Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 2, Episode 7: “After”
Directed by Kari Skogland
Written by Lynn Renee Maxcy
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “First Blood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Women’s Work” – click here
The smoke settles on Gilead after the bombing initiated by Ofglen. The Handmaids mourn, wearing black and red instead of the traditional white and red. A large funeral procession and ceremony occurs at a cemetery. Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) leads the prayer, giving a speech about wishing for a “world without violence.” The Handmaids stand next to caskets belonging to other Handmaids – June (Elisabeth Moss) is one left unscathed. All the women circle around, praying.
In a hospital, Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) keeps hanging on, beat up badly from the explosion. Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is at his bedside, as is Nick (Max Minghella). They watch over him, waiting for his hopeful recovery. Bad things for Nick, though. Seems Commander Pryce has “gone home to God,” and along with him goes the Guardian’s hopes of getting out. In Pryce’s place is Commander Cushing (Greg Bryk), who’s an elusive, mysterious man we haven’t seen much of yet.
In the Colonies, Emily (Alexis Bledel) continues her haggard existence, as does Janine (Madeline Brewer). When, out of nowhere, they’re pulled from their work duty, shoved into black SUVs, and driven away without any explanation. Oh, lord. This can’t mean anything good.
On the safe side in Canada, Moira (Samira Wiley) an Luke (O-T Fagbenle) find out about a bombing in Gilead. They’re both on different wavelengths, though. Luke basically doesn’t want to hear about it, because regardless of what’s going on over there things are NOT GOOD. Moira doesn’t find it as easy to ignore. She thinks back to a time before, when Hannah was just a baby and America hadn’t yet crumbled entirely. She’s also looking for her fiancee, from “before the War.” We jump back again, to see Moira having a sonogram. She was pregnant.
June gets a visit from Commander Cushing at the Waterford house. He’s there to investigate about Ofglen, seeing as how she and June were a shopping pair. We obviously know that she knows more about Ofglen than she lets on. She tries to keep a lid on that. However, this Commander’s thorough, and he wants to talk about her near escape, too. But he’s up against June, who’s incredibly smart, real sly. Still, this man scares me. Just his presence alone.
Later, June is taken to see Commander Waterford. She stands by his bedside, letting him feel the bump in her belly. Things are grim, that’s for certain. Fred’s not what you’d call out of the woods in terms of his health. Other Commanders are still barely hanging on, as well. And Nick is trying his best to figure out a way to protect June while fulfilling all the rest of his duties.
We get a bit of a info about Ray Cushing through Serena. She and Fred knew him and his wife, from before Gilead. She never liked the Commander, and now he’s worse because of the ego that comes along with his position. June tells Serena about Cushing questioning her, as well as how he’s going shock and awe, killing everyone in the entire house where Ofglen lived because of her act of terrorism. June stresses the same could happen to the Waterford house.
“We do not have the luxury of fairy tales”
Skip back to Lamaze class. Moira’s getting along in her pregnancy, a bit of help from June. Although it’s tough, of course. Being pregnant can’t be fucking easy, and more so if you’re on your own. We see how Moira was feeling the strain, comparing her life to that of Luke and June, the other women at Lamaze. June makes clear that a man can be “an infant” just like a child, and no marriage is perfect. Some time later, Moira gives up her baby for adoption to a nice family. She wound up falling for the doctor who helped her adoption process, Odette (Rebecca Rittenhouse). In the present, Moira finally finds pictures, confirming the death of the woman she loved.
Something big’s going down in Gilead. Serena and Nick have pulled a fast one. Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken) and armed Guardians arrive, to strip Commander Cushing of his credentials, charge him with “apostasy” and being involved in terrorism. Whoa. What won’t Serena do in order to ensure she gets to have that baby inside June? Nothing whatsoever. Maybe it’s a good thing for June, she can manipulate that.
At the market, June is surprised by Janine – she’s been brought back from the Colonies. The same for Emily. I’m curious how that works for her, seeing as how they sewed her shut. Are they going to reverse it? Good lord. Nevertheless, she’s not in good shape, and it’s not altogether better back in the centre of Gilead as opposed to the toxic Colonies. There’s just different forms of danger. And seeing Emily again makes June start a chain reaction of Handmaids telling each other their names, so that none of them will ever go forgotten, ever again. Not like Ofglen.
We do find out Ofglen’s real name is Lillie, when people in Canada are being alerted as to the women who were killed during the bombing. Many perished. At least they know June is still alive. Even though it hurts, at least Moira knows about Odette know with certainty.
At the Waterford home, Serena confides in June about new security measures occurring, “getting back to normal” after the explosion. She wants June to help edit drafts of the new orders. It’s like a strange return to a kind of normalcy, if only briefly. And symbolic, as women aren’t supposed to write or read in Gilead. To see Serena hand over a pen and paper to June is stunning. Oh, yes – things are a-changin’. The pen is also mightier than the sword, remember.
Another solid episode. Season 2’s been a wild ride, considering this is all new territory compared to Atwood’s novel. They’re doing a fine job, in my opinion. Taking the story and its many plot threads into bold directions. Excited to see what else will happen coming up. “Women’s Work” is next time.