Summary: The handmaids and commanders go to a ceremony celebrating the children of Gilead. June meets with Serena and Fred and tries to sort out their relationship. June orchestrates a deal for Fred to allow Serena to have some power behind the scenes, and it seemingly gets them on good terms again. Janine goes to see her baby again and oversteps her boundaries. Lydia gives in to her darker side and viciously beats Janine, but she immediately regrets it afterwards. Luke is seen on TV carrying Nicole. Emily reunites with her son and is emotional when she returns to her old life.
The Good: The focal point of this episode was on June trying to restore the fractured relationship between the Waterfords. I thought the scenes between June and Serena/Fred were pretty compelling. It was easy to understand June's goals, and I thought that it was a clever idea to examine both of the Waterfords individually from June's perspective as they attempt to put their marriage back together. The acting was superb as expected and I was surprised by how sympathetic all 3 characters were throughout this story.
Aunt Lydia had a really good arc in this episode. Following her injury back in "The Word", we have seen a darker and more bitter side to her character after she had been hurt by the handmaids that she loved so much. She snapped at June back in "Mary and Martha" which was a sign that she wasn't taking her injury too well. Here we know for sure that this woman isn't the same one we met at the beginning of the show as she viciously takes out all of her anger on Janine, brutally beating her down for a mistake which was pretty understandable. Everyone was quite uncomfortable watching Janine get smacked around, and after the moment had passed, Aunt Lydia was suitably horrified by her actions. It seems clear that these rage issues are eating away at Lydia from the inside, and now it seems that she may be facing some big consequences for lashing out like that in front of so many commanders and their wives (see: The Unknown). Ann Dowd conveyed Lydia's fear wonderfully in the ensuing scene and I'm curious to see where her story goes next.
As usual, Emily's story was quite good. I liked seeing her reunite with her family and there was definitely a lot of emotion in her returning to the life that she had lost in Gilead. Bledel was spectacular as usual and she really made every moment she was on screen count.
The Bad: This episode was problematic for a number of reasons however and I'm nervous that the show may be falling to its familiar trappings once again. For one, repetition mixed with slow pacing is a deadly combo for TV shows. The past few episodes of this season have felt fresh with a pace quicker than what I was expecting, even too quick at times. Yet everything came grounding to a halt in this week. This entire episode (outside of Emily's story) took place during a single gathering where nothing particularly interesting actually happened. The episode really milked this gathering for all it was worth and I don't think there was enough substance to justify this. Surely the Waterford storyline could have been incorporated into a plot with a bit more forwards momentum. Additionally, the show milked some more time through world-building by revealing this celebration for the recent children of Gilead. What is the problem you may ask? Well the issue is that nothing new is revealed through this. We already know that Gilead values its children, and we have even seen some of these celebrations last season, in episodes like "Seeds". There is nothing new on display for the world, so the entire episode hinges on minor character development and plot movement for Aunt Lydia and the Waterfords.
What's worse is that all of the more exciting storylines coming out of the last episode were ignored for the brunt of this hour. There's no Lawrence, who has been by far the most interesting aspect of this season. And there was also absolutely no mention of the rebellion which was teased heavily at the end of the last episode. Not following up on any of these moments make this episode feel a little disappointing overall.
June's plot armour continues to grow to ridiculous amounts. Just look at everything she is doing in this episode without consequences. She actively goes against Aunt Lydia to pull her off Janine and nobody says a word. She is constantly engaging in normal conversation with the Waterfords yet nobody seems to care about this. Even the Eyes don't punish her for eavesdropping on their conversation. By far the worst thing is that she is actually able to follow Serena, talk to her and even smoke without anybody noticing this. News flash, when people smoke the smell sticks around them for a while! Everyone would smell the smoke on her and she would be busted immediately.
I'm struggling to comprehend how June's relationship with the Waterfords became so caring. Last season these same people raped June while she was pregnant and did a number of other vile atrocities. Yet now June seems to genuinely care about them as people and is actively trying to help them. I always thought that June was manipulating them for her own goals, yet in this episode she feels oddly genuine. I have no idea why she is so attached to them now, and that hurts my immersion in the Waterford storyline.
The kid actors in this show are awful. Oliver was pretty bad and his line delivery did nothing for me. Kid actros have always been an issue in this show. I initially liked Hannah's portrayal back in season 2 because she seemed so creepy and messed up in the head. Looking back on it, it's clear that I was never supposed to look at her scenes in this regard (June seems to think that Hannah is just fine) and it was just a really bad performance by the kid actor playing her that gave off these vibes unintentionally.
Really Luke? Your going to show off a kidnapped baby on the news for everyone to see? How stupid is this guy?
The Unknown: What's the story behind Ofmatthew? She is getting a decent amount of screentime so I think she will have some importance. I'm curious to learn how she became so pious.
What consequences will there be for Lydia's actions? Could she be fired from her position for such a vile misuse of her power?
Is Gilead going to target Luke now? What are they going to do to get Nicole back? Will they send some men to kidnap Nicole? Or perhaps they will send men to kill Luke. Or will they do something else entirely?
Best Moment: Lydia beating down Janine simply because she had a very human desire to go back with the people she thought of as family. It's a very powerful scene, and Lydia's reaction after realizing what she has done was chilling.
Character of the Episode: Lydia.
Conclusion: This episode had some glimmers of greatness with the Lydia storyline and most of the Waterford storyline. However the stagnant plot, strangled pacing and inconsistent characters hurt the episode.
Summary: Lawrence invites other commanders to his house for a meeting. Nick is now a commander. June gets to briefly speak with Fred. Lawrence continues playing mind games with June. After the meeting they get into an argument. Lawrence reveals he saved Emily because she is useful to the world, and refuses to do the same with June who is selfish and useless. Lawrence gives June the option to save 5 women who are going to be sent to the colonies. June initially refuses but eventually gives in and selects 5 women she thinks will be best to kick off a rebellion. Serena is isolated from Fred and struggles to overcome the sorrow of losing her baby. She visits June who helps her get through it. Nick has been assigned to Chicago and visits June to say goodbye.
The Good: As usual, the acting was stellar. The scenes between Lawrence and June highlighted this the most as the two of them continued to play mind games on each other. But it's clear that Lawrence has the upper hand here. He sees through June's manipulation attempts and fires back at her at every step. Lawrence is not as easily controlled as Fred, and he makes that clear in this episode. The two characters end up having some fascinating moments together. The two that stand out are the scenes during the commander's meeting and the argument they had afterwards.
I was really pleased that we got a look into Lawrence's mind to learn why he is so hostile with June when he was mostly kind to Emily. He believes in judging a person by the goodness of their heart, as well as their intelligence. Rather than accepting everyone as equals, Lawrence clearly puts values on people and he judges them based off of this value. And it's this belief that led to the creation of Gilead. It took 3 seasons to finally get an explanation about this, and thankfully what we got didn't disappoint. Lawrence makes it clear that the commander's wives aren't just randomly selected women; rather they are the most suitable mothers in the world, the one's with the purest hearts. The problem he has with June isn't that she has a confident nature. His issue is that she is selfish and does things solely for herself and her immediate family with no intentions of helping others. And he's right. Since the beginning, June has been selfish and only looks out for her own interests. She has never done a selfless act and is obsessed with bettering her life with no regard to those around her. I love that the show had first presented us with such a flawed main character, and now has presented us with an antagonist who perfectly goes up against these flaws. This Lawrence/June story has been fantastic so far and I think I could watch Elisabeth Moss and Bradley Whitford going up against each other for days without getting bored.
Yvonne Strahovski got a chance to shine as an actress one again. While Serena's story may not have been the very best (see: The Bad), Strahovski still manages to make us feel emotion by how brilliantly she is able to express the emotions that Serena is feeling. In this episode Serena is mourning the loss of her child and is desperately hunting for a way to rid herself of this pain. She goes to her mother first and then to June, and is forced by both to face up to her emotions and emerge stronger. She finally does so at the end of the episode, and judging by her giving the cold shoulder to Fred, she may become a valuable new member to June's planned rebellion.
Fred had a pretty good episode too. Yet again, he is manipulated so easily by June who is able to get exactly what she wants from him. Fred is really kind of pathetic to watch in this episode. He is such a weak-minded person and he has given up his entire heart to Gilead. It was pretty painful to see him practicing being genuine at Jezebel's because he didn't have enough confidence to simply talk to Serena and win her over. I think deep down inside he is aware that he is a bad person, but he is too happy with his current life to make any effort to change this.
The Bad: I wish there was more clarity to Serena's mental state. Since the first season, she has probably been the most complex character in the entire show and episodes focused on her have usually explored some unique and interesting moral dilemmas. Yet when we look at this episode, her story is so basic. It's very odd to watch Serena going through such a basic storyline where she is squarely placed as sympathetic because she has never been portrayed through such a black/white lens before. Serena has always resided firmly in grey territory. It feels inconsistent to suddenly push her as a good guy in this episode.
June and Nick's farewell was a great scene. Yet it didn't work in the context of the whole episode. For one, we have no idea how Nick got into this position. How is he a commander? Why? What did he do to get this promotion? It makes very little sense, and I really can't be bothered to care for his character if the writers don't give me enough details. Furthermore, the goodbye scene is so short and doesn't really have any set-up or follow-up surrounding it. This makes it lose weight, and it feels like a rushed scene that doesn't belong in such an overcrowded episode.
And we get another "empowering" ending. I liked the scene with Serena since it paid off of her story. But June's? It was weird having her suddenly change her mind about saving the 5 women. That's not because I don't buy her changing her mind - I definitely do - but it's because we don't spend any time with June making this decision. In a show which loves to focus on the actors as they make decisions, the absence of any focus surrounding this decision stands out in a bad way. The final scene feels tacked on just to give us another "yeah women are strong!" moment.
The Unknown: What happened to Cora? Did she die? Or was she sent to the colonies?
How did Nick become a commander? Will we ever get an answer for this? Did he just get written out of the story?
What was the relationship between Nick and Beth? I recall them meeting back in season 1, but I'm not sure if they had an actual relationship. Their interactions suggested a history between them. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I missed anything.
Why did Serena get to leave Fred? What are the rules about a wife leaving her husband anyways? Who is Serena's mother? Why does she get to live without a commander?
Best Moment: Lawrence revealing why he is so against June was an outstanding moment. It's a great explanation of the system that Gilead operates under while also paying off of the tensions between June and Lawrence in an awesome way.
Character of the Episode: Lawrence. He has injected a much needed freshness into the show.
Conclusion: This was another very good episode that just misses out on hitting a 70. While each episode this season has had its own individual flaws, the overall story is gelling together in a way it hasn't really done before. I'm liking season 3 so far, and I hope that the quality can keep up.
Summary: June adjusts to life in Lawrence's household. Lydia pays her a visit and expresses distaste for her prior actions. The marthas are planning an escape so June joins in. Lawrence sees them and wants the marthas gone, but June convinces him to leave them be. The escape attempt goes awry and a martha is shot. She gets refuge in Lawrence's house. Lawrence is not pleased and the martha eventually dies. June buries her, but there are huge tensions between her and Lawrence. In Little America, Emily goes to a doctor and adjusts to her new life. Luke struggles to deal with the fact that June decided to stay in Gilead. Emily reunites with her wife, Sylvia.
The Good: It's great to see Ann Dowd again, and her performance is stunning as per usual. She is facing some physical consequences after Emily destroyed her back in "The Word", and I definitely like that she has suspicions over Lawrence because of this. Her interactions with June are very consistent with her character. Lydia is still kind to her since she is a handmaid, but there are huge tensions due to June's stunt with the McKenzies in the last episode. The moment when Lydia snapped after June tried to talk down to her was wonderful, and it nicely encapsulated June's growing confidence and Lydia's distaste for her current physical state.
This episode was all about June though. The story that this episode was centered around was June's growing arrogance and confidence. In this episode she does so many bold moves, actions which she would never have dreamed of taking at the beginning of the show. Despite the change of scenery, June doesn't spend time building up a relationship with Lawrence and instead she negotiates with him as she would with the Waterfords. Furthermore, she overhears some rebellious acts between the marthas and she immediately joins in with efforts to bump up the scale of what they are doing to make a bigger impact. June doesn't intend to waste time in Gilead, and she wants to ensure that change will happen.
Yet June's confidence leads her astray. You can't just force change in the blink of an eye, and June realizes that as all of her actions totally backfire. One of the marthas are killed, and June takes the blame for forcing the action. The mission is a failure and it nearly ends with Lawrence's rebellious actions being found out by the Guardians. Furthermore, Lawrence could have easily been a valuable ally for June. Yet June's arrogant actions have completely alienated Lawrence, who may be more of a threat to June than she may expect.
Speaking of Lawrence, we learn here that he is not a good of a guy as he may have initially seemed. He is shown to have some very disturbing personality traits here, particularly his interesting hate for strangers, and his continually odd interactions with his hateful wife. Bradley Whitford's portrayal of Lawrence is really great, portraying him as intimidating, mysterious, and even scary at times. Lawrence is gripping to watch in every scene he is in, and I really hope that he will have more depth than Fred did. Another very interesting detail was Lawrence suggesting that June wasn't a stranger to him, which raises some big questions (see: The Unknown).
The Little America story was mostly excellent in this episode. Emily's scenes were fantastic as per usual. It's amazing how I have to draw attention to Alexis Bledel's performance in every single episode because she is just that good in every single scene she is in. It's really something special to watch. Emily had two huge scenes in this episode. The first was in a doctor's visit where Bledel's facial expressions really sold Emily's confused, mulit-layered reaction to being told that her biggest problem is high cholesterol. Then of course there is the ending when Emily and Sylvia finally connect again in a very powerful scene.
The Bad: Luke's story was a bit dull and rushed. It didn't have the emotional resonance I was expecting, which has become typical for Luke across the run of the show. His emotions were practically skimmed over and I didn't really have any kind of a connection to what he was feeling. It doesn't help that O.T. Fagbenle has consistently been one of the weaker actors on the show.
I thought it was a little odd that Lawrence would change his mind and let the marthas stay. It seems like far too large of a risk for him to be willing to take, and I was unsure what reasons he may have had to simply go along with it. It makes Lawrence seem lazy if anything, since it seemed to me that he just didn't want to argue with June over letting the marthas stay.
I thought the martha story wasn't the most engaging. We hardly knew any of the characetrs, so it was difficult to care much about what they were doing. The weakest parts of the episode were probably the scenes of June with the marthas.
The Unknown: What is wrong with Mrs. Lawrence? I can't recall if it was explained in the last season or not.
Lawrence implied that he knew who June was before he met her. How is that possible? Is there some decision-making process for which handmaids can be smuggles out of Gilead? Does Lawrence have access to some resources that we don't know about?
Best Moment: There were many great scenes. I'll go with Lawrence snapping at June after the martha died. June facing the consequences of her actions is really important for her character, and Lawrence was as terrifying as ever. The fact that his wife was the final nail in the coffin before he started shouting suggests that maybe there is something more to that relationship than what we have seen.
Character of the Episode: Lawrence.
Conclusion: This was a great episode with a lot to like. The acting is still phenomenal and the storytelling was very strong. This season is off to a promising start. Let's hope it can maintain this quality, unlike last season.
Summary: June returns to Lawrence who reluctantly agrees to take her to the McKenzie residence. June sees Hannah again but she is caught. June is returned to the Waterfords. Serena is angry that June left Nicole with Emily but eventually relents. In an act of defiance towards Fred, Serena burns down the house. June is punished for her escape with lashings to her feet and she is assigned to a new household: Commander Lawrence's. Emily makes it to Canada and meets Luke and Moira.
The Good: It felt surprisingly good to be back in Gilead. While season 2's average score was pretty solid, I finished the season feeling disappointed and uninterested in seeing more. My feelings towards the season were much more negative than the score suggested. So colour me surprised to say that it was an absolute delight to be back in Gilead for this episode. There's something about the unique style, impressive imagery and darker colour tone of the show that makes it stand out among other TV shows. And then of course there are the performances from the actors which never cease to amaze (except Max Minghella, he sticks out like a sore thumb). I really stand by the fact that this show would stink if the performances weren't so good. I think every scene I enjoyed in this episode was carried by a strong performance by one or more actors.
Some of those aforementioned scenes were pretty spectacular to watch. The Waterfords interacting with June is always a blast, and I thought that Serena and June's interactions in this episode were mostly strong. Fred remained relevant too and his despicable character shined through in his scenes with Serena as he tries to damage control her newfound rebellious attitude. Lastly, the scenes between June and Mrs. McKenzie were quite great. Elisabeth Moss is so damn good it's almost unbelievable. She poured her heart out portraying June as she and Mrs. McKenzie discussed how Hannah has been living in Gilead.
The burning of the Waterford house feels like a significant moment. At least the show didn't pull the reset to June returning to the Waterfords like it did so many times last season. I thought they captured something really good with the Waterford house being burned down. It was a wonderful moment for Serena, who after seasons of being static is finally undergoing the major character shift I was hoping for. A few scenes prior, Fred had mentioned how he just wants to protect his house and family. Serena, bitter and angry after losing her finger, spites Fred by burning his house to the ground, proving that she is finally going to start fighting back.
I liked that we got such a nice look at Little America. I think it was the most we have seen of the place, which is welcome since the show has been so poor at its world building. Emily's arrival and her surprise at being applauded was a genuine moment that allowed Alexis Bledel to shine once again.
The ending of the episode was very interesting. I wasn't very interested in Lawrence last season since he seemed like a convenient side character to get Emily and June out of Gilead. But his presence in this first episode seems to suggest that there is a lot more to him than I initially expected. More than anything, he feels like a gust of fresh air on a show which desperately needed it. I'm unsure what his role in the show will be or how he is going to interact with June. I think that watching June live in his house could lead to some really good stories if executed properly, and I'm excited to see more.
The Bad: I'm still in total confusion as to why June chose to return to Gilead. She didn't even come up with a good plan to save Hannah and simply got captured again. The stink from last season's ending did pass on to this episode unfortunately. Furthermore, how exactly did June get found out so quick. I was left confused by how the Guardians knew exactly where to go to find her.
Serena and June's relationship appears to have greatly improved, which I'm all for. Yet they remain as inconsistent as ever. This episode featured a completely out-of-nowhere moment of hostility from June who continues to spite Serena despite their growing bond. The moment felt awkward and I was surprised by how quickly Serena and Fred forgave her words.
June's lack of consequences is getting absurd. Can she seriously kidnap a baby and send it to Canada without any major consequences? Serena got maimed for something much tamer than this. Even Emily suffered worse back in season 1. Yet June only gets a few lashes on her feet, something very tame compared to what we have seen before on this show. The plot armour that has been growing on June in the last season hit new levels in this episode.
The stupid musical choices on this show continue to ruin so many shows. The random 80s song during the burning of the Waterford house completely ruined the moment for me. It just feels so odd when a show so atmospheric and miserable has a cheesy empowering moment. It completely breaks my immersion every time but the show still persists with it.
Did this episode really need to be called "Night"? The season 1 finale was called "Night" too! How uncreative.
The Unknown: Is Lawrence an ally or an enemy? He helped Emily and June escape, yet I feel like he isn't as good as he appears to be. Is it possible that Lawrence notified the Guardians about June being at the McKenzie house?
Where will the Waterfords go now? How will the destruction of thier house affect their relationship? Will Fred suspect Serena of intentionally burning down the house?
Best Moment: I was going to say the burning of the house, but the music ruined it. So it has to be Emily getting applauded after arriving in Little Canada. It's a great moment of relief for a character that has suffered so much.
Character of the Episode: June. Elisabeth Moss is too damn good.
Conclusion: This was a solid season premiere that promises us that the story will head in a new direction this season as opposed to the repetitive season 2. There were still problems for sure, but my overall outlook after this episode is cautiously optimistic.
Summary: Emily attacks Aunt Lydia and is taken away by Lawrence. Serena is given a Bible from offred which Eden had been reading. Serena appeals to let women read the Bible and reads it herself to demonstrate. Fred and the Commanders don't take it well and Serena loses a finger. Offred is given a way to escape Gilead from Rita and she leaves with Nicole. Serena tries to stop her but she realizes that Nicole would be better growing up outside of Gilead. Lawrence picks up Offred and takes her and Emily to leave Gilead. Offred gives Nicole to Emily and tells her to go while she chooses to stay.
The Good: Once more, this episode is made much better due to the stellar performances from the core cast who made the stories being told many times more interesting. Elisabeth Moss was great as always, Yvonne Strahovski did a terrific job conveying the conflicting feelings within Serena, Joseph Fiennes was terrifyingly terrific, and Alexis Bledel continues to amaze me with her ability to act in total silence.
I have enjoyed Offred's story for the most part this season. They have done a great job of pushing Offred to a breaking point by having her slowly become more aggressive and hostile towards the Waterfords to the point where she explodes at both Fred and Serena in this episode in standout scenes. While I'm unsure of how this will aid the story in the long run (see: The Bad), I think it was a great way to properly get some triumph for Offred so that the show isn't constantly languishing in its own misery.
Serena's conflict in this episode was very good too and we finally got to see her put on the spot of deciding if Gilead is truly a healthy society. And it seems that she is finally willing to accept that Gilead isn't a good place now that she's had her finger cut off for wanting to stand up for women. All of this happening with no support from her husband at all. It was a harsh realization which Yvonne Strahovski played wonderfully. This tragedy changed Serena's mindset enough for the Offred's speech to her later in the episode to really hit home. Serena understands now that Gilead is no place for her child to grow up, and she is left with no choice but to make the difficult decision to let Nicole go. It's really powerful and effective stuff, paying off of a season of Serena being forced to face the horrors of Gilead. Now hopefully she will be attempting to find her own way out of Gilead.
The best storyline in this episode wasn't Serena, it was instead Emily. Emily's storyline managed to combine two different stories to form one massive catharsis. We witnessed the storylines of Aunt Lydia being awful to handmaids and Emily being angry with the world coming together in one terrific scene where Emily finally took revenge, violently and viciously assaulting Aunt Lydia and coming close to killing her, or even worse (see: The Unknown). But the most compelling part of this scene was what came afterwards. Sure, watching Emily assault Aunt Lydia was satisfying, but it only provided emotions of tension and satisfaction, ignoring the more compelling emotions that the show has primarily focused on. Those emotions followed in the next scene, once Emily realized what she had just did and was forced to deal with the fact that she very well may have just ended her own life due to her actions. This was shown in a simple scene of Emily alone in a room, and the direction, sound design and acting came together wonderfully to create one of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.
I also liked the scene where Offred and Nick were with their baby together. I love that they would still do whatever it took to spend some time with their child in secret, and just giving us one short scene was enough to show us how much they cared for their baby.
The Bad: I don't like that Offred seems able to do anything she wants without having any sort of consequence. The first season illustrated that every little mistake will have consequences and that created tons of tension in the show. But now all of that is gone as Offred appears to be doing more and more things which should be against the rules and has faced absolutely no consequences, which ruins the scary aura of the show. The show doesn't have anywhere near the amount of tension and drama as it used to. This is why I was worried about the show wanting to give moments of triumph for Offred, as I think that it will damage the show going forwards since there may not be any way to replicate the magic that season one had in some of its episodes with this lack of tension.
I'm frustrated with the fact that Fred is not doing anything to punish Offred, especially after what she said in this episode to him. He's willing to cut off Serena's finger, but he's not willing to do anything to Offred? Seriously? This is the same man who raped her violently while she was pregnant a few episodes ago, the same man who has been portrayed as a complete selfish prick for two seasons with absolutely no upside. The show should at least be consistent with its characters and it isn't doing that anymore just so that there can be some "badass" moments of women standing up to their oppressors.
The first part of this episode was pretty dull for me because it focused on everyone mourning Eden. I didn't care about Eden at all so this fell flat, and seeing that the rest of the episode never mentions her, it seems that the writers didn't care much for her either.
Offred and Serena's relationship has left me scratching my head. After being responsible for some of the most compelling parts of this season, the relationship has become overexposed and overdone, with so many instances of Offred and Serena flip-flopping from hating each other and sympathizing with each other. Unsurprisingly, this happened again and it's really grating on me now. Let's see something new from these two next season.
The ending of this episode was the one really awful part of this, and I think it ruined a lot of what this episode accomplished. To put in bluntly, the ending saw Offred give away her child to a mentally unstable woman she hardly knows to stay in an oppressive society. Really? Could she not leave and come back to get Hannah later, which is exactly what she planned to do earlier in the season? It's frustrating to see her do this and even worse when you consider that she is in the middle of nowhere with nobody to help her. What does she think she can do? It's frustrating when you realize that she can just go to Canada and add on to the publicity that Gilead is an awful place as they will now have a real live handmaid as evidence instead of just letters. Wouldn't that be a much easier way to get your daughter back? The show really just wanted the "badass" moment of a woman standing up to an oppressing society to end the season. If the show wasn't so obsessed with moments like these it would hit a more consistent quality.
I find it hard to buy that Offred had enough time to carve Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum into the wall before escaping. Little things like this wouldn't have existed back in season one.
The Unknown: What is Aunt Lydia's fate? Is she dead or will we see her again next season?
What is Offred going to do now? I actually have no idea.
Is Serena going to escape Gilead next season? What's her plan now that she has sent Offred away with her baby? Surely she has no reason to stay in Gilead now.
Best Moment: Emily in the room, isolated and panicking was powerful stuff.
Character of the Episode: Emily.
Conclusion: This was a good finale overall with some great moments, but it was flawed just like almost every other episode this season, dragging down the quality.
The season as a whole was pretty disappointing. There were some moments which hinted that the show could hit a higher level, particularly earlier in the season, but the show pretty much refused to take any of the opportunities it had to change, meaning that it just repeated itself over and over. For this entire season, the story was stalled, repeated and stretched out with only a few storylines standing out. While I did enjoy some parts of the season quite a bit, it was too inconsistent to be anything special and is certainly a step down from season one. Hopefully season 3 can be structured better so that the show can capitalize on its potential, but I'm not sure that it's going to happen.
Summary: Selena gets Offred's baby and sends her away but Aunt Lydia arranges for Offred to be brought back to the Waterford house for better lactation. Eden elopes with Isaac but is caught. She has the option to beg for mercy but she doesn't and she is executed with Isaac. Emily is assigned a new household where she meets Lawrence who created the colonies.
The Good: I was glad that Offred was back in the Waterford household. The story would have been stagnant if she left so I'm pleased that she wasn't gone. I do like how she enlisted Aunt Lydia to help bring her back to properly get her back where she belongs. It showed good desperation from Offred which fit the situation as she would do anything to get back to her baby. It was a good development early in the episode.
The scenes with Lawrence were really good. He came off as an interesting character with mysterious motivations as he seemingly specifically wanted to get Emily as his handmaid. It's an exciting development and gives us a new part of Gilead to explore as we get to see the world from the point of view of the man who created the colonies and his family. His wife was also very interesting as she is shaken and broken by Lawrence, making me wonder what he is capable of.
The Bad: This episode disappointed me heavily. First of all, I hate the direction they took here. The last two episodes promised change to the story as Offred began her own adventure, the Waterfords began imploding and Nick was captured. But now all that has gone away and it all led nowhere, making the last two episodes completely pointless, a familiar complaint for this season. This is especially anticlimactic because we seemed to be setting up for a big story change heading towards the finale, but instead the writers have taken the safest and least interesting route forward.
Additionally, I hate that we don't see how Offred came back. When we started this episode, I was confused because everything was different, but when I realized that there was a time skip I got frustrated that we went back in circles. Additionally, the fact that Nick's capture was a "misunderstanding" is confusing, vague and hard to buy into. It seems like the writers just wanted Offred to be alone when she gave birth so they sloppily removed Nick from the story. It's really bad writing and storytelling to do something like that.
I'm really sick of how so many storylines just lead nowhere though they had lots of potential. it's been a theme this entire season and it continues to frustrate me every episode. Serena wanted Offred gone after her baby is born, and that's a big deal. But it doesn't matter because Offred just comes back and Serena doesn't do much about it. A pointless story arc. Nick has a child wife now and is struggling to deal with that. But it's okay because she elopes and dies. Offred is all alone now and she has a baby. But that goes nowhere because they find her and bring her back without any consequence to the story. These three examples were this episode alone and it's insane that you can come up with just as many for pretty much every episode of the show.
Unfortunately that makes it hard for me to get invested in new storylines, since I have the sinking feeling in my stomach that it will all lead nowhere. That's what hurt the Lawrence storyline from me, and it's the reason why it isn't as exciting as it should be. Furthermore, it's the penultimate episode yet a new storyline is being introduced. This feels like it should have happened 5-6 episodes ago so it could be properly explored, but I sense that the story will just end anticlimactically in the next episode.
The resolution to the Eden story was terrible in a lot of ways. For one, the story wasn't earned at all because it relied on us caring about Eden and Isaac as characters and their relationship, which has hardly been mentioned, never mind explored. Since I don't care about them or buy into their relationship, I find it tough to believe that Eden would sacrifice her life for him, and on top of that, I get no emotional impact from them both dying. It felt like it was supposed to be a major scene but I felt totally indifferent to it, making it a spectacular failure.
To add on, the Eden storyline as a whole this season completely fails to capitalize on what makes secondary storylines so engaging. Since Eden ends up dying without getting much development, the storyline needs to be used to further our understanding of other characters. In this case I had hoped that we would get more focus on Nick from this storyline so we can learn more. And while Nick got some focus, what did we learn about him? He's unable to love Eden because he loves Offred instead. We already knew this, so why dedicate an entire story to accomplish this? Seeing that Eden had no impact to characters or the overall plot, I'm left wondering why she was even included to begin with. It's disappointing that this season has stalled so much with so many aimless storylines, so much so that it's really grinding my gears.
Another annoying moment was when Serena and Offred teamed up again. Honestly I'm tired of this storyline because it's so repetitive. How many times have the two of them gone from liking each other to hating each other? It's so repetitive and shows that this show is already running out of material to explore. I don't know what to feel about Serena anymore. Yvonne Strahovski is a terrific actress but it feels like her character just swings in whatever direction the plot demands her to. Because it has happened so many times, I can't say for sure what kind of person Serena actually is, and I don't know if the show even knows who she is. That's problematic for a central character and the show needs to sort out her storyline into something which makes more sense.
The Unknown: Is Lawrence a bad person? What was with his household? Will he be terrible like Fred or is he genuinely not that bad?
What does Lawrence need Emily for? Why did he pick her specifically?
How long until Serena and Offred turn on each other again?
Best Moment: Lawrence talking to Emily and slowly letting her know that he knows everything about her is scary and gripping. I'm excited to figure out more about Lawrence.
Character of the Episode: Lawrence.
Conclusion: This episode is the epitomy of every problem this season has faced. While some aspects were good, the majority of this was disappointing, anticlimactic, badly written and utterly pointless. This show needs to get back on track.
Summary: Offred is left alone and she ventures around the property. The Waterfords show up, looking for her and Offred debates killing them. She chooses not to and they leave. Offred gies birth alone in the house.
The Good: As the summary demonstrates, this was a really basic episode which fixated purely around Offred's birth. That's not a bad thing though as it did allow her birth to feel important and powerful, while also fitting the show and the character of Offred. The focus on Offred benefitted the episode for sure. It allowed Elisabeth Moss to put in a killer performance, carrying the episode to higher qualities than it would have otherwise reached. Moss is extremely talented and breathed life into this episode.
The episode was really tense at times, especially when the Waterfords arrived. There was the initial tension of wondering if Offred was going to get caught, but that was one-upped by the much better tension regarding if Offred was going to go to extreme lengths to get her revenge by killing both of the Waterfords. The tension was very significant and added a lot to the episode.
The Waterfords were stellar in this episode though. They finally blew up at each other and the scene was absolutely tremendous as the both of them blamed each other for all of the awful things they did to Offred. I particularly loved how Serena openly admitted to building Gilead for the sole selfish purpose of getting herself a child, showing how selfish, narrow-sighted and downright awful she is. It honestly makes me wonder why the show tries to garner sympathy for her. I am very fascinated by the relationship between Serena and Fred, so I hope that this episode is a sign for things to come in their relationship.
The Bad: Unfortunately it seems that Fred actually wanted to give Offred something nice bysending her to see her daughter, which is stupid. Why would he do that? We get no satisfying explanation here. It's a really forced decision which makes no sense in any context, proving that Fred's decisions aren't based on character, but rather what the plot demands.
I don't like how repetitive the show appears to have become Once more we see Offred feeling alone because the world is cruel and she has to go through something tough because she is tough, while there are also teases of escape. While this episode was enjoyable overall, the show's inability to change and adapt is hurting it and is preventing it from achieving its potential.
Offred was holding a shotgun. No chance she does any major damage to either Waterford from that distance.
The Unknown: So America still exists. What is the significance of that? Will it come into play ever?
So what actually happened to Nick? Why are the Mackenzies not at the house? Did they betray the Waterfords? Will there be consequences coming for every character in the final two episodes? That could set up the major change which I've been waiting for to freshen up the show.
How will Serena take the fact that Offred already had her baby? I'm sure she will be less than pleased, and it should be interesting to see who she blames for it.
What was the significance of the wolf and why did it have to appear three times? I thought it was a bit too ont he nose with how many times it showed up.
Best Moment: The actual birth of Holly was a spectacular moment. Moss' screams felt so real, and I thought that the flashback sequence did a great job of demonstrating how Offred had to draw into the past to get the willpower and grit to push through the birth. It was artful, powerful and satisfying to watch and delivered a great climax for the episode.
Character of the Episode: Offred.
Conclusion: This was a fine episode, but there really wasn't a whole lot to it, barring the Waterfords. This review is shorter because of that. While I did enjoy myself watching the episode, it does feel like a lot of wasted time as similar themes were retreaded and there was a ton of downtime here. In the end this is a middling episode.
Summary: Emily is moved to a different house after her Commander dies during a ceremony. Offred has a false labour which angers Serena. Offred goes to Fred in hopes that he will help her get repositioned near her daughter. Fred refuses and Offred reveals the baby isn't his. Fred and Serena force a ceremony and Offred is raped. Eden finally snaps at Nick. Fred lets Offred see Hannah and Nick takes her. Hannah has been renamed as Agnes. Offred emotionally meets with her but she leaves. Soldiers arrive and capture Nick while Offred hides.
The Good: This was a much better episode with a better emotional focus, even if the show still feels a bit disjointed (see: The Bad). Emily's storyline is one of the very disjointed aspects of the show due to how little screen-time she gets, but I did like her few scenes in this episode. I enjoyed the opening scene where a Commander died doing the ceremony and Emily coldly refusing to call for help was a pretty nice touch.
The main storyline was what made this episode so strong. The episode started with Offred having a false labour, which was a great way to raise conflict between Offred and Serena again. While I have been critical of the way their relationship has been handled recently, I still do enjoy seeing them having a permanent cold war against each other. Additionally, it was easy to buy this moment as a breaking point for Serena as Offred was a bit too antagonizing towards Serena, making it easier to buy Serena and Fred's decision to rape Offred, which seems a little extreme (see: The Bad).
I really enjoyed the scene between Offred and Fred. Fred learning the child wasn't his was a long time coming, and the moment was suitably powerful and shocking. Elisabeth Moss was terrific at showing the anger and rage inside of Offred, which allowed for a bit of June to come out and ruin Fred's world. I also loved how subtly the moment was handled, without any needless drama and over-the-top lines. It was just a subtle jab from Offred which revealed a lot to Fred bout the reality of his baby, which isn't actually even his.
Of course having Offred antagonize both Fred and Serena in the same episode can't possibly end well for her. This led into the most violent, uncomfortable and depressing rape scene in the series thus far. If you didn't hate Fred or Serena before, you certainly must now as they completely disregard the health of their child just to let out their frustrations at Offred in a scene which was bordering on taking it too far, but thanks to some clever cinematography and directing, it served its purpose of having the Waterfords get back at Offred without feeling needlessly violent (take notes Game of Thrones).
Surprisingly, this leads to Fred allowing Offred to actually visit Hannah, which is a very intriguing development (see: The Unknown). His motives are unclear which adds a lot of tension to he rest of the episode as we are unsure what to expect once Nick and Offred arrive. However, the episode actually commits and provides one of the most long-awaited reunions in the show as Offred gets to see her daughter once more. The scene completely delivered on the emotions, as Offred showed the necessary love, excitement, gratefulness and desperation that a parent would feel after seeing their daughter for the first time in years.
Just as good as that storyline however, was the ending which saw Offred go from a state of blissful happiness to total despair as she was suddenly thrust back into the real world, lonelier and more miserable than ever before. If she wants to see her daughter again, it looks like she will have to do it herself. The ending sequence was stellar with Offred in tears after having her daughter wrenched from her grasp, and she immediately turns to Nick for comfort. But then mere moments later she has to watch as Nick is taken away from her, leaving her completely on her lonesome with all of the grief she is feeling. It's very powerful stuff which engages the emotions appropriately.
Nick's storyline thankfully had a major progression here as Eden finally snapped at Nick and had to face the reality that Nick loves Offred and not her. It's tragic for her character, and the scene of Eden crying in Nick's room while he does nothing was pretty intense. It was an appropriate payoff and I do wonder if Nick is now facing the consequences of not loving Eden.
The Bad: Honestly Nick is an idiot. I want to root for him and the show has done a much better job with him this season, but seeing him stupidly do nothing to show some kind of love for Eden makes it really tough. He is practically digging his own grave, and it is really annoying to see that he seemingly doesn't even care about the fact that Eden could get him in really serious trouble.
While I really loved Hannah and Offred's reunion, I thought that the dialogue for Hannah wasn't good. She felt way too cold and angry for a child, and I never bought into the idea that she would be so detached after living in Gilead. Surely she wouldn't hate Offred in the way it is conveyed, and it feels even more awkward when Hannah comes around to Offred in just a few minutes.
I don't like the idea of Serena agreeing to rape Offred. Her priority is always the baby, so surely she would be worried about the baby. But she shows no regard for the baby just to get some revenge on Offred, which is really inconsistent with her character.
The show still feels extremely disjointed. It feels like we have completely different stories in each episode with no rhythm or flow between episodes. Last episode seemingly set up a huge uprising against Gilead, but that plot line has been dropped. It's annoying to see that these episodes don't properly connect with each other and it often takes me out of the experience when something completely different happens between episodes.
The Unknown: What happened to Hannah after she was taken in? How did she become so cold?
Was the capture of Nick an intentionally placed trap from Fred? Was it because Eden wanted Nick to suffer? Or could it have all been Fred's idea? Did he perhaps want both Offred and Nick to suffer? Did he figure out that Nick was likely the father to Offred's child? Or was this all just a big coincidence?
What dos Offred do now that she is all alone and far from home?
Best Moment: Offred reuniting with Hannah was so powerful and Elisabeth Moss played the scene so perfectly.
Character of the Episode: Offred.
Conclusion: This was a very strong episode with a lot of powerful scenes which paid off of long-running storylines. The show appears to be picking up as it heads towards the season finale which is very exciting. I will gladly take more impactful episodes like these.
Summary: Serena tells Offred that she will be evicted once the baby is born. Offred entrusts Rita and Aunt Lydia to take care of the baby when she leaves. The Waterfords go to Canada for better relationships. They aren’t welcome there and Luke confronts them in a mob. Nick gives the handmaid letters to Luke and they are exposed to the world. The Waterfords are sent out from Canada. Serena meets a man named Mark who offers her a way to escape Gilead but she doesn’t take the offer. Eden begins to have hostilities towards Nick.
The Good: I loved the development of the Waterfords going to Canada for this episode. The show has been so constricted in Gilead that it’s began to get frustrating (see: The Bad), so to expand a little allows for new territory to be explored. Furthermore, it allows Luke and Moira to fit more organically into the story, which rectifies the flaw of their storylines feeling like insignificant afterthoughts so far this season. The actual scenes of the Waterfords in Canada were pretty good. I particularly enjoyed the bits where Serena got to see the outside world firsthand, being forced to see the world which she abandoned in favour of Gilead.
There were some good character interactions too. Luke had good moments in this episode as he attacked Waterford for what he is doing to June, and got to interact with Nick later on. While the conversation with Nick wasn’t perfect, I think it was pretty good overall and had genuine emotion to it as Luke got to let out his anger while Nick did the right thing by slipping Luke the letters from the handmaids. The scene was constructed fairly well and made some progress towards getting me to like Nick’s character.
Speaking of Nick, he had a really good storyline here which did a lot to make me care about what happens to him. Nick made the decision to give the letters to Luke, and went the extra mile to tell Offred everything that Luke wanted to tell her. This showed his heart brilliantly, as he had no hate towards Luke because of his relationship with Offred, and seemed willing to accept that his relationship with Offred is temporary. Nick showing his acceptance is honourable and adds more depth to who his character is, and also makes me root for him more. This episode was nearly perfect for him.
The ending where the Waterfords got evicted from Canada was really good. The show has been very static so far (see: The Bad), and not much of substance has actually happened. But now, with Canada turned against Gilead and the letters leaked online, there is a promise for change which is exactly what this show needs to kick itself into gear.
The Bad: While this episode was certainly better than previous ones this season, I still have to mention my frustration at how the show appears to be static in its storytelling. When looking at what has been accomplished this season, it’s shocking to believe that nine full episodes have gone by. Not much has really changed in terms of storylines, and the show feels content with sitting back and showing us how terrible Gilead is. However, that’s a problem because season 1 already spent 10 episodes showing us this reality. Now we need to see something new, some change, and the fact that we haven’t got anything like that after nine episodes is pretty disappointing. However, I picked a bad time to mention this, as with the Canada plot in this episode, the show looks like it’s about to start changing things up a little.
Nothing exemplifies my point about being static more than the Serena and Offred relationship. While I am fascinated by their character dynamic and the way that they are explored, their relationship hasn’t evolved very much at all. The previous episode looked to change their relationship, yet all of that hard work is rendered pointless as Serena just decides to hate Offred again and be cruel to her. After all of this exploration of their relationship, everything is exactly the same as before which makes me question why the show even bothered focusing on the two of them so much.
Nick’s character had a good episode, but it wasn’t perfect. He is so rude to Eden to what is honestly a ridiculous level. It’s one thing to not show love to her, but Nick is downright awful to her to a frustrating level. The show is trying too hard to set up that Eden will be Nick’s downfall, so much so, that I fear it won’t feel earned when it happens.
The episode had some other major flaws too. For one, the show has been annoyingly inconsistent with the details surrounding Gilead. I am very confused about what the other countries actually know about Gilead and that hurts my ability to be engaged in the overall story. I don’t understand how the world isn’t aware that Gilead is against gay people, to the point that they have a gay man speak to Fred. I thought they sent people to Gilead, so shouldn’t they understand the rules and laws of the place? I find it impossible to believe that Gilead can just exist without the rest of the world understanding what Gilead is. Furthermore, if we are to assume that Gilead isn’t frowned upon, why do all the other people throw mean glances toward Serena? It seems like they understand perfectly well what Gilead is, so why can’t their government? It’s frustratingly vague. Additionally, it’s implied that the letter leak was the first time this information has been spread from Gilead. Seriously? Are we supposed to believe that hundreds of people have escaped Gilead, yet not one of them brought any proof that would expose the truths about what happens in Gilead? The story is frustratingly vague about all of this.
There were a few smaller scale flaws which still served to annoy me. For one, Nick gives the letters in a way which makes it insanely easy to track him. The Waterfords would have to be foolish to not suspect that Nick betrayed them, especially since he was seen in public. Another flaw surrounding the letters, is Moira’s reaction to them. How did she not realize that they could be significant to bringing down Gilead? Her wish that Nick gave a bomb or something felt exceptionally dumb and gave me an unintentional moment of stupid comedy. Lastly, having Luke charge Fred alone made no sense. There was a whole mob of people there, and yet only Luke charged Fred. With what seemed like only two security guards, I’m shocked that there wasn’t a huge riot when Fred arrived.
Finally, the ending was tone deaf again as the show tried to be empowering, despite its nature as what is essentially a depressing horror show warning us about the future.
The Unknown: Will we finally get some change in the story with that ending? I sure hope so.
Mark was a very curious character and his conversation with Serena interested me. Does he have any other motives, or does he just want to help her? Will she accept his deal at a later date or is she still committed to her decision of staying true to Gilead?
Best Moment: The best moment for me was with Aunt Lydia and Offred. It took a lot of courage for Offred to ask Aunt Lydia to take care of her child, and I was impressed with the way that the scene captured those emotions. Aunt Lydia was very genuine here and the most likeable she has ever been, as she genuinely cared for Offred and let her know that she will take care of the child, while also giving us an exciting glimpse of her backstory. That was a very good scene.
Character of the Episode: Aunt Lydia.
Conclusion: This episode had some really good scenes and developments, but some frustrating writing and that same vague explanation of Gilead as a whole detracted from this.
Summary: Offred and Serena continue to work together until Fred returns. Baby Angela gets sick and Janine finds out and panics. It's expected she won't make it but Janine shows her love and she survives. Fred discovers what Serena has been doing and whips her as punishment. Offred sets up allegiances with both Fred and Serena. Nick continues to be hostile towards Eden.
The Good: This was Madeline Brewer's episode to shine and she delivered a fantastic performance. Her fears for Angela (or Charlotte to her) were conveyed brilliantly and the moment she learned the truth from Offred specifically was really well performed. Her fantastic performance got me to invest into the baby Angela storyline and deserves loads of credit.
The storyline surrounding Angela was good. It was easy to relate with the characters because the death of a baby would be horrible in any situation. It provided a good struggle for Janine and for Serena who had to take initiative to save Angela's life by forging Fred's signature.
Serena's story was really nicely done. It was great to see her acting decently with a heart, and I believe that this season is doing a great job of humanizing her. By the end of the episode, I was sympathizing with her, so the episode certainly accomplished its goal, though I have some issues with that goal (see: The Bad).
The Nick and Eden story is still interesting and it is the most intriguing for me because there are a lot of possibilities for where that story can go. Having Eden find the handmaid letters was a good way to get him to lash out at her and I'm excited to see how she responds, especially seeing how her characterization makes her very unpredictable.
The Bad: The pacing of this episode feels completely wrong. With Fred returning so quickly in the episode, it feels like we have glossed over a ton of important drama and storytelling regarding Offred and Serena's blossoming relationship. They have been hostile towards each other for the whole series and yet this one episode makes a total U-turn and makes them friends within a span of ten minutes. It's rushed to a shocking degree and hurts the impact of the story.
Serena's arc is rushed too. She was a villainous character last episode, yet now she seems to be a heroic character who we sympathize with. The change is too sudden and doesn't feel spurred on by anything. I suppose Fred's hospitalization did it, but I don't understand why that is which is problematic. Furthermore, to make her seem more likeable, Fred has to once more go to cartoonish lengths of villainy to get us to feel for her. In the end the show is sacrificing its best villain to make a hero and replacing her with a dull and 1-dimensional villain who doesn't interest me at all.
I hate that we have been given no fallout to the major bokbing from a few episodes ago. When it happened, it felt like a huge event but in the end it accomplished nothing. Fred is back and unharmed too which means that the bombing led to absolutely no change in any characters or the story as a whole. For such a pivotal moment, it did nothing of note and that is a massive disappointment.
Nick's storyline felt static here and not much of note happened. Furthermore, its hard to relate to Nick since he makes no effort whatsoever to be kind to Eden who didn't ask to be put in as Nick's wife. This makes Nick seem selfish, which does nothing to make me care for him at all.
The ending scene with Offred was disappointing. We genuinely don't know how she feels for the first time ever and I don't think that's a good thing. The show has been strong because it's easy to relate with Offred and sympathize with her struggles, so to see her doing something mysterious is disappointing. We needed to understand her mindset for her scenes with Fred and Serena to have any impact.
The Unknown: Will Angela survive then? Since Janine saved her, does that mean she will be brought back into the Putnam household? What was wrong with Angela? Was it really just neglect?
Will Emily rebel again? She seems to be angry once again.
Where are Offred's current allegiances and what is her plan goign forwards? Will she help Serena or Fred?
Did Eden read the letters? What will she do next after Nick's outburst.
Best Moment: Offred coming to Serena's door and showing some compassion was outstanding and did a great job of showing how far they have come. It would have been even better though if Offred didn't go to Fred right after and that somewhat soured the moment.
Character of the Episode: Serena.
Conclusion: This episode had moments of power and good storytelling, but it was messy in terms of pace and writing. With better execution there is a great episode here but unfortunately what we got was pretty disappointing and only average overall.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.