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.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.