Before we dive into this, the penultimate episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, I want to present you all with a theory I’ve been working on. I think much like how every friend group has a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte, they also have a wife, a handmaid, an aunt, and a Martha.
The wife is the rich friend who always looks chic and knows the best bars/clubs/island getaways. The downside to hanging out with her is she can be kind of a bitch sometimes and is always in a long-term relationship with the douchiest bro you’ve ever met in your life, who she insists on bringing to everything.
The handmaid is your most fun friend with a f*ck it attitude who is basically down for everything. The downside is that she comes with a lot of baggage and can turn psycho on a dime (usually after alcohol consumption), and is always embroiled in some crazy drama between herself and one of her many romantic partners.
The aunt is your responsible friend who acts as the group mom, to the point of being constantly disappointed with all of your antics. Sometimes you have to hang out without her because she’s kind of a giant asshole, but there is something about her that you guys like enough to keep her in the group (probably that she always remembers to get good photos when you’re out).
Finally, there is the Martha, your friend who gets sh*t done. Is she the hottest of the group? No. But only because she is busy getting sh*t done. She is always silently grinding while the rest of the group is fighting or f*cking (or both), and one day you sign into Twitter and see she’s on the cover of Forbes and you didn’t even know she owned a business. Make sure your group has a Martha so you can always have someone in your life who will bail you out of jail and not say sh*t about it to anybody. This is my theory and I stand by it. Sound off in the comments!
Now onto the episode, which opens on June playing with a gun and exhibiting absolutely zero gun safety techniques. She’s just swinging a loaded gun around pointing it at her own face! You know, this is exactly why Gilead needs to work on its gun problem. You can’t just have loose guns floating around, getting into the hands of untrained criminals with a long history of mental health issues. It’s dangerous! But luckily that’s just what’s happening in Gilead, and is in no way tied to real life.
Downstairs, the Marthas inform June that Billy the bartender is in for their plan because he has sent them a basket of whatever baked goods mean “hell yea let’s kidnap a bunch of kids.” One room over, Command Zaddy and some other dickless Gilead goons are chatting about the news of the day. June then offers to bring them tea because she knows the men will keep talking about all their classified info in front of her, not realizing that she can hear with her tiny woman ears, or understand with her tiny woman brain.
Apparently sh*t is going down between Canada and Gilead, because Canada “lured the Waterfords across the border and arrested them,” or whatever. Why anyone would notice or care that Fred Waterford was gone is beyond me.
June Outside As She’s Finding Out the Waterfords Are In Prison:
June Inside As She’s Finding Out the Waterfords Are In Prison:
When the goons leave, Commander Z informs June that not only are the Waterfords in custody, but the government now thinks Canada also had something to do with the disappearance of Commander Winslow, meaning they won’t be coming after her for stabbing him with a pen all those times.
As Commander Zaddy so succinctly puts it: Fred and Serena are toast, and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning.
At The Grocery Store
June is back at the grocery store, which is basically resistance headquarters at this point, to tell OfRobert the plan is ready to go. June truly could not act more suspicious as she is doing this. She dramatically looks around approximately every 2.5 seconds. Do you want to get caught?
June then goes to meet up with Rita and also talk about the top-secret plan in public. Rita had heard of June’s plan and knew it was June, because June is the only bitch crazy enough to pull something like this off. Rita says she has offered to help with the plan and the two of them clasp hands over some potatoes. It’s honestly very sweet.
In Canadian Prison
Cut to: Fred Waterford having a Jeffrey Epstein moment (aka luxuriating in his unreasonably nice prison cell). Serena comes in to talk to him and I’m like…what the f*ck is this? Aren’t they supposed to be in jail? Is this what being arrested in Canada looks like? You just get to live in a sleek mid-century modern one bedroom? Brb—headed to Canada to do crimes.
Serena reveals to Fred that she’s made some kind of deal to stay in Canada with Nichole, and he should do what he can to save himself. Fred then immediately starts choking her, which is why we don’t LEAVE TWO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL PRISONERS TO JUST CHILL IN A ROOM ALONE WITH EACH OTHER COME ON CANADA Y’ALL CAN’T BE THIS NICE.
At Commander Zaddy’s
Back in Gilead, Madame Zaddy needs to get her sh*t together fast. She almost reveals the entire plan to Commander Winslow’s wife, who seems to somehow know that June stabbed her husband to death with a pen even though that’s impossible. Women’s intuition is really something.
Later, Lawrence tells June that the government closed the border, but their talk is interrupted by Madame Zaddy, who is trying to leave the house. She’s apparently in the middle of some kind of episode, and because Gilead thinks mental illness can be cured via tea and prayer (funnily enough, Marianne Williamson thinks the same thing), it’s only getting worse.
Whereas one episode ago June was able to calmly talk Madame Zaddy out of shooting her husband in the head, this time June loses it on MZ and starts shaking the sh*t out of her. You can’t shake Madame Zaddy! She’s basically like a baby, and you can never shake a baby! This is like harming Janine. It’s just not done.
Me: Wow this is the first mean thing June has ever done to Madame Zaddy!
Narrator: It will not be the last.
In Canadian Prison
Cut to: Luke and Moira going through security at the Vancouver Ritz, aka Canadian jail. You know, I’m not saying that prisoners should live in squalor by any means, but the Canadian government appears to have provided Serena with a fully furnished one bedroom with bay windows. It also looks like she was allowed to go shopping at Ann Taylor Loft, and swing by DryBar for a blowout.. Seems a little much for the woman who literally helped blow up the White House.
Turns out whatever deal Serena has made with Canada not only includes her stylish new digs, but she also gets to visit with Nichole, the baby whose life she explicitly came to the Canada to ruin. Once again, this seems like a pretty good deal for a war criminal.
Luckily, Moira is having less-than-none of it, and proceeds to be a giant bitch to Serena from the moment she enters the room.
Serena: Hello, I’m Serena, it’s nice to meet you.
Moira ends her rant by telling Serena about all the times Fred visited the Jezebels, tosses off a casual “you are the REAL gender traitor!”, and sashays away. The most brutal read since Azealia Banks called Grimes a “dirty-sneaker-inbred-out of the woods Pabst beer pussy meth head junkie” back in 2013. Iconic.
Moira leaves and Serena tries to continue her playdate with Nichole and ignore the fact that she just got roasted in front of her own baby. The attendant whose job it is to watch Serena and the baby (good call) tells Serena she’s not allowed to refer to herself as “mommy” because she’s like, not actually Nichole’s mommy. All in all, a pretty bad morning for Serena Joy.
In another part of the jail, Luke is allowed to meet with Fred in his jail cell, despite there being no logical reason for a prison to allow that to happen. Whatever. It ends pretty predictably—with Luke punching Fred in the face and being dragged out screaming, “I’M NOT DONE! I’M NOT DONE!” This is why jails have rules, Canada.
The Death Of Madame Zaddy
How do we even begin to dive into the f*cked up nature of this scene? How can June, as a character, recover from what happens here? Is this going to be like in season two of Friday Night Lights when Landry straight-up kills a guy with a metal pipe and then just goes back to being the comic relief character and we’re all supposed to forget he is a stone-cold killer? Anyway, let’s get into what happened…
June goes to check on Madame Z, who hasn’t been well since her only friend in the world shook the sh*t out of her in her own home. June peeks in to bring Madame Z more of her very effective mood tea and realizes…OH SHIT. MADAME ZADDY HAS OVERDOSED. I THOUGHT SHE DIDN’T HAVE ANY DRUGS?!? I AM CONFUSED!
At first, June does the right thing and goes to get help, but then she just…doesn’t, and lets Madame Z die. Not only does she let her die, but she then just backs out of the room and pretends she was never there, so some other poor person has to find her body.
Seriously, why did she do this? Because she was almost telling people about the plan? Doesn’t this now completely remove Commander Z’s motive for helping with the plan in the first place? Why not just pretend you found her, and spare some poor Martha the trauma of finding a dead body. Why June? Why?
Next thing we know, the whole house is in mourning, particularly Commander Z, who is visibly devastated and preparing her funeral.
June This Whole Scene:
The final scene of the episode takes place at Madame Zaddy’s funeral, and gives us a nice little sampling of Gilead’s funeral fashions. The wives wear their traditional blue with a tiny black veil—very Jackie O—while the aunts and handmaids are just given a black cape to put over their normal clothes. Every friend group has one. We end on June looking directly to camera, because of course we do.
On to the finale!
Images: Hulu; Giphy (4)
Blessed be the fruit! This week on the Handmaid’s Tale, the Waterfords take June on a field trip to Washington D.C., which is now the scariest place on Earth apart from the inside of Fred Waterford’s mind. Fab.
We open on a group of Marthas who are all praying for Nichole as a result of Mr. Waterford’s extended prayer/PR campaign. It’s this campaign that has gotten the Waterfords invited to D.C., where Mr. Waterford will be hosting a national prayer-a-thon. June also has to come because they need to present an image of a perfect Gilead family—man, woman, and sex slave. Just as the Lord intended.
June takes the Amtrak down to D.C. with Aunt Lydia (I’m assuming they sat in the quiet car), which is where we get our first glimpse of the new Washington D.C.. Washington D.C. is different now. It’s scarier. How do we know this? Just look at what they’ve done to the Washington Monument:
Oh nooooo! They took America’s big penis and turned into…an anti-penis! What’s next, they replace the Air and Space Museum’s space shuttle with a Noah’s Ark replica? The portraits at the Portrait Gallery replaced with stills from Veggie Tales? This does not bode well for the rest of the field trip…
The only person who is actually jazzed for the trip is Aunt Lydia, in true field trip chaperone fashion.
Aunt Lydia: I’m pumped! Didn’t they used to say that? Are you pumped!?!
Also Aunt Lydia:
On the escalator ride up (sidenote: good to see the one thing left of the old D.C. are WMATA’s insanely long escalators), Aunt Lydia and June are treated to some very chic new handmaid fashions straight out of he Capitol. I’m talking about red cloth muzzles, honey! They’re all the rage! Straight in from Milan!
At The High Commander’s House
The Waterfords pick June up from the big period emoji that all the handmaids have to stand on while they wait for their chaperones and head to the High Commander’s house, where they’ll be staying for the weekend. What, no rooms at the W?
First thing to know about the High Commander: he has a f*ckton of babies. It’s a diverse bunch, which implies he has impregnated (read: raped) many handmaids.
Serena when she sees the children:
Fred is clearly trying to use the vacation as a way to repair their relationship, which is always a recipe for disaster. All that will come of this is the same fighting in a more expensive location. Trust me. I know.
Apart from the mountain of children, the High Commander’s house seems pretty chill. That is, until June tries to meet the HC’s handmaid. She’s rocking the mouth guard as is he fashion of the day and June tries to make casual chit-chat with her until we realize….HER MOUTH HAS BEEN SURGICALLY CLOSED WITH METAL BARS. THE CLOTH MUZZLE IS JUST COVERING UP A REAL MUZZLE!!! HANDMAID’S TALE, YOU NASTY B*TCH, WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO MEEEEE?
I said it once in fifth grade when I got diarrhea on the National Mall and I’ll say it again: D.C. sucks ass.
At Prayer Rehearsal
Fred is busy preparing for his big television debut, where he’ll get to pray in front of everyone in the country for the return of Nichole. Turns out Fred has been making a lot of videos lately and has become something of an amateur film student. As if he weren’t annoying enough. The TV appearance is incredibly choreographed, with a sea of muzzled handmaids praying before them. Of course what Fred does not realize is that all of this would be INCREDIBLY CREEPY to anyone who does not live in Gilead. Why would anyone release a baby into their care after watching this Blair Witch reenactment? Why would they not want to seem as normal as possible?
Not one to miss his girlfriend’s big day, Nick is also at the rehearsal and briefly stands in for Mr. Waterford, meaning that for one second Nichole’s real parents are actually on stage. Cute. Also, where have I seen this shot before?
Of course Fred tried to copy his hostage video from the Game of Thrones finale. Of course he did.
Back at the house, June tries to talk Serena out of trying to get Nichole back.
Serena: The High Commander’s kids seem happy!
June: Uh, lemme tell you about their handmaid…
Anyway, this is what you get for doing Serena Joy a f*cking favor. You should have known she would turn into one of those people who looked at the creatures in Bird Box the moment she saw Nichole. That’s on you.
Here’s were sh*t gets interesting. Fred the YouTuber has apparently annoyed the Swiss government into agreeing to act as a neutral party in talks between Gilead and Canada. The catch? They want to speak to June alone first.
Mr. Waterford: In our culture that wouldn’t be appropriate.
Me: Didn’t realize “douchebag” was a culture…
June agrees to speak to the Swiss because of course. Looks like we’re gonna have a classic June f*cking sh*t up situation on our hands.
Swiss Ambassador: So we should call you…?
June: June. Ms. Osborn if you’re nasty.
She tells the Swiss she wants to keep Nichole in Canada, which should be enough to keep her here, but it’s not because the world is f*cked. Apparently Canada is scared Gilead will invade them militarily because Gilead has a v. strong army.
June: Mr. Waterford is not her father.
Swiss Ambassador: Oh girl, we know you heard your tape.
June and the Swiss cut a deal—if she can provide them info from a high ranking official, they’ll advocate for Nichole to stay in Canada.
The Swiss: We need someone high up in Gilead.
June: Ummm do you know who my boyfriend is?
This scene ends with June having to explain to a group of nosey strangers that her relationship status is “complicated.” Some things never change.
Back At The High Commander’s House
We open on Mr. Waterford and the High Commander having man time in the man cave. As the President of the United States would say:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
The High Commander says Fred might have a job offer in D.C. waiting for him, then weirdly touches Fred’s shoulder for a little bit too long. Is Fred about to get sexually harassed in the workplace? Is that going to be a plot line this season? I can’t…
Cut to: Nick and June consensually sexually harassing each other in the garden. They make out briefly before June tells him she low-key made a deal with the Swiss government and he has to go talk to them tomorrow or their daughter will have a f*cked up life. Typical date night convo.
Nick agrees and it’s like…great! Problem solved. Nothing to see here. Nichole is fine, the Swiss will keep their word, and this field trip from Hell can finally end.
Aaaand the Swiss betray her immediately. Turns out sexy Nick has a shady past. June tries to find out more info but all she gets is that he was a “soldier” in the “crusade” and Gilead “wouldn’t be here without him.” LEFT THAT OFF YOUR TINDER PROFILE DIDN’T YA, NICK?
The Big Prayer Day
It’s the day of Fred’s big group prayer and Aunt Lydia brings June a present. Namely, a cloth muzzle of her own. Très chic!
Aunt Lydia: When I get tired, I try to think of the good I can do in this world. If I can just help one person…one soul..
June: I have literally seen you pull someone’s eyeball out.
At the Lincoln Memorial (in which Abe Lincoln’s head has been blown off), June takes off her muzzle for one last sparring match with Serena Joy, and she goes all in. She calls her small and incapable of love, and says she should have “let her burn” when she had the chance. The only thing she doesn’t do is make fun of her leather finger. I guess there are still some boundaries.
Live footage of me watching Serena and June fighting at the Lincoln Memorial:
We end on Fred’s big prayer, which is as misguided and creepy as Fred himself. Again I ask, from a PR standpoint, how is this helpful? How is showing the world a bunch of muzzled sex slaves all praying in demonic unison a good case for someone to give you a baby? I am confused. Wouldn’t they want to minimize the visibility of the handmaids and downplay Gilead’s most controversial policies? Olivia Pope would never have let this go down.
We end on a shot of June looking directly to camera, like we have every single episode of this season. Who is directing these episodes? Oh…I know…
Until next week! Under his eye!
Thank God for this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. I had honestly gotten worried that the show was bad now after those first three eps, which felt like a hodge-podge of fake inspirational moments set to weird music. But this week, dear readers, we are back and I, for one, am happy to feel the familiar terror of a good Handmaid’s ep again. We also get lots of Janine, which is never a bad thing.
We open on church bells, which are never a good sign in Gilead. All the women of Gilead appear to be on a power walk. Gotta get those steps in. Just because you’re living under an oppressive patriarchal theocracy doesn’t mean you can’t be fit!
Aunt Lydia has a new scooter, which is nice for her. OfRobert calls her “Hell on wheels,” but I prefer “Paulina Blart Handmaid Cop.” Turns out they’re all walking to a mass baptism, which is the Gilead version of Coachella. When they arrive, Janine, OfMatthew the narc, and June all get to sit in the VIP section because they’ve had children before. How nice for them. Maybe this is a good birthday party theme after all???
Flashback To Before Things Went To Sh*t
All of this reminds June of when Hannah was baptized, which was a significantly less depressing affair. I had forgotten about June’s badass feminist mom, who immediately calls the priests “holier than thou child molesters” and tells June that you “cannot let religon control your choices,” because “thats what they want.” Foreshadowing much, Mama June?
The biggest takeaway from these scenes is that June and Luke are extremely cute, and Moira’s discomfort during the ceremony made me feel seen.
Baptism Pool Party!!!
Fred is here. Why is Fred always here?
June: I ought to feel hatred for this man. I know I ought to feel it, but it isn’t what I feel…
Me: Don’t worry girl I’ve got you on the hating Fred front.
Gilead whenever they see babies:
After the baptism, there is a party at Janine’s old house, which the handmaids are invited to attend. Truly wild that Janine is invited to that party considering she once kidnapped the baby of the house and jumped off a bridge with it but, whatevs. All is forgiven, I guess.
OfMatthew: Handmaids shouldn’t be at the party. That’s not how it works.
OfMatthew was clearly the one who raised her hand to tell the teacher they forgot to assign homework back in the old days.
Serena Joy arrives fashionably late, and June pulls her aside to remind her that, despite the whole kidnapping and losing a finger thing, SJ is still the HBIC of the wives. She has the best eyebrows. She has all the cigs. She’s essentially the cool senior who smokes on the quad during lunch. And that, my friends, is power.
Can I just say the scenes of Emily trying to readjust to normal life are some of the best of this series and Alexis Bledel is a national goddamn treasure? Can I just say that?
Me as soon as Emily comes on screen knowing she is to be reunited with her wife:
Emily and her high cholesterol go to her wife, Sylvia’s, place to reintroduce her to their son, Oliver, and once again Handmaid’s Tale has me sobbing into my wine glass. Like, did they really need to cast an adorable little boy with an adorable little boy lisp for this scene? Couldn’t they have chosen one of those kids with the weirdly sweaty hands and a perpetual snot bubble or something? Give us a f*cking break.
Oliver: Emily will you read to me?
Emily: *Sobbing immediately*
Sylvia: *Sobbing immediately*
Me: *Sobbing immediately*
Oliver: Uh…okay…I guess I’ll just read it myself…
Back to the Party
We open on a casual Aunt Lydia sh*t talking session. OfMatthew interrupts immediately with an “Aunt Lydia is just doing her job,” and it’s like OKAY HERMIONE DON’T YOU HAVE SOME F*CKING STUDYING TO DO?!? Janine has resumed her role as the Spongebob of Gilead by acting like getting frisked by the police was just some light tickling, and by offering to bring Aunt Lydia some tea. Here’s a screenshot of that moment:
Aunt Lydia: I know why all the handmaids don’t like me. They blame me for Emily.
Janine: *stares in one eyeball*
Meanwhile in the kitchen, the sh*t talking sesh has been interrupted by Fred, who clears the entire room within 30 seconds.
“Have you girls tried the buffet? The deviled eggs are delicious.” – Fred flirting.
Once the other handmaids are gone, Fred turns to June for advice about his marriage, which he thinks is ruined because of Nichole, but is actually ruined because he let his friends cut his wife’s finger off. This is basically a recreation of every time your guy friend comes to you for dating advice, and you have to find a way to gently tell him that he’s a f*ckboi with bad style whose dating app profile needs serious work.
June: Maybe you should let Serena have thoughts and opinions again?
Janine and Angela
Cut to: Serena Joy enjoying a Virginia Slim by the pool.
June tells SJ that she told Fred to stop being such a f*ck and to give her more of a say in what goes on in Gilead. SJ repays this later by telling June where Hannah is most likely to go to school. Besties!!!
June: Wear the dress. Pull the strings.
Me: Brb I have a new tattoo to get.
Sadly, the party takes a dark turn when baby Angela (aka Janine’s baby) comes out to play.
Janine as soon as she sees Angela:
Things honestly go okay at first. Janine is allowed to hold Angela and she doesn’t try to murder-suicide her so it’s a definite improvement over the last time they hung out. Then, in typical Janine fashion, she loses her sh*t and starts begging to be their handmaid again so she can live in the house with Angela, which leads to Aunt Lydia LOSING HER F*CKING MIND AND BEATING JANINE IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Clearly almost dying did *not* sit well with her and she’s basically the Hulk now. But like, a v religious Hulk that needs a scooter to get around. June eventually stops her but, damn, that’s one way to ruin a party. Like, of all the times I’ve been to a party and felt like I ruined it, at least I never lost my mind and beat the sh*t out of a mentally ill woman with one eyeball who also happens to be my only friend. At least I’ve never done that.
Aunt Lydia after she’s done going psycho on Janine:
Like most parties that go south this fast, the police arrive. June lingers around to see the cops showing Fred and SJ some YouTube videos on their iPad. Weird. The video turns out to be of Luke and baby Nichole at a protest. This makes June happy, and when the cops ask her if that’s Luke, she confirms his identity, but is anybody else worried Gilead is gonna use this to try and get baby Nichole back? Like, is this going to be an Elian Gonzalez situation? Because I feel like Luke’s legal argument for keeping Nichole is dubious at best. But maybe that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me.
Back In Canada
The episode ends with Moira and Luke trying to explain their relationship with Nichole to a priest so they can get her baptized, which only makes me believe more in my theory that a Nichole custody battle is forthcoming.
We end on a very sweet scene of Luke and Moira baptizing Nichole set to “Down by the River to Pray” from O Brother Where Art Thou? A family truly can look like anything!
Under his eye, fam. Until next week!
Images: Hulu; Giphy (7)