Were you lulled into a false sense of hope for Gilead after last week's episode? I know I sure was. I was not prepared for "The Last Ceremony" and the incredible amount of horror it held.
June (Elisabeth Moss) in one of the less horrifying moments of this episode of The Handmaid's Tale. Photo: George Kraychyk (Hulu)
We've seen a lot of parallels in the series to the current trainwreck that is the United States, some more pointed than others, but a major part of this week's episode was extremely pointed - albeit entirely by accident - and couldn't have been better timed to wake up people to the disgusting ongoing actions by the US government.
While The Handmaid's Tale can be a difficult watch, it often finds ways to alleviate some of the tension, whether that's through sarcasm or happenstance. Since Emily's return from the Colonies, we've yet to see her new Commander or hear her Gilead-given name. We opened this week with their Ceremony (rape). The focus on her face and struggle to remain there for the ordeal made me think perhaps she might just kill the Commander (she has gone off-book before, after all).
Guess what? She didn't have to. He dropped to the floor after having a heart attack. While his wife screams at Emily to help, she's able to respond, "Chances are better if I lay on my back afterwards." She also gets the opportunity to stomp on the Commander's crotch. Hard.
If at this point you were thinking, "Ahh, that's why this episode was called 'The Last Ceremony'," you'd be very, very wrong.
This episode actually had more than one fake-out. As she's out to the market once more, June starts going into labour; it's time for the baby to arrive.
Only it isn't. June was having Braxton Hicks contractions, AKA one of the worse things human bodies do, and the whole town got excited for nothing. Honestly, the look of disgust on Serena's face and the tiny bit of joy June was able to take from the experience was one of the better parts of the second season so far.
Furious over the situation, Serena is eager to induce labour and get June the hell out of her house, but Aunt Lydia and the doctor warn against it, for the baby's sake.
Knowing Serena is working entirely against her now, June puts herself in front of Fred once more. She informs him of Serena's wish that June be sent not just to another household but another district entirely once the baby is born. He had no idea.
It's another hit for Fred, already feeling emasculated, but June presses on and asks him to place her in Hannah's district. "It's all within your power," she says, which is exactly not what Fred wanted to hear. "I've been too lenient," he shouts at her, "I've spoiled you."
Instead of admitting defeat, June throws the fact that Fred isn't the baby's father in his face: "You have no idea what it's like to have a child of your own flesh and blood. And you never will." She is all out of damns, my friends.
Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski). Image: Hulu
The evil husband and wife get together to discuss their loose cannon of a Handmaid, and Serena is the one to suggest getting the labour to happen sooner rather than later by using "the most natural way". I admit it didn't click right away for me, but as soon as June walked into their bedroom my heart sank.
Fred rapes June to put her in her place after all the "disobedience", but it's under the guise of inducing labour. June pleads directly to Serena, who forcefully holds her down on the bed for... the last Ceremony.
Not long after, Fred arrives in June's room claiming he's planned a surprise for her. "You deserve this," he says and kisses her (vomit). He puts her in a car with Nick and tells him to be back within three hours.
After what happened she isn't even able to speak until they arrive at their destination, a deserted mansion in the middle of nowhere. Upon entering, another Guardian tells her she has 10 minutes. She's getting a visit with Hannah. The shock of what's unfolding in front of her doesn't last long but we have to wonder, will Hannah remember her? How long has it been since mother and daughter were violently separated?
The scene that followed had me absolutely sobbing. It would have regardless but the symmetry was just way too strong to what's happening in the US right now, where families are being separated at the US-Mexican border by immigration officials and the children forced into internment camps.
Hannah is wary of June, not because she doesn't remember her, but because she does and she wants to know if her mother tried to find her after being ripped away from her. June assures the hesitant child that both she and her father tried to find her, but she replies, "Why didn't you try harder?" Guh. As June struggles to keep it together, Hannah follows that comment up with "It's OK, I have new parents now." Guh.
June attempts to make the best out of this devastating situation by asking about Hannah's new parents, then inquires as to whether or not they hit her - only when she's bad, she answers, which apparently has only been twice according to her Martha companion - when Hannah realises June is pregnant. "You don't get to keep him," she tells her mother matter of factly. And then their time is up.
June isn't ready, and neither is Hannah, as they're forced apart once more. Not knowing whether she'll ever see her again, June tells her daughter "Enjoy your life, love your parents" and most importantly, "Be careful." Hannah can only respond, "Am I ever going to see you again?" June doesn't have an answer besides, "I'm going to try."
Though this visit was meant as a gift, it was just more torture. As Hannah's car leaves, another unexpectedly shows up in its place. Nick tells June to hide and exits the house to try and speak to the Guardians. They are highly suspicious and soon guns are drawn. Nick is taken. June is alone. And yeah, she's likely about to go into real labour.
Hannah (played by the extraordinary Jordana Blake). Image: Hulu
- We find out Baby Angela/Charlotte is doing better but no real updates on how that whole situation is working out.
- The whole "Commander's wife gets to pretend she's the pregnant one" will never not be creepy.
- Nick, how did you survive this long in life? You are so, so stupid.
- No, honestly though, Nick, you're a spy, right? You can't lie for crap.
- I was really hoping June would be able to take the spare car and finally get the hell out of Dodge, or maybe even catch up to Hannah's car, but those damn Guardians specifically mentioned taking Nick's keys.