Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 2, Episode 12: “Postpartum”
Directed by Daina Reid
Written by Eric Tuchman
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holly” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “The Word” – click here
Serena Joy Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) now has her baby, torn from the arms of her Handmaid, as June (Elisabeth Moss) is hooked up to breast pumps, sucked of “every drop” of her milk. June is healing up, resting, and looked after by Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). The older woman’s pretty impressed by what the Handmaid has done, delivering the baby by herself. Yet it doesn’t do much for June, who’s being treated like cattle more than ever. She’s in high demand by other households, seeing as how she’s so resilient. What ugliness.
Nick (Max Minghella) is praised for protecting June and the child, after “overzealous Guardians” turned up. The discretion of the situation is appreciated by Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), more grateful to his right-hand man now than ever. He promises big things in return.
Things for the breast milk aren’t going well. To “prime the pump,” Aunt Lydia brings June to see the baby, alongside Fred and Nick. An awkward moment, as the real father stands by, unknown, and the Handmaid’s breasts begin leaking straight away. LORD! Lydia suggests letting June back into the home to make the pumping easier. Even fucking better. So hideous. This causes lots and lots of tension.
Elsewhere, poor Emily (Alexis Bledel) is being shipped off to another home. She’s taken to Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), who’s not quite like the rest of the Commanders. He has erotica hanging on the walls, books all over the place. He doesn’t particularly have much time for Lydia or any of the formalities. It doesn’t make Emily, or Lydia for that matter, feel much at ease.
It’s heartbreaking to see June so physically close to her daughter, taken from her and given to a woman who enabled the rise of Gilead, and she’s unable to actually be with the baby. Most tough image = June lying against the hardwood floor, listening to the cries of her child. We get a creepier image to go along with it later, when Serena tries to get the baby to stop crying by breastfeeding her, even though she’s not producing any milk. Even the baby knows there’s something not right with the nipple. This all goes to show how Serena treats the baby as an object— more about herself as an accessory than about the quality of the baby’s life.
In private moments they rarely get, June and Nick talk about their baby, wishing they could both “hold her.” They dream of running away, to someplace where they could be a family. Even if it could happen, there’s still her other daughter, her husband in Canada. But, like June advises Eden (Sydney Sweeney), you have to take love in that place wherever you can find it.
A situation’s developed at the Waterford house. Guardian Isaac (Rohan Mead) hasn’t turned up, and neither has Eden. Seems they’ve run off together after the young woman got some good advice. But Fred’s pissed over the perpetual chaos surrounding his house, fearing his image will suffer again.
At night in the kitchen, June and Fred talk about her time away, stuck up at the big house. He asks about her hiding. There’s a definite soft spot in him for her, albeit he’s a filthy rapist piece of shit. I hang on the hope this will be his ultimate downfall, that he’ll let his guard down long enough for her to murder him, or at the very least finally escape the clutches of Gilead. HERE’S TO HOPING!
Emily finds out more about Cmdr. Lawrence, that he’s responsible for the Colonies. He’s basically driven his wife to madness. It’s almost like Jane Eyre in that house, and it makes me worry even more about Emily’s safety. No telling what this guy is capable of, or what he plans on doing with his new Handmaid. That is, until he with her alone to talk over drinks.
Isaac and Eden have been found. They’re taken back to Gilead. Nick tries to help his wife by giving her a story to tell. She refuses, believing too much in God to understand what brutality may be headed her way. Nick starts feeling this was partly his fault, for pushing her away and causing her to run into the arms of another man, in turn causing whatever may happen next.
“The accused” are in “violation of Exodus Chapter 20 Verse 14.” In front of a crowd, they’re give some capital punishment. They refuse to renounce their sins, choosing to love one another wholly. Eden’s mother calls out to her, Nick hopes under his breath his wife will change her mind. Instead they’re tossed into a pool below, weighted by chains, and they’re executed by drowning. Some watch on without emotion, like Commander Waterford, though others, like June and Serena, are horrified to bear witness to the state’s violent power.
There’ll be more fallout from this execution, in different ways. Not sure if Serena will ever turn around, particularly after the frenzied, vicious rape she helped her husband commit recently— though it’s not like she wasn’t abetting rape earlier. Yet she and June get closer all the time. She seems to have been terribly affected by Eden being killed. So much so, for the good of the baby, she allows June to hold the child close and breastfeed her naturally. There could be a change in Serena. Maybe. Someday.
Season 2’s finale comes next time. It’ll be intense, surely, and my hope is that it’ll setup bigger, fresh things for a Season 3, too.