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.
Summary: Moira recalls times with he fiancé Odette. She discovers that she was killed in the explosion. Fred has been badly injured by the explosion and is in the hospital. Cushing suspects that Offred ran away and wasn't taken, so Serena teams up with her to remove Cushing. Emily and Janine are brought back from the colonies as handmaids since many were killed in the explosion.
The Good: There were some pretty good parts here. I liked the funeral scene which the episode started with. I thought the black mourning clothes for the handmaids was a really nice detail too. Once more Aunt Lydia impressed me with her genuine love for the handmaids and her sadness after many were killed.
I enjoyed Offred's storyline too. I loved the tension in her scene with Cushing which was a good continuation from season one where we had a scene with an Eye who came to question Offred about Emily. I like that Cushing was smart enough to figure that Offred isn't so innocent, but in his attempt to get information, he made some enemies in Offred and Serena who both want the best for their children. Their team-up was good and made sense. I appreciated Offred subtly threatening Serena to let her know to help her or maybe Serena won't have a child. It's an interesting development which will surely add something fresh to this fascinating relationship.
Samira Wiley was superb in this episode. While I have big issues with Moira's storyline (see: The Bad), I thought that Wiley's performance was so superb that she managed to make me care about something that I really shouldn't have cared at all about.
The reuniting handmaids at the end was a great scene. Janine and Emily have been separated from Offred for so long, so that makes their reunion feel genuinely sweet and powerful, though this story has its flaws too (see: The Bad).
The Bad: This episode was disappointing overall and the weakest of the season. The biggest flaw with this was how cluttered it felt, which in turn made a lot of storylines feel rushed. This episode addressed the Waterfords, Offred and Serena’s conflict, the colonies, Little America and even a little bit for Eden and Nick. That’s too much for a single episode and it affected the quality here.
The colonies in particular felt really disappointing. Several episodes had storylines dedicated to the colonies, and yet it all ended up meaning nothing since the colonies were completely abandoned now with Emily and Janine all returning back to Offred. And the worst part? None of them had any changes in character. Nothing has changed about them since they left to the colonies making their entire journey pointless. I’m fine with splitting characters off to have individual stories, but they must go through some kind of change for it to have a purpose overall. If there is no purpose, then it’s no different from a bottle episode like “The Lost Sister” from Stranger Things which didn’t have much meat to its story at all.
Moira’s story is similarly detached from the main narrative, albeit in a different way. Her story feels totally forced into this episode and completely out of left field, and that is because of Odette. The big problem with the existence of Odette is that she was never hinted at or foreshadowed beforehand. Because of that, it feels awkward that we just assume now that Moira had this fiancé who she cared so much about. Furthermore, we don’t care about her as much as we should either. After all, if Moira didn’t think about Odette for a season and a half, why should we care about her? This entire storyline feels like it’s in the episode to give it a manipulative emotional edge and also to make up for Moira’s weak characterization thus far. Also, there was a really awkward scene where Moira just randomly decided to find pictures of Odette and started crying in response. It was so random and I found it difficult to connect with the emotions Moira was feeling because of that.
I think that this season as a whole has a big problem which I just noticed in this episode. The season has independent storylines which are addressed in a single episode, but are never brought up before or after. It was Odette in this episode, Emily’s past in “Unwomen” and June’s mother in “Baggage”. I understand that these disconnected stories are similar in format to the novel, but that doesn’t translate well in a TV season. It worked in the novel because the novel was written as a story that Offred was reflecting on. But on the show, the story isn’t being told in present tense, so I feel that there needs to be better story structure and flow to make up for this. Choosing to not do that is lazy and ineffective at engaging me.
The soundtrack choices continue to be really poor. Out of place music completely took me out of two scenes in this episode, once during the handmaids saying their names, and once during the funeral. This show needs to El are about subtlety with its music choice.
The scene with the Eyes hanging bodies everywhere felt pretty pointless. We get it, Gilead is an evil place, let’s see something new now.
The Unknown: Why were the Eyes killing people? What were they trying to prove?
How long will this Serena/Offred alliance last? Do they actually have a chance at becoming friends of sorts despite their history?
Will Fred be okay? How long until he is out of the hospital?
Best Moment: I will pick the moment where Serena and Offred chose to work together for mutual gain. It wasn’t the most impactful moment, but all of the other moments had major flaws attached to them, so I think this was the best scene.
Character of the Episode: Moira.
Conclusion: This episode was really weak and showed the biggest holes in The Handmaid’s Tale’s storytelling. Let’s see some more cohesion and change in Gilead in future episodes to prevent awkward instalments like this one.
Summary: In flashbacks Serena is shot while making a speech to an angry audience. Fred kills the wife of the man responsible. In the present, Offred and Serena try to be kind to each other but the charade falls away when Offred asks to see Hannah again. Serena and Offred become enemies again. Nick has sex with Eden despite not wanting to. Eden is worried that Nick doesn't like her and Offred tells her he will come around. Fred has built a new Red Centre and he performs a speech to all of the commanders. However, Ofglen interrupts it and detonates a bomb, killing herself in the process.
The Good: Once more, an episode focused around Serena delivers and provides one of the best episodes of the season. Serena was excellent here and her character was explored really nicely. We understand that she genuinely thinks that she is in the right here, like any good villain. She believes that what she is doing is the right thing, and so when she treats Offred nicely, she expects that Offred can just forget about how unfair everything is and just become her friend, just like how Eden is doing. It's so deluded and crazy, but she believes in it, and that's the key to creating a hateable and compelling villain.
The flashbacks were well done too. Serena is established as being somebody who isn't appreciated by the public (to say the least) which helps put her in a more sympathetic light. Her efforts to support Gilead despite its massive unpopularity is almost admirable and it makes you feel a small bit of sympathy for her since Gilead hasn't seemed to turn into the kind of world she had hoped for. Clearly she was hoping for a world which allowed her to do what she wanted, sort of like that final scene with Offred and Eden where she could just command people. But things haven't gone as she wanted.
Additionally, her conflict with Offred was fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing them interact nicely in the early parts of the episode. They were both trying to be nice and were sort of feeling each other out, wondering if they had actually turned a new leaf. But that all came crumbling down when Offred asked to see her daughter once more. Serena had believed that Offred could be happy in her new life, but was suitably disappointed when she couldn't let go of her daughter. But on the other hand, Offred thought that Serena could actually be a decent human being but was disappointed when she proved to be cruel and spiteful once more. The storytelling was superb and it was enthralling to watch these two have a sort of cold war in the household.
The one scene where Serena organized a group meeting with the handmaids was superbly done. I loved her interactions with Ofglen. At first she was annoyed that Ofglen wasn't talking, but was suitably horrified in a quiet fashion when she realized she had been talking to somebody who no longer had a tongue.
Nick's conflict has been really good too. It's by far the most interesting he has been and I'm starting to buy into his love for Offred a little more now that he has a relationship to compare it to. I definitely sympathized with Nick as he had to have sex with an underage girl who he is being forced to love. While he still has a long way to go, the story is certainly moving Nick in the right direction now.
Eden was fantastic in this episode. Unlike Offred, Eden has accepted her role in the world and seems unable to comprehend how unfair everything is. Her character is another scary reality for the world of Gilead, and her scene with Offred was pretty horrifying in a subtle and realistic way. Her character feels like a fresh new way to display the horrors of Gilead.
I also enjoyed that Nick finally decided to get some vengeance on Fred by giving away what he's been doing. It's a fitting move for Nick who is not happy with the fact that Fred got him a child wife.
The Bad: The Red Centre storyline didn't feel very natural. It was an afterthought until the ending where it was used for a great cliffhanger. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly well executed. Ofglen had no time to make her decision to kamikaze feel relatable. All we know is that she lost her tongue and apparently that has now led to her wanting to die. I wish that we had seen more of Ofglen before this scene.
The Unknown: How did Ofglen get a bomb? Is she connected with Mayday?
What is in store for Fred now that Nick has given him away?
How many people died at the ending scene? What consequences will there be? Who will pay for it now that Ofglen is dead?
Best Moment: The nursery scene between Offred and Serena was superb storytelling.
Character of the Episode: Serena.
Conclusion: Once more an episode focused around Serena Joy delivered some of the show's best storytelling. This episode was really great and gripping to watch and would be in contention as one of the very best episodes if it wasn't for the out of place ending scene. Still, this was really great.
Summary: Everybody except Nick ignores Offred through her pregnancy. Offred begins to bleed, hinting at her perhaps having a miscarriage. She is taken to the doctor after being found unconscious and her baby is saved. Fred rewards Nick for his service by getting him a child bride. Janine holds a wedding in the colonies for a dying woman to raise spirits despite Emily's protests. Emily eventually apologizes and says it was a beautiful wedding.
The Good: Offred's (yeah I'm calling her Offred again for now) character arc was very good in this episode. Her reclusive silence is tough to watch and allows us to once more sympathize with her and root for her to attempt to get out of Gilead once more. There is also a very uncomfortable feeling stemming from Offred's constant bleeding which she doesn't tell anyone about. The execution of a lot of the scenes portrays Offred's loneliness with some beautiful camera work, including the uncomfortable scene of Offred sitting alone in a tub full of blood without a single other soul knowing what she has gone through.
Nick surprisingly got more depth here which I am all for. I would like or him to keep getting focus like this so that I can invest in him a little more. This is a great first step towards that as Nick has seemingly been given a proper story arc to take him through this season. The writers also allow us to start sympathizing with him (finally) by placing him in a difficult situation which forces him to do something he doesn't want to do, which is get into a relationship with his new bride which he had no choice in getting.
Fred and Serena's relationship is fascinating, and like Fred in general, I want to see more of it so that I can understand exactly how it works.
The other half of the episode was even better though. Outside of Offred's story, the episode gave some time back to the colonies so we can explore what Emily and Janine have been up to. Their scenes were outstanding and told a great story as Emily introduced Janine to the bleak new reality of her life. But Janine refuses to be such an animal and brings some positive love and feeling to the colonies, hosting a very sweet wedding for somebody on their deathbed to Emily's disdain. It's a relatable decision for Janine which brings a welcome change to the dreariness of the colonies, and also allows us to relate more with Emily who is resigned to her new life by now.
Speaking of Emily, I'm very happy that her storyline with Janine didn't lead to meaningless melodrama and that we instead got to see her make up with Janine and ultimately accept what she is doing. It was a fitting and powerful conclusion which makes us appreciate the characters of Emily and Janine much more.
The Bad: The baby surviving is a bit perplexing. There was a whole lot of blood lost throughout the episode and I don't think there is any way that the baby could realistically have survived the ordeal. It's confusing and I would have liked more information at the end of the episode about the baby.
Serena was flawed once more. She was the only one checking to make sure Offred was okay, which is odd considering how she is supposed to hate Offred. I guess it could be chalked up as a change to her character, but it hasn't been hinted at in any way, so I find it tough to buy into this character change.
This episode didn't have a whole lot to it ultimately, as evidenced by the short length of this review. I thought it was fine, but it didn't have very many talking points.
The Unknown: So what are the details regarding Nick's marriage? How are the brides created for the men and who are eligible to get a bride? What is the bride's situation in the Waterford household and what will her relationship with Offred be?
Will Janine have to face consequences for all the positive things she is doing in the colonies? I feel that this is setting up for a tragic catharsis.
Best Moment: The death scene of the woman who had just got married was genuinely emotional. I thought the scene was shot superbly to get the most emotion out of the characters, and in turn getting an emotional reaction out of me. I also loved the music, which felt "The Leftovers"-esque in its sound which is always a great thing.
Character of the Episode: Janine.
Conclusion: This was a good episode which had some welcome developments, even if it didn't really feel like there was a whole lot of depth to this, unlike the previous episodes. Thankfully I felt that the writing was more consistent, making this one of the season's better episodes.
Summary: In flashbacks, June is confronted by Luke's wife Annie who is upset that Luke is in love with her. In the present, June is under confinement from Aunt Lydia. June is returned to the Waterford residence and Lydia stays with her to ensure she doesn't escape again. June acts aggressively and infuriates Serena. Lydia takes June for a walk and shows her Omar's dead body and reveals the family's fate. June complies to become Offred again and accepts life as a handmaid once more.
The Good: This episode was another great examination of June's character. This season is doing a superb job of making June into a well-rounded character by exploring her flaws as well as her strengths. This episode is all about conveying how selfish June is and how her selfishness has caused damage to other people's happiness. The flashback scene in this episode demonstrates this with Annie being hurt by June's selfish desires to be with Luke, not even thinking about how his wife must feel. This is brought over into the present as well as Omar's dead body is revealed. June's selfishness and carelessness in the previous episode has come back to bite her as she once more feels guilty for not thinking about others and instead fixating on herself. In the end it's this guilt that leads to her reprising her role as Offred the handmaid, unwilling to fight back as June because she deserves her fate. The storytelling in this plotline was excellent in pretty much every way and is one of the reasons that "The Handmaid's Tale" is one of my favourite TV shows right now even if it hasn't quite reached greatness.
Aunt Lydia was a highlight in this episode. Ann Dowd plays the character ridiculously well and does a great job of conveying Lydia's conflicting feelings about Offred. Lydia does love Offred like she does with all of the handmaids, but also wants to and has to punish her for her mistakes and everything she has done. These conflicting emotions create a killer performance, allowing Lydia to steal any scene she is in, even outperforming Elisabeth Moss at times which is very impressive. While Lydia had seemed a bit 2-dimensional in the first season, she has improved a lot in the past 4 episodes.
I really liked how this episode set apart June and Offred as two different characters. This allows us to understand the different pieces of June's life better, as we have who she really is (June) and who other people want her to be (Offred) and this episode toys the line separating both characters and has June shift from one side of the line to the other. As mentioned above, the execution of June's transformation was great, but what I want to commend here is the decision to bring attention to the fact that there are basically two different versions of June in the series. Simply addressing this fact allowed the episode to take a more thoughtful and memorable approach and I'm glad that the show went with that instead of something basic which you will often see from lesser shows.
Serena and June's rivalry continues to be fairly enjoyable. I'm glad that their storyline hasn't been dropped and that their falling out from last season has impacted their relationship will has soured a ton. I thought their conflict in this episode had good build-up and on very uncomfortable moment as Serena talked to her baby in the middle of the night without even acknowledging June. There wasn't anything particularly great here, but it was enjoyable enough.
The Bad: Serena is a bit of a double-edged sword at this point though. While she has compelling aspects about her, she also seems very inconsistent. In "A Woman's Place" back in season 1, we learned about how Serena sacrificed everything for her current life. Yet that has had no impact on Serena's story at all and instead her storyline consists of her being an annoying and angry character who is apparently being easily manipulated by Fred. That doesn't add up nicely and makes her character as much of a mystery to me as she is compelling which isn't good. Furthermore, this new addition of her surprisingly motherly instincts leans things more to the bad side as it is yet another aspect of her character we didn't know before which we have to just accept now. We aren't told why she is motherly, just that he is which is much less satisfying.
If Serena is a double-edged sword, then Fred is a blunt blade. His character intrigued me so much last season because I was interested to find out the deeper layers to his character and what drove him from a good person into the monster he is now. But instead we got nothing and I've had to realize that the show is happy to leave him as a 2-dimensional and boring villain. This is a huge waste which I feel wastes the potential of giving this show one of the all-time great villains. The best way to put it is that the show could have had a Ben Linus but has instead settled for a Negan. A great performance, but a one-note character who isn't as interesting as the show thinks he is.
I think this show is going a bit too heavily on the misery. In the first season it was important to establish the harsh reality of this world, but now I think there needs to be more change and that the show should start gravitating away from the horrors it loves to explore. In time these horrors will grow weary and I think the show should be smart enough to move away from them before that happens. Let's hope for something a little less bleak in the future, or at least something that's bleak for a different reason.
The Unknown: Will June escape/rebel again? She seems to be stuck as Offred for now, so what will make her go back to being June? Will anything make her go back to being June?
After seeing Annie in the past, I wonder if she will make an appearance in the present. Could she be in the colonies too? Perhaps the colonies will become more central to the story in the second half of the season since there has been little focus on them.
I want more insight on Serena and her motherly instincts. Why does she have them? Was it something in her childhood or something she gained whilst living in Gilead?
Best Moment: Omar's death reveal was the most powerful scene for sure. It was tough watching June fall to her knees and have so much guilt washing over her. A very "The Handmaid's Tale" scene in every right with how much misery was conveyed. Aunt Lydia's cold speech was the icing on the cake though, taking a disheartening and powerful scene and turning it into something special.
Character of the Episode: Lydia.
Conclusion: This was a very strong episode of storytelling, but it is hurt by familiar inconsistencies with the Waterfords who haven't been as compelling as they should be. I still enjoyed this, but I feel like there needs to be better characterization going on for the Waterfords in order for the show to be excellent again.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.