The Handmaid’s Tale S2 Ep 1- 2 “June” and “Unwomen”

Blessed be the fruit, Avocados!

There’s nothing like hot soup on a rainy day!

The handmaids in June’s cohort have received their consequences for not stoning Janine. They are herded into Fenway and onto the gallows. I was really wondering where this was going – of course June wouldn’t be killed off.  I thought she’d get a special reprieve because of her pregnancy and the rest would hang.  I should have known Gilead wouldn’t kill so many fertile women.

Notice the way June folds her hands and looks at the sky. I wondered if she was praying, and by the end of episode two, she was. June finding religion in the monstrous theocracy of Gilead is an interesting topic to explore.

The handmaids are subjected to further punishment, kneeling in the rain holding rocks up. When Aunt Lydia get the word June is pregnant, she’s given dry clothes and hot soup, that she refuses to eat. The look of hate on Elizabeth Moss’s face is palpable. But it could be worse,  she could be chained for the duration of the pregnancy like Ofwyatt. Fearful, June eats her soup. She’s forced to do so while her fellow handmaids are marched in front of her, chained to a stove and burnt one by one.  It’s a terrible price to pay for rebellion.

Aunt Lydia rings the bell with a combination of remorse and joy. Aunt Lydia is a true believer, I think some part of her knows that God doesn’t think what she’s doing is OK.

June’s flashbacks continue to reveal events leading up to the fall of the US and the rise of Gilead.  Her daughter’s overzealous and judgy school sends Hannah to the ER for a fever and June is has to deal with and overzealous and judgy nurse asking her questions.  Pre- Gilead June was no shrinking violet, she stands her ground, correcting her name wondering why these questions are asked. (It’s interesting to me to see the way various people in the public sphere were pre-Gilead, I wonder if the movement had true believers gathering information. )  When she gets home, Luke is there, tuned to the news – turns out people opened fire on Congress and at the White House and martial law was declared.

June is torn between watching the news and comforting her sick daughter. “I hate this day,” says Hannah.

Back in Gilead, June is at her OB exam and someone from Mayday manages to get a signal to her in her boot (Godspeed…JUNE) and she begins her journey to “freedom,” whatever that is. But not without some bloody self mutilation as she cuts off part of her ear in order to get her tag off. (Literally the same device used to track cattle)

Not since the toothpulling in The Americans have I white  knuckled it through such a difficult scene.

June ends up alone at the former Boston Globe offices, where it appears dozens of journalists were murdered. (topical!)  Nick manages to visit her, and she finds no one is sure of the next steps. June panics and wants to take Nick’s car and get Hannah and drive to Maine, surely a crazy move that will get Nick murdered, endanger Mayday, and a one way ticket to being chained for the next 8 months. Nick allows her the space and time to process this, even giving her his keys and gun in one of the more curious narrative choices of these episodes. (more on Nick in the stray observations)

June is never going to see her daughter again.  June and Nick are in incredible danger. The intensity of this leads to  what I think is  supposed be hot sex. (  Elizabeth Moss, sells it,  but,again more on Nick in the stray observations)

Remember Rory…ahem… Emily? Turns out Alexis Bledel is a very good actor. After her genital mutilation for being gay, she ran over a coupe of Guardians and I suppose that despite her fertility she was too much trouble. She’s sent to The Colonies – a place we learned about in the book and in the first season but never got a chance to see.  The Colonies are nothing more than slave labor camps, where people are required to clean up toxic waste unprotected until they die.

Emily gets a flashback too. She was a biology professor who corrected white dudes in class who got all bent out of shape about it.  Her boss, Paul (John Caroll Lynch – good old Norm “son of a gun” Gunderson from Fargo) is gay, she’s gay they both have spouses and are having trouble navigating the just pre-Gilead world. Norm…I mean Paul, removed pictures of his husband from his office, for fear of judgement and mentions Emily should do the same. Paul’s husband accused him of being complicit. Paul is genuinely upset about how he thought his was the last generation to have to worry about being openly gay. Emily refuses to entertain not teaching the following semester and they both seem to realize what an uphill battle they’ll have. Then someone murders Paul.

So Emily and her wife  Syl (Clea Duvall! I love me some Clea Duvall!) and son try to get to Canada. Syl and son are fine, Syl is Canadian. Emily has to deal with layers of bureaucracy at the airport and deal with ICE (topical!) where it seems directives are switched a few times a day. An agent assures her that the marriage certificate should be enough, she just has to go over there and answer questions.

Then she gets hit with the “Your egg or an implanted embryo?” by a dickhead supervisor. He’s got the latest directive and her marriage isn’t valid anymore. Fertility is everything.

Back in The Colonies, Emily has adjusted and seems to have a de facto leadership role – helping sort out some health problems.  In what seems to be a rare occurrence, a Wife arrives. Emily appears sympathetic at first, but after some exposition that poses as “how to get by in The Colonies,” she poisons the Wife, leaving her to die a painful death alone. And then here comes Janine.

I found the Wife and Aunt Lydia to have something in common. “I’m a good person, I believe in God, he’ll understand.” (I don’t like to capitalize God’s pronoun)  Which smacks of privilege. Combined with June’s praying, I suspect the nature of faith will be a big topic this season.

Stray Observations

– The cinematography continues to be just gorgeous.

NICK  He seems to be a bit of a cipher now, and I don’t find his chemistry with June to be convincing. (Moss sells the sex scene tho!) We had a bit a flashback last season, I’m not sure if it’s the writing or the actor (Max Minghella – I don’t know any of his other work) or some combination of both, but something is missing with me. What do you all think?

– When are we exploring race, Handmaid’s Tale

I fear this may be a regular feature.  It was a”non-issue”in the book, because the government of Gilead simply sent people of color to the colonies or just killed them.  To me, the choice of the showrunners to include POC in Gilead – such a stratified society-  having the main character a white woman married to a black man and a biracial daughter….DO SOMETHING with it, show.  Are there even any POC in the writer’s room?_

I liked Allison Shoemaker’s reviews on the AV Club last season. I didn’t want to read them before I wrote this, but I feel obligated to direct you to a better reviewer than me. If you don’t do Kinja, we can discuss what she has to say here. But give her the clicks.

No matter how awkward my review is, please  all 4 or 5 of you, go forth and comment. And do sign up for a week if you want.







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