After what felt like an eternity stuck in Gilead on a nonsensical ride in one of those black vans, season two of The Handmaid’s Tale finally premiered on Hulu in late April. Below, a running list of the craziest, most shocking moments on the show so far. We are with you, June.
Season 2, episode 1 (“June”):
The opening minutes leading up to Fenway. In seamless fashion, viewers follow June from the van (from the season one finale) to a parking lot, where other Handmaids are let out, gagged, and herded like animals into what used to be Fenway Park. They’re lined up in front of several nooses. One of them - Ofrobert, formerly Alma - is so terrified she pees. When the lever is pulled, nothing happens. Aunt Lydia shows up and reminds the Handmaids of God’s love. Her voice is heard all around the ballpark as she says this is merely “a lesson” to them. The Handmaids are released from the nooses, June the narrator says, “Seriously? What the actual fuck?” The title card finally appears.
Aunt Lydia shows June what her next nine months could look like if she doesn’t follow the rules. The lights turn on to reveal a Handmaid named Ofwyatt, who is pregnant and chained to her bedposts. She’s there because she tried to kill her baby (and possibly herself) with drain cleaner.
Ofrobert’s hand meets a burner. As punishment for not stoning Janine, one by one, the Handmaids are taken to a stovetop, where their hands are cuffed to a burner. “You girls, so willful and full of apologies when it comes time to pay the Piper,” Aunt Lydia says. “It’s shameful for me as well, but only in suffering will we find grace.” Offred, who is sitting down while all of this is going on and is not stovetop bound because she’s pregnant, continues to eat her soup as Ofrobert’s bloodcurdling scream fills the room.
A hospital worker grills June in a flashback. June visits her daughter Hannah, who was sent by her school to the hospital for a fever. June is immediately questioned by a nurse/social worker type, who repeatedly calls her Mrs. Bankole even though June never took Luke’s last name. “She’s your biological child?” she asks June. This is followed by her making June admit that she has to “miss work” to take care of Hannah if she’s ever home sick and not at school. There’s more: June is forced to admit that yes, she gave Hannah Tylenol because she felt warm, but it wasn’t so that she could bypass the school’s fever policy. It’s too late. The nurse has already made her own conclusions. “I understand, Mrs. Bankole. We have busy lives. But children are so precious we have to make certain that they are in a safe home environment with fit parents. I just have a few more questions, Mrs. Bangole.” The most horrifying part of all this? Things have only gotten worse.
June slices into her ear to get rid of the tag. After finding her way to Nick in an abandoned building, June is instructed to shed her Handmaid clothes so she can continue with the next part of her escape. As her clothes are burning, she cuts the top of her ear open to remove the tag, just in case Gilead really was using them as GPS-like devices. The scene is not for everyone, especially if you’re scared of blood, but what June says next is chilling: “My name is June Osbourne. I am from Brookline, Massachusetts. I’m 34 years old. I stand 5’3” and bare feet. I weight 120 pounds. I have viable ovaries. I’m five weeks pregnant. I am free.”
Season 2, episode 2 (“Unwomen”):
“What will happen when I get out? I probably don’t have to worry about it, because there probably is no out.” June the narrator delivers these morbid words as she’s transported at night to her next destination. She quotes Aunt Lydia and tries to make light of the thought. “‘Gilead knows no bounds,’ Aunt Lydia said. ‘Gilead is within you. Like the spirit of the Lord.’ Or, the Commander’s cock. Or cancer.”
In a flashback, Emily is advised to change her phone home screen, which is a photo of her wife and their son. As her colleague, who is also gay, tells her, “It’s caution. An overabundance of caution. The new board of regents is concerned that you’re not maintaining a healthy learning environment.”
“Don’t waste it. She can’t even hold down water.” After Emily shares that someone found duck eggs and traded them for Tylenol, a fellow Unwoman suggests that she save them for another time instead of using it on the nearly lifeless body before them. This is how bad things are in the Colonies. “Maybe some mint tea could settle her stomach,” Emily offers.
June realizes a massacre happened at the Boston Globe offices. Not long after June sees a lone shoe in the abandoned office building, which turns out to be the Boston Globe offices, she makes her way to the basement, where printers used to run and where dozens of nooses are still hanging. She turns around to see a wall with hundreds of bullet holes.
In a flashback, Emily’s colleague at the school is hanged. This is the same colleague who warned her about her phone screen and who admitted that he himself took down all the photos of his partner as a precaution. This being The Handmaids Tale, it was too late.
In a flashback, Emily is separated from her wife and their son at the border in the name of “the law.” One of the most heartbreaking scenes of season two so far belongs to Emily and her Canadian wife Sylvia. When they present their marriage certificate to the first border patrol officer in hopes of catching a flight to Canada, he tells them, “[You were] smart to bring this. That will help for sure.” Again, it was too late. Gilead law had seemingly changed everything overnight, making their marriage illegal, or in the second border patrol officer’s words, “forbidden by the law.” When Emily asks, “What law?” He says, “The law.” In the same scene, Emily is also interrogated about how she conceived her son – was it her own egg or an implanted embryo? You don’t need guess very hard as to why this was asked.
Emily kills a Wife (Marisa Tomei). The Wife, who was recently punished and sent to the Colonies for committing “a sin of the flesh,” has a bad reaction to the radioactive shit in the Colonies (join the club). Emily gives her “expired” antibiotics, which turn out to be poison. “Every month you held a woman down while your husband raped her,” Emily says. “Some things can’t be forgiven. It’ll take a few more hours.” In the next scene, the Wife’s body is tied to a cross. The bell rings to signify that it’s time for another day of digging. Emily is the first to walk away.
June watches the Friends episode, “The One with Phoebe’s Uterus.” June finds an old Friends DVD and watches Monica describe the seven erogenous zones of a woman to Chandler. The scene is a classic for any longtime Friends fan. For June, it’s an eerie reminder of a time when women were free. Free to talk about sex. Free to tell a man how to please them. Free to star on one of NBC's most coveted Must See TV shows.
Season 2, episode 3 (“Baggage”):
June sees the Boston Logan Airport sign. She’s taken to another abandoned building, which is packed to the brim with stop signs, arrows, street names, and other billboards that have since been torn down by the Gilead regime.
In a flashback, June’s mom Holly (Cherry Jones) tells her she shouldn’t marry Luke. Technically, June first got together with her fiancé when he was married to someone else, but this isn’t why her mom disapproves. “June, you’re so young, you really want to take all that energy and passion and give it to a man?” Holly asks. “Luke is fine but come on, this country is going down the fucking tubes. It’s time to get out on the street and fight, not just play house.” Also of note: earlier in the scene, she asks June if she really likes her publishing job. “I sacrificed for you and it pisses me off that you’re settling.” Looking back, these concerns seem small compared to the realities of the Colonies, where Holly ended up (according to Atwood’s book and a video shown at the Red Center).
June finds a prayer rug at the home of a middle-class family. After the driver who was supposed to transport June to an airfield takes her into his own home, he and his wife (an Econowife) and their young son head to church with the rest of the neighborhood. While waiting for their return, an impatient June snoops around the apartment and at one point, suspicious that someone’s at the door, hides under the couple’s bed, only to find what appears to be an Islamic prayer rug and a copy of the Quran tucked underneath the bed frame. Under Gilead rule, of course, all other religions besides the Commanders’ specific branch of Christianity are deemed forbidden.
Erin speaks for the first time since escaping to Canada with Luke. Erin, a former Handmaid who now lives in Little America in Toronto with Luke and Moira, surprises everyone when she says, “Blessed be the Fruit Loops,” while munching on a bowl of the colorful cereal. “How long have you been holding onto that one?” asks Moira. “A while,” she says. Everybody laughs for what feels like the first time since the show began (in non-flashback clips).
June is caught. This isn’t so much shocking as it is terrifying. After the charter plane she boards is shot down, several Guardians make their way to June and pull her out as she tries to hold onto what’s left of the plane. Game over. Again.
Season 2, episode 4 (“Other Women”):
Serena Joy has a baby shower and one of the Wives tells her she’s “absolutely glowing.” The group also tells Serena she “deserves some joy” after her baby was “kidnapped.” When someone says it’s a shame she missed the baby’s first trimester and first kick, Offred, who’s sitting outside of the Wives circle, chimes in: “I felt the baby kick for the first time last night.” If you look closely, you can probably see steam coming out of Serena’s head.
Serena and Offred have a pre-birth ceremony with green and red string (which correspond to the color of their clothes). Similar to the birthing ritual seen on season one, a chant takes over the room, except this time, it’s Serena repeating, “Let the little children come to me,” a phrase from Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 14. In response, the Wives chant back, “For such is the kingdom of heaven.”
June really broke a marriage when she first got together with Luke. In a flashback, Luke’s wife Annie confronts June after her yoga class and tells her to back off. “Give us the space to work on our marriage… we made vows before God. That means something. He’s a good man who wants to do the right thing, you have to let him do that.” In another flashback, June sees Annie at a coffee shop, not long after giving birth to Hannah.
Mayday’s gone silent. This, according to Ofrobert, who adds that Ofglen’s tongue has since been cut off for the whole not stoning Janine fiasco. “They’re done helping Handmaids,” she says. This could explain why Rita ended up giving the package of Handmaids letters back to Offred. Maybe Rita wasn’t actually afraid of getting caught by the Waterfords. Maybe no one contacted her about the letters at all during the whole time Offred was away.
The driver who housed June is hanged at the Wall. During a walk with Aunt Lydia, Offred is led to the Wall, where the body of the bread delivery truck driver is hanging. Instead of returning to their house on the last episode, the family was likely apprehended by Guardians and punished for taking in a Handmaid. As Aunt Lydia reveals to June, the wife will serve as a Handmaid and the son now lives with new parents. “Gilead has shown them mercy. They will have a chance at a better life.”
Serena spoons June at night and feels the baby bump. “All will be well… mama loves you,” Serena says to June’s stomach.
June begins to repeat phrases. This includes her saying “my fault” over and over again, and “We’ve been sent good weather.” Has she internalized her stress? Is she beginning to believe that everything is her fault, from breaking Luke’s marriage to the driver’s death?
Season 2, episode 5 (“Seeds”):
Offred sits in a tub of her own blood. The episode opens with her spotting but in a later scene, the bleeding has seemingly worsened. Afraid of getting discovered, she makes a pad of out toilet paper, gets dressed, drinks Lydia’s green stuff, and goes for a walk with Serena.
Nick gets married. And Offred is forced to watch (along with other Handmaids, Wives, and Commanders). The wedding ceremony is a group ceremony: a dozen or so Guardians are “honored” for their efforts and are rewarded with new brides. This is likely Commander Waterford doing damage control. Later, back at Nick’s apartment, Serena tells his new wife, Eden, that it’s her “duty to bear children,” adding that lust is not a sin if it’s between husband and wife. “It can bring you closer together, it should, anyway.”
Emily’s tooth falls out. The scene is brief but it serves as a horrifying reminder that everything is toxic and awful in the Colonies. This is what happens to everyone. If your teeth don’t fall out, your body will succumb to something else, like Kit, one of the older women who dies and is later buried in a mass grave.
Offred tries to kill herself. But Nick finds her in the mud, where she’s fallen. She wakes up at the hospital and uncovers her blankets to reveal that her baby is safe. “You’re tough, aren’t you,” she says to her baby. “I will not let you grow up in this place. I won’t do it. Do you hear me? They do not own you. And they do not own what you’ll become. I’m going to get you out of here. I’m going to get us out of here. I promise you. I promise.”
This post will be updated as more episodes of season two air.
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