folks? This episode strongly makes the case for the previous.
Emma: Absolutely. Moira and Luke’s patriotism drives them to protest, and that protest brings them a neighborhood of survivors, and finally, hope. The stunning factor about hope is that it’s infectious. Nick brings it again for June, letting her know that Luke is alive and nicely and resisting, as is Moira. That realization alone lifts June out of her complacency and resignation and again into the battle.
“She received out,” says June’s inside voice, referencing Moira. “It was unattainable, however she did it. I do know I ought to count on the truth of you being born right here. Make my peace. But fuck that.”