The Handmaid's Tale season two is a grim series. It tries to show how fascism and totalitarianism can do much damage. The show's main focus is on June and her family, her loves, the Waterfords and how one maneuvers through a place like Gilead.
It is not only June who must maneuver this terrain but also other women. One of the pivotal cruxes of Season Two is to focus on those women. The dynamic between everyone is stifled and suppressed, or violent and abusive because of Gilead.
The paper would like to issue trigger warnings for sexual assault, rape, child abuse/murder, misogyny, body mutilation and other forms of torture. The paper does not condone or encourage these actions but are detailing events present in the show.
Emily (Alexis Bledel), or the previous Ofglen, was sent to the colonies in the last season because she took over a car and ran over a Guardian. Life in the colonies is horrible to say the least.
The women are worked till they are dead from over exhaustion or a lack of basic food and supplies or the radioactive waste around them.
Emily is angry at Gilead for torturing her on so many levels and even doing bodily mutilation to her. She had an affair with a Martha who was also hanged while Emily helplessly watched. So, when an ex-Commander's wife is sent to the colonies. A Mrs. O'Connor (Marisa Tomei), she takes her revenge.
Emily used to be a professor in biology and married to a woman named Sylvia (CleaDuVall) and is the biological mother of their son, Oliver. She is denied access to Canada because of Gilead. Sylvia has citizenship but their gay marriage is no longer recognized. Audiences can only watch in horror as Emily looks at her wife and son leave while she remains.
Emily poisons the wife and says as she is complicit for helping her Commander husband rape a woman every month so she must suffer. When the Wife begs, she says she deserves to die alone. The next day the people in charge are infuriated as Mrs. O'Connor's dead body is crucified on a cross.
Emily then sees an optimistic Janine arriving at the colonies. Janine has already lost one eye because of Gilead but she seems to be very happy. The woman who work in the colonies are branded Unwomen.
June's own mother's fate seemed to have been in the colonies as well. Her name was Holly Maddox (Cherry Jones). June and Holly seemed to have some clashes. Holly was a staunch second generation sort of feminist who believed that women's liberation lies in visible activism and protests.
She is unhappy her daughter settled for a job before Gilead as an editor. She is also unhappy that June is marrying Luke, chastising her that does she really wish to give her all her passion to a man. June does not necessarily view it as such.
When they were being trained as handmaids in the Red Center, Moira (Samira Wiley), grabs June's hand and shows her mother in one of the "learning films." June is so shocked she cannot cry. She later on affirms that both she and her mother were right giving the show more emphasis on its intersectional feminism.
Moira's story is equally solemn and grim, yet there are flickers of hope. She works in a rehabilitation center for people escaping Gilead, in Canada called Little America. One man, who used to be a Guardian, didn't understand the severity of his actions until he saw "gender traitors" being hung on display.
One of the men was a man he used to date in college. Moira consoles him that things get easier but it takes time. She was used as a prostitute in Gilead in its secret bar Jezebels. She had to take the name "Ruby" and though she has escaped and go to bars to hook up with women she says her name is Ruby. She is still recovering over the trauma and trying to know what happened to her fiancé, Odette (Rebecca Rittenhouse), a doctor.
Janine's happiness in the colonies enrages Emily. Until, she arranges a marriage ceremony for a White woman named Fiona (Soo Garay) and a Black woman named Kit (Novie Edwards). Kit is dying for the inhuman conditions of the colonies. Janine gets Sally (Deb Filler), a Jewish Rabbi, to wed them. Every woman present are in tears as they both say "I do" to each other.
Sally says as soon as they came to the colonies Fiona and Kit were inseparable. Kit dies as the wife of Fiona and Fiona remembers their love. Janine tells Emily to keep on hope. Emily starts to believe some good can come seeing the marriage.
June starts bleeding but she is so mentally tortured that she doesn't say about it. To add matters worse, Nick is given a wife, 15-year-old Eden (Sydney Sweed), as a "reward" in an official ceremony. This is also done by Serena to punish June as she escaped and because she knows Fred is infatuated with her.
Fred does it because he wants June for himself and because he has no real feelings for Serena. June falls out of her window but survives. She realizes her baby will not allow her to be subjugated so she will fight back.
June attempts to gain back control of her life. Serena attempts to wield power. When June asks Serena if she can see Hannah again Serena tries to treat her lower than a servant and punish her for making such requests. In one scene, she drops cutlery and as Eden tries to pick it up for her she makes June do it saying that it is June's proper place. She also reminds June that Eden is a wife unlike her.
Then she tells Eden to drop the cutlery as well, she is a wife who must learn to manage her household. June gives a tight-lipped smile and tells that too much bending down will hurt the baby, which is true, and politely excuses herself, leaving Serena seething.
June gives the warning: do not push your own limitations Serena. It felt like June was saying that even if you are a Commander's Wife and trying to treat me as a sullied whore, we both are women and we are both oppressed by Gilead. June reminded Serena that her place is not so different than hers.
Using his household's hostility, is the fickle spine Fred. Fred tries to manipulate the situation between the two women. Their hostility is bred by Gilead and Fred tries to use it; he gets a picture of Hannah to please June and then tries to have sex with her. June treats him kindly but expertly refuses to have sex with him. She is obviously disgusted by his actions and his manipulations.
In flashbacks, we see that Fred has always been weak. Serena was the powerful one in their dynamic and was the one who could be brave and take risks. Fred used to admire her and felt she was "incredible." The thing is Serena is better than him and Fred knows it. Though, he also seems to know he is no match for June either.
Fred attempts to show his power and capability by helping oversee a new Handmaid center. The opening was being officiated by Fred only for Ofglen no. 2 to come and blow up the ceremony with a bomb.
This Ofglen was first happy with Gilead, not because she was religious but because she was poor before and as a handmaid she felt more respected. However, that all changed when she refused to hurt Janine and got tortured.
31 handmaids and 26 commanders die because of the attack but Fred survives and is hospitalized for serveral injuries.
Moira finds out that her fiancé, Odette had been killed earlier when Gilead took control. Little America watches as the names of the dead handmaids are announced, with families tearing up losing their loved ones. Ofglen no. 2 name is finally reveled to be Lillie Fowler.
After the Handmaids are buried, Aunt Lydia for once seems unsure about her role as Aunt. Lydia states she thought Gilead would make women safe. Of course, Lydia believes what she did was for the best and doesn't seem to grasp that Gilead is an embodiment of evil and not religion.
After the bombing, few of the women are returned from the colonies. Emily and Janine being some of them. June tells Emily she doesn't want to make the same mistake so she asks what her name is: Emily replies. Soon, a shopping mall becomes filled with handmaids all telling their names to each other. A surprised Eden watches in both annoyance and confusion.
Janine's baby from Commander Putnam becomes gravely ill. For the first time, Serena and June seem to end their hostility for a while and care about the infant's life. Serena even sends for a Martha who used to be a doctor, and expert in the field of childcare. Still, they seem to find nothing wrong with the baby. Janine asks if she can see Charlotte again.
She and the Putnams have a bad relationship from the first season as it was revealed that Warren Putnam sexually abused Janine and promised to marry her. Despite Noami Putnam being irritated, Warren shows some dignity by allowing Janine to see her child, who they named Angela.
Aunt Lydia believes the infant has died only to find Janine in the morning with a healthy and alive baby Charlotte, who seems to know, in some shape or form she is loved by Janine and she is her mother.
It is implied, throughout the season, that Naomi just wants Charlotte to be up on Gilead's social ladder. Noami lacks the maternal instincts or love needed to care for a child. Yet, she is a wife and Janine is a handmaid. How can Gilead be fair?
Furthermore, Nick and Eden's marital life was not even consummated. Eden fears that Nick may not like her or even be a "gender traitor." When June was still at odds with Serena she says to Nick that he should consummate his marriage nor else he will be in trouble.
Nick goes to perform this weird, perverted clothed ceremony where there is a small hole on the sheet - yet before he goes he says "I love you" to June. Nick reaffirms his body and love belongs to June and hope she belongs to him as well.
Still, after consummating his marriage Eden feels a distance from Nick. She is a girl who seems to be the very embodiment of what Gilead wants from women but she is unsatisfied and feels lonely.
It is after the bombing that Isaac (Rohan Mead) shows up to take care of the household as Nick is taking care of Fred at the hospital. Isaac seems to also be in his late teens and he and Eden seems to take a liking to one another.
And, in Fred's absence, Serena and June start working in his office with Gilead's papers to keep their home from being broken down by the authoritarian government. This article will be concluded next week
The writer is a copy editor, The Asian Age