Spoiler alert: The following article contains spoilers for the “Handmaid’s Tale” Season two.
Hulu’s original series “The Handmaid’s Tale” ended season one with the Handmaids being rushed out of their homes in a black van to an unknown location. After the Handmaids refused to stone Janine, also known as Ofwarren (Madeline Brewer) to death, Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) warns them that there will be consequences for their actions, or rather their inaction. Concurrently Moira (Samira Wiley), after escaping Jezebel’s, makes it to Canada where she is reunited with Luke (O. T. Fagbenle), June’s (Elisabeth Moss) husband.
The first season showed the audience the backdrop for the story, diving right into Gilead-controlled America where male “sinners” are hanged, fertile women are made into “Handmaids” and infertile women are either murdered or made to work in a place called “the Colonies,” a series of radioactive mines where raw materials are extracted.
Season two starts off with the pending punishment of the Handmaids for their failure to stone Ofwarren, a mass hanging. Although I knew they could not possibly be killed (the hanging is a fake as part of their reeducation), I too felt the dread of a possible extermination. At the Red Center, Aunt Lydia finds out the Offerd is pregnant. This exempts Offerd from being physically punished, like the other Handmaids. However, she is still forced to watch her friends being tortured.
Just like at any jail, because of her good behavior (and her fortunate pregnancy), Offerd gets out of the Red Center earlier than her mates. Right after her very first doctor’s appointment with the Waterford’s, Offerd finds a key in her boot, which she uses to escape the hospital and eventually the city with the help of Nick (Max Minghella) (the Waterford’s driver) and resistance members. The first half of the season is spent following Offerd, now June, through her great escape (and inevitable capture), as she is transported to various locations unbeknownst to her. As June and Nick are on the plane about to take off, the Guardians shoot it down, execute the pilot and drag Nick and June off the plane, just as June makes peace with having left Hannah, her first daughter, behind during the crises.
June is taken back to the Red Center, where she is given two options: to cooperate or be imprisoned until she gives birth and then subsequently killed. She chooses the former. Episode four, “Other Women,” shows how Aunt Lydia domesticates June into submission without physically reprimanding her. She chips away at June’s self-esteem and confidence bit by bit, until she once again becomes “Offred.” In the final scenes of the episode, Offerd is docile, as she begs the Waterfords to allow her to continue living with them. Now formal and re-indoctrinated as a Handmaid, Offerd dismisses Nick’s approach.
As before, the flashbacks throughout the episode provide a peek into how Gilead was established and how easily it could happen in real life. By slowly taking away the rights of citizens, the dystopian government grew in power. In episode two, “Unwomen,” the audience learns more about Emily’s (Alexis Bledel), also known as Ofglen, backstory. Due to her sexuality, Professor Dan informs Emily that she will no longer be teaching at the university; rather she will be focusing on research. What Emily at first sees as a demotion is really a warning about what’s yet to come. While attempting to escape the country before the situation worsens, Emily and her wife are stopped at the airport. Due to their now illegal marriage, and her ability to have children, Emily is prohibited from leaving the country with her wife and child.
Overall, the theme of these first four episodes is the fleshing out of the (Suggest “Overall, the first four episodes flesh out the recruitment…” or something like that to clear up the syntax a bit.) recruitment of Handmaidens for Gilead’s leaders as well as June’s escape and recapture. The Handmaid’s Tale provides a chillingly realistic portrayal of an American religious totalitarianism. As power is slowly taken by Christian zealots, the citizens of the United States are trapped inside the hellish nightmare that is Gilead. Through scattered resistance members, June is able to get a small taste of freedom, which is quickly taken away by the efforts of the Guardians. Overall, the prognosis for June looks grim at the end of episode 4, as her spirit appears to have been broken.
The Handmaid’s Tale is now streaming on Hulu.
Tina Rodriguez is a new digital journalist with MACG Magazine focusing on event coverage and TV entertainment.