Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 2, Episode 10: “The Last Ceremony”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa
Written by Yahlin Chang
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Smart Power” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Holly” – click here
Poor Emily (Alexis Bledel) not only has to go through the rape of her Commander, she’s a lesbian. Not that rape is easier for a straight woman, of course not. But just that on top of everything else makes it somehow even worse than it is already. She’s had to deal with the Colonies, and now she’s back being raped, maybe forcibly impregnated all over again. This scene is viscerally disgusting, played in slow motion, focusing on the Commander’s nasty noises. And afterwards, the guy has a heart attack. Too much excitement. A bittersweet moment for Emily, though.
At the market, June (Elisabeth Moss) is trying to tell Emily to hang on, letting her and Janine (Madeline Brewer) know about Canada, Moira’s (Samira Wiley) escape. Not everybody shares her enthusiasm. Then, in the midst of her excited disposition, June starts going into labour. Time for a new arrival in Gilead. The sirens let everyone know in the streets, as she’s transported back to the Waterford residence where she’ll have her baby. In the process, Nick (Max Minghella) shows a bit too much preference for the Handmaid above his own wife Eden (Sydney Sweeney)— that whole situation worries me, greatly, for Eden particularly. She starts getting closer to the new Guardian, Isaac (Rohan Mead), and Nick witnesses it happen.
At home, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) meets her Handmaid, praying over her belly saying: “We did it.” As if her part in the rape and subjugation of a pregnant woman were something to celebrate and rejoice. Such a sick, twisted place, Gilead. There’s always a reminder.
“No one knows the things of God”
Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) is celebrating with everybody, awaiting the baby’s arrival. Funny how it’s not even his own child, anyway. All the men are together, talking about their disgusting nonsense and misogyny. Fred meets an up and coming black commander, of whom he’s jealous for not needing a Handmaid and getting his own wife pregnant. Very telling, these moments where people of colour enter the situation, from this man to the doctor recently who’s a Martha, and Moira, of course. In the original novel by Atwood black people were noticeably absent, though referred to as having been sent elsewhere, given that Gilead is, essentially, a white ethnostate.
Well, it all turns out it was “false labour” for June. This leaves Serena frustrated, as the Handmaid smiles and rubs her stomach. That has the infertile wife feeling almost embarrassed. Perfect scene. Love the look Elisabeth Moss shoots— such a sly, shit-eating grin. Then, Nick is told the news, which he must break to his Commander, as well.
That night, June meets the Commander in his study alone. She talks of being sent to a “new district” after the baby’s born by Mrs. Waterford. The Handmaid’s definitely starting to enact a plan of her own, to try keeping herself in the best graces possible. Ultimately, I imagine she’s leaning towards trying to find a way to escape Gilead with her baby. That’s not going to be easy, not even in the smallest sense. Right now, she’s angling for Fred to send her to the district where her daughter Hannah resides. Only he takes it as an affront to his fragile manhood/power, throwing her out of the study. She takes the opportunity to taunt him a bit first. Did she just hint the child isn’t his? Oh yes.
Now the Commander and his wife are left trying to figure out a “natural way” to help the baby come sooner. This has me scared a pregnant rape is about to occur. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Serena lures the Handmaid into the bedroom, then they commit the most forcible rape of June yet. It’s the scariest moment of assault she’s experienced so far. It also shows how far down Serena has fallen, getting worse all the time. There is no going back for this woman. Not anymore.
Nick and Eden confront their issues later when he sees her kissing the Guardian. The worried wife repents, asking for forgiveness. When her husband doesn’t care, she starts to realise more than ever Nick has feelings for June, which he denies calling it “suicide.” But she knows, she’s not a dumb person. And it’s clear he doesn’t care about their so-called marriage, either. This could explode into a truly awful thing. Continues worrying me.
Trying to make up for a vicious rape, Commander Fred sends June off with Nick for a visit with her daughter. They go to a big mansion out in the woods. There, Hannah – now called Agnes – is being taken care of by Marthas, playing like a normal child. June rushes to hug her daughter for the first time in so, so long. Sadly, Hannah’s too young to understand why she left alone. “Why didn‘t you try harder?” she asks her mom, believing her parents abandoned her. Soon, June is ripped away, the reunion is over. Both she and Hannah go away more upset than before.
All this does is leave June devastated. It may also serve as fuel to the fire, making her determined to do whatever’s necessary for her, for Hannah, and for her unborn child. When she’s leaving Nick forces her back inside. A couple Guardians have turned up, asking why Nick is there. They don’t believe him, and it’s an unauthorised area. This prompts them to take Nick away. June’s left in the mansion by herself, stranded.
Jesus, this was an especially harrowing episode. More than usual. And the ending’s got me wondering what’s next, what June will do from here. Oh, my. Can’t wait for more. Only three episodes left in this second season. Already renewed for Season 3!