I finished watching season two of “The Handmaid’s Tale” last weekend. For the most part I enjoyed it but it was a bit slow moving in parts. In other parts it felt like the writers were writing and adding things to the story line in order to fill up time that was already allotted per episode. And a lot went on in season two.
I read the book and watched seasons one and two so the trials of the handmaids is turning into a blur to me now. It took me a while to get through season two and I had to check it out from the library twice. Binge watching shows is a lot of work but I’ve also been very preoccupied with the NBA Playoffs and Finals. But this is what I recall happening in “The Handmaids Tale: Season Two”, not necessarily in this order. SPOILERS AHEAD!
June is captured, imprisoned and brainwashed after being a fugitive while pregnant. Emily is sent to The Colonies. Janine is sent to The Colonies. Moira works as a surrogant mother while in exile in Canada. A handmaid that had her tongue cut out goes on a suicide bombing mission. She’s successful. Nick gets married in a state sanctioned arranged wedding. Due to the suicide mission there is a shortage of handmaids so Janine and Emily are taken from The Colonies back to the lives of handmaids. Janine is happy to be back.
(The writers did a great job transitioning Janine from the novel to the screen. There wasn’t much to her in the book but she’s a likeable character on the show and she’s tough as nails with a good heart and manages to find the bright side despite her bleak circumstances. The actress does a wonderful job of playing a long suffering woman who has lost her mind but continues to function in her daily life.)
Nick’s marriage is a disaster. His wife Edend finds a new man and the two of them defect from Gilead in the name of love. They get executed. June/Offred goes into false labor. Nick drives Offred/June to an empty house where she is reunited with her daughter and the daughter’s new mother. The visit was arranged by Commander Waterford without Serena’s knowledge. June had several flashbacks of her first pregnancy and the birth of Hannah. Nick gets attacked by guardians and June/Offred is left in the house alone where she gives birth to a girl.
Commander Waterford and Serena Joy look for June in the empty house where she saw Hannah. The couple argues while June listens. Meanwhile June finds a gun in the house and puts the pair in her cross hairs. She doesn’t pull the trigger. The Waterfords leave in frustration because they didn’t find June. The didn’t really look. All they did was scream out her name as they stood in the center of an empty mansion. Nick returns to the house to get June. His attack was a misunderstanding. June could have driven off in a car that looked like a Hot Wheels and headed north to freedom but she couldn’t open the garage door.
June finds Eden’s Bible in the house. Gilead is obsessed with religion but owning a Bible is contraband and reading it is illegal. Serena leads the wives in a petition to their husbands to make Bible available to citizens. She is punished by her husband and has two fingers amputated.
Serena is a founding mother of Gilead but begins to lose faith in the nation only after being mutilated by guardians under her husband’s orders. Oh, and she had the opportunity to escape earlier on in the season but decided to remain loyal to her husband and country. She met an American politician while on a diplomatic trip to Canada that was willing to help her leave Gilead behind. While she was in Canada she was stared at and treated with coldness and disdain by Canadians.
June makes another run for it with her baby in her arms with the aid of Martha’s. They have an Underground Railroad system that guided June through a series of backyards in the neighborhood where she was met by a car that waited for her by the side of a conveniently empty, untraveled city street. She took way too long to get in the car. Emily was in the car too. The escape was planned by Emily’s new commander who is a tough one to figure out. He’s a compelling character that creates some interest in Season Three.
BIG TIME SPOILER ALERT:
Oh yeah, Emily killed Aunt Lydia! It was fast and brutal. That took me all the way out. I was a bit sad. Aunt Lydia is a villain but I felt a bit bad for her when she died and I kind of miss her.
June handed her baby off to Emily who misses her son who is in Canada with his other mother and shuts the door. She’s going back to liberate the handmaids a la Harriet Tubman. And that’s how the season ends. (I enjoy dystopian novels. I’ve noticed everything that happens in all of them has already happened to Black people in America.)
While all of this is going on I’m thinking of more reasons why Gilead would never work and why the plot of this story isn’t feasible. First of all there are way too many men standing around. There are a bunch of men standing around all day and they don’t do anything other than watch women. There is no way that relationships like that of Eden and Isaac wouldn’t be common. Eden and Isaac seemed to have sweet young love so perhaps that would be rare. But there would at least be a lot of hanky panky and drama going on. And the men would literally kill each other or stage their own revolution. That’s usually what happens when men a bunch of men are bored.
The amount of idle people are problematic in this story in other ways. What is the GNP of Gilead? All of their human resources are tied up in enslaving women and there is no money in having babies. A bunch of men are standing around with guns outside. A few men drive people around. A bunch of women are imprisoned in homes and are only let out to go to the store. Who’s making the money? What fuels their economy? Is there a stock market? I’m not sure the currency of Gilead was ever mentioned. I think the only currency is the food stamps the marthas and handmaids use at the store.
The United States military is the most well funded in the history of mankind. This story wants us to believe that a bunch of uptight religious fanatics that dress like Pilgrims overthrew the US government and defeated the American military within three years tops. And if the Gilead army is so powerful why would these men tolerate a government that regulated sex in such a way? It wouldn’t happen. I say three years tops because the young actress that plays Hannah looks the same in “The Before” and the scene where she is reunited with her birthmother and children grow and change fast.
What was stopping all those women in The Colonies from rebelling against the overseers and making a run for it? They had absolutely nothing to lose and the authority figures were far outnumbered.
The most interesting character in season two is young Eden. Eden is a patriotic daughter of Gilead and she is young enough to not remember “From Before”. She believes in the values of Gilead and wants to honor God as a dutiful wife and mother.
The problem here is that her state issued husband is in love with the handmaiden that is pregnant with his baby. Actually that’s not the problem. Even if there was no June/Offred or baby the marriage would still be a mess because Nick isn’t attracted to Eden in the least. It’s as if someone sent a kid to come live in his house without talking to him about it first.
Eden followed her heart to the very end. She never turned away from God or Isaac. She could have lied and spared her life. She could have tried to conceive a child with Nick which would have spared her just as pregnancy spared June. But she remained true to herself to her watery death.
Eden’s death was an honor killing of sorts. Her father snitched on her. Side note, Isaac is a jerk. He had a soft spot for Eden but her life may have had a similar ending regardless. Isaac was brutal.
Season Two was OK. I enjoyed Season One much more because it was more focused. Season Two was doing too much. I’m guessing Season Three will be about June liberating the handmaidens and bringing about the downfall of Gilead. Then the series will end. It kind of needs to end.