Here we are at the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale where so many gross things happen I don’t even know where to start. So let’s begin at the beginning after the break.
We’re at the Red Centre back where it all began with Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) hollering and castigating the “parade of sluts” before her. She explains the rules to June (Elisabeth Moss); they are to show humility with downcast eyes and clasped hands. June can’t put her finger on what that look all the women have in their eyes now; it’s in hers too and it wasn’t seen very often back in the real world.
Aunt Lydia tases June then forces her to apologize (for…?) and then brings her into a room empty save a lone chair and a long tube. Is that an air compressor?? It is and what the fuck are they doing with the stapler or nail gun attached to it??
June is tagged like an animal while she tells us that the look the women all have is terror; but they don’t look at each other like that any more.
Full disclosure: I had to turn it off when they got close to her head with the nailgun/stapler; I’m hella squeamish and too old to pretend otherwise. I’m 45 in just under two weeks!
Back in Gilead, June stares at the parcel in her net shopping bag and smiles to herself; they shouldn’t have given them uniforms if they didn’t expect them to form an army.
June searches her room for a hiding spot for the package, settling on behind the tub just as she is set upon by Serena Joy (Yvonne Stahovski) who has found out about Jezebels.
She slaps June over and over, drawing blood and screaming about an explanation for the infidelity. She’s found the dress, see, “you could have left me with something” she says to the woman she helped her husband rape repeatedly.
Just like with Aunt Lydia, June apologizes through her pain before Serena Joy drags her to the bathroom to pee on a pregnancy test.
June struggles to urinate with all this company and then is forced onto her knees to pray while they await the results. The blood from her cut forehead drips into the dingy porcelain of her tub.
Serena Joy knows this is an answer to their prayers.
To bring a baby into this house?
Shit. How is she going to be in the Resistance if she’s pregnant? Will they even let her continue?
In bed she flashes back to telling Luke (OT-Fagbenle) about her first pregnancy, it seems so far away.
Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is surprised to find Serena Joy in his office, which is verboten to women. She’ll have to scoot before his conference call in 5 minutes and no, he doesn’t want to play Scrabble with her, she knows the law. Well she ought to, she helped write them after all.
A taut argument about June goes nuclear when Serena Joy says that everyone answers to God and Waterford counters with “and you answer to me. Go to your room.” Serena Joy drops one of the cards up her sleeve; June’s pregnancy hits him like a truck. “It’s not yours” even more so. God would never let him father a child, he’s not worthy. BOOM.
Martha Rita (Amanda Bruegel) is ecstatic in the morning, it’s all “blessed day” this, eggs, porridge and face kisses for June.
Nick (Max Minghella) comes in and asks about her face; he is so happy and gentle when he hears she’s expecting, even though she is reluctant to celebrate her impending birthing in captivity.
Awwwwww oh but Serena Joy catches them. Maybe she finally sees June as a person, she looks ashamed for the first time. She has arranged alternate transport for wherever she is taking June today, but it’s far away and June isn’t allowed to touch the curtains.
Moira (Samira Wiley) has made it to Canada!!!!!! Yay!!! But it’s cold and I think she’s sick. Be well Moira!
It’s a quiet ride with Serena Joy, the only sound is her knitting and then they arrive. She still won’t tell June where they are
OMIGOD IS THAT HANNAH????
It is!!! But June can’t get out of the car, the doors are locked and she screams and screams and cries and pounds on the glass when she realises what’s happening.
Why is Serena Joy taking her to Hannah but not letting her talk to Hannah (Jordana Blake)????
This is the cruelest and most direct way to control June.
They drive away.
How much of your humanity would you have to sacrifice to justify doing something like that to another person? Given how desperate Serena Joy is to be a mother, how can she justify threatening a child?
June spits all the venom she is capable of, finally telling Serena Joy what she thinks of her in very direct terms. Serena Joy is not the least phased.
Former Commander Warren Putnam (Steven Kunken) is pleading for mercy in front of the Council; Waterford is understandably sympathetic to Putnam’s cause but Commander Pryce (Robert Curtis Brown) much less so. After all, if they don’t discourage this type of behaviour, then everybody will be going around “renting the covenant” at will. Waterford brings up Putnam’s wife, but Pryce knows something Waterford doesn’t: Naomi Putnam asked for the worst punishment for her husband.
The power shifts as Waterford realises that he is similarly in danger from Serena Joy.
The worst punishment available is the loss of your left hand, it looks like (I didn’t watch after the cutting started), and ends with the useless appendage being dropped unceremoniously in the garbage can.
June heads to Nick’s room when she gets back, but he’s not at home or not answering. She goes into Waterford’s study where he thinks HE had a bad day. She asks for his help protecting her daughter from Serena Joy; he doesn’t know her. He wants to talk about her next child, though.
And compliments her quick lie, as though she had any other choice.
In her room, she opens the package secreted out of Jezebels by Moira; it’s a packet of letter from Handmaids, seeking their children and help to get out.
Essentially the message is this: the cause is bigger than Hannah.
Moira is processed at the border by a super friendly agent, welcome to Mac N Cheese night! She doesn’t have any family in Canada, so now he’s her new best friend. To be honest, he seems like a great bestie, 10/10 would BFF. Moira is waiting for the other shoe to drop and is having trouble processing the fact that she is actually free. Seeing her hopeful and scared face makes me tear up.
Waterford visits his wife in the nursery, he’s trying to apologize his way back into her good graces but she’s not having it. He reminds her that THEY will be having the baby soon, June will be gone and THEY will be a family.
June wakes up surrounded by paper to three bells tolling in the distance. That means there will be a savaging today.
Ofglen (Tattiawna Jones) is pissed at June for being late coming down, she’s the worst shopping partner ever! Whatever Ofglen 2.0
Piles of rocks are dropped off, Ofsamuel (Jenessa Grant) groans, she hates Stonings.
Aunt Lydia cries as she does her speech, which is about challenges and rewards and not harming children
IS THIS ABOUT JANINE???
Everyone chooses a stone and they form a circle
Fuck it is Janine, who is still smiling and waving
WHY DID THEY PULL HER OUT OF THE WATER TO KILL HER LIKE THIS???
Ofglen is not going to do it, nope, she protests and is knocked down to the ground by a guard while Janine (Madeline Brewer) checks to make sure she’s okay.
Aunt Lydia cries and blows the whistle but nobody moves.
I AM NOT WATCHING IF ANYONE MOVES
Okay I skipped ahead in 30 second increments to make sure: nobody does.
June moves forward, pregnant and safe, but a guard challenges her anyway. Aunt Lydia, who was apparently okay with Ofglen getting a mouthful of rifle stock, steps in front of him and backs him down: she is responsible for these girls.
Does she have a soft spot for June? She has one for Janine, yet here we are.
June will not be killing Janine today.
One by one they all step forward and apologize to Aunt Lydia while dropping their stones.
Aunt Lydia warns them all that there will be consequences and then June leaves and Janine is left handcuffed and huddled on the grass.
If they had shown Janine being stoned, this show would have been over already.
The Handmaids march home in formation, meek no more.
As Moira is released, a familiar face shows itself: Luke has come to get her. She’s on his list as family and then they’re hugging and we’re all crying and it’s beautiful. Moira is so shell shocked from her time in the US that it will take a while for her to be back to herself.
June waits in her room for her punishment, oddly calm and serene. She doesn’t feel scared or worried and then sirens approach from outside. Footsteps are next, it’s Nick and he tells her to trust him and go with the Eyes.
June whispers the location of the package of letters to Rita as she is led out of the house, though the light into the back of a dark van as Serena Joy trails after, shouting. June has put herself into the hands of strangers once again, into the darkness. “American Girl” by Tom Petty takes us out of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale.
There isn’t much to talk about for this episode; we covered the overt cruelty of Serena Joy above and the changing power structure within the Waterford marriage but there is one other thing. Night was about how pregnancy can feel; paradoxically incredibly vulnerable yet 50 feet tall and bulletproof at the same time.
For the record, this is the very last episode of The Handmaid’s Tale I will be recapping. I think it is a very interesting show and well done, but I can’t deliberately steep myself in misery on purpose; there are positive things that can be done.
Watching women be tortured physically, emotionally and mentally does two things. One: it can inure us to seeing such atrocities and two: it humanizes the offenders. Didn’t we all feel bad for Aunt Lydia this episode, weeping over having to sentence her beloved Janine to death? Yeah, we all felt a little bit for the psychotic woman who once removed a woman’s clitoris for being gay. So.
I wish the show all the best and I was happy to know all of you, Dear Readers, I hope you’ll check out something else while you are here! Cheers