Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, “Women’s Work”
Weeks have passed and Fred is well enough to make a trip to Canada. As he gathers up his household and shares the news of his and Serena’s upcoming travel they are relieved and full of dread. Stuart, the security officer, is left to keep an eye on the Rita, Offred, and Eden. Fred makes them promise to stay out of trouble as if they are a trio of children.
Serena, Nick, and Fred travel to Canada on a diplomatic mission. The bombing opened the door to talks of an alliance with Gilead’s neighbors to the north. The news of Commander Waterford’s visit spreads throughout Little America. Moira wants Waterford arrested for rape and kidnapping, but Little America has no police force or authority over the Commander during his visit. The Waterfords go through the usual diplomatic formalities: pleasant introductions, Fred meeting with heads of state while Serena is taken on a tour of the local sights. The visit starts flat and ends with even less fanfare as the Waterfords are asked to leave the country halfway through the visit.
Serena was hesitant to go on this diplomatic mission with her husband. Maybe she had gotten used to his absence, perhaps she needed a break from being Mrs. Waterford; whatever it was she looked physically ill at the idea of being the face of Gilead. As they drive through the streets of the unnamed Canadian city, she sees what once was. People strolling hand and hand. Women going to work, children, public transportation, freedom. A freedom she has since forgotten. But Serena is a strange woman in a strange land, at least to the people she encounters. The liaison hands Serena an itinerary that uses images instead of words, because the women of Gilead are not permitted to read even if they know how to. A little girl asks Serena if she is a princess, and she is flattered, of course, but this polite exchange ends quickly as the child’s mother pulls her close and refuses to board the elevator with Serena. She finally retreats to the one place she might not be discriminated against, the hotel bar. And even then she is approached by a stranger, a stranger who has done his research and offers to free Serena from her self-imposed chains. She could be on a flight to Honolulu in an hour. She accuses him of offering her treason and coconuts and being the dutiful wife she declines. Even though Serena’s response was sharp there was a slight moment of hesitation, a brief second where she considered the offer. I don’t know what would make you stay in a world like Gilead if given the choice to leave.
Moira, Luke, and Erin are angry and sickened at the arrival of the Waterfords, besides Moira wanting Fred strung-up by his nethers, Luke is at defcon 1 levels of furious at the knowledge that his wife’s captor and rapist is free and walking the streets. Luke makes first contact breaking through a security barrier carrying a poster board displaying a family photo of him, June, and Hannah. Fred, Serena and Nick are shocked at the reality staring them straight in the face. They couldn’t escape the fact that Offred was at one time more than a baby factory. She had a life before Gilead and that life was front and center.
Serena was visibly horrified at Luke’s display. Is this what she wanted to avoid by not traveling to Canada? It’s easier to live this sheltered life with faith-blinders on. It’s easy treat women like cattle when they are stripped of their identity, branded, and placed at your doorstep. It’s easy to live in this isolated existence when you don’t leave your bubble, and while I do not think Serena’s security bubble was burst, it definitely took some damage. This interaction did move one person to take action. Nick tracks down Luke at a or perhaps the bar in Little America and passes on the stash of letters he’s kept hidden for Offred. He reassures Luke that June is safe enough and has nothing to report on Hannah. He spares him the details of actually being the father of her child and lets Fred take the blame.
Armed with letters detailing torment taking place in Gilead, Luke, Erin, and Moira use the small bit of technology available to them and post the letters on the internet. This prompts the Canadian leadership to end talks with Gilead and kick the Waterfords out of the country. Their departure is met with rows of Little Americans hurling tomatoes and wielding signs. Moira is there and Fred sees her. Actually, sees her and appears to be frightened for the first time. Erin, Moira, and other Little Americans feel vindicated when the Waterfords are officially out of Canadian airspace, but the joy is short-lived as they remember all of the people back home. The crowd sings a sorrowful version of America the Beautiful that feels out of place, but this group is displaced and it’s one of the few things tying them to their past life.
Some character points
Nick has been facing some challenges at home. He was forced to marry a child bride and consummate the marriage. He is trying to be a better man than what Gilead wants him to be. He doesn’t want a 15-year-old wife and surely doesn’t want a baby with her so his transition from Eye to “I do” has been difficult. The catch-22 is that if he isn’t a good husband who proves loyal to Gilead, Eden is the type to snitch. I understand him being cool on his wife, but I kind of want to shake the shit out of him and tell him to get it together. The stash of letters Nick gives to Luke was discovered by Eden prior to his departure. Word will soon spread through Gilead and Eden is bound to find out about the letters in Canada and link it to Nick. Nick’s intentions were good, but have put him at risk with his new Gilead loyalist wife. While he was out being the good guy, Eden was home cozying up to Stuart the security guard. This will not end well.
For many women, the final weeks of pregnancy are a time to nest and create a new safe space for their newborn child. For handmaids, it’s the countdown to a birthing ceremony you don’t want and handing off your child to a woman you don’t like. Serena wants Offred gone as soon as the baby is born. What went from the security of knowing she would at least be with him until he is weened, turns to fear of the unknown especially after seeing Fred abuse Serena. While the cat’s away, Offred lays the groundwork to protect her child after she leaves the Waterford house. She enlists Rita as the godparent and plants a seed of doubt in Aunt Lydia’s mind as to whether the Waterfords would be suitable parents. After all of her planning, Offred switches gears upon hearing Luke and Moira are alive and together. June has resurfaced and found a new determination to escape her captors with her child. What does this escape plan look like? Does she take Rita or Janine with her? Will it involve Nick or Aunt Lydia? Who is the strongest ally?
The episode ended with a song by Rhianna featuring Sza titled “Consideration.” It’s about someone whose ideas were taken for granted and they finally decide to do things their own way. This seems like a heavy-handed hint Offred will be trying to escape by any means necessary.
The Handmaid’s Tale S2E9 Review Score
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, O-T Fagbenle, Samira Wiley, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel