The Handmaid’s Tale season two finale – where do we go from here? (spoilers)

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Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale I liked season two of The Handmaid’s Tale. Some thought it was more torture porn than substance, but the bleaker images and storylines felt like a natural progression from season one. E! News spoke to series creator Bruce Miller on the future of THT. Several characters who should die won’t (spoilers of course). You can read the full article here, which gives more details about each character’s story.

This show should end with season three. In terms of the torture porn complaints, the most visceral scenes invested me further in the story. When June/Offred found the bloody wall in the newsroom I got mad – I need every one of those splatters avenged. The scene of the milk man hanging on the wall really messed me up. I hated June for what she’d brought on to the family and could not decide whether she was a survivor or selfish (which I think was the point). This brings us to the end scene. My first reaction was anger at June for not getting in the truck. I thought of all the Marthas who had risked everything for her, mainly Rita. But I also understood there is no way she could choose one daughter over another. I’d have hated her if she had.

That said, those final moments of June looking after Joseph’s truck, handing Nicole off and turning her handmaid’s cape into her Scarlet A of empowerment were so hopeful, I got a little choked up. In his E! interview, Miller explained that Joseph was their “Oppenheimer character,” as in Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb who became horrified about what his creation had wrought. I didn’t get that at first, but it answers a lot of questions. I’m sure he will be June’s first stop.

The Handmaid’s Tale clings to several characters who should be killed off. Emily should have died. Her story went against everything we’d been told about Gilead and then they didn’t know what to do with her. I like that Emily’s sanity has snapped and hope they show more of the psychological effects of this ordeal. But they’ll probably make Emily a freedom fighter on the other side.

I adore Ann Dowd, but Aunt Lydia should die. Miller revealed that she survives. Miller went on to say that Lydia will think she was attacked because she didn’t discipline enough. So if it wasn’t torture porn before, it will be now. Nick should have been killed at the house in which June met with Hannah after the Eyes found him, that would have completely messed up everything in Fred’s world. Or they should have capitalized on the tension of Nick turning the letters over to Luke when we knew that Eden, who was seemingly completely devoted to Gilead, had found them first. But they killed Eden off and now Nick is invincible. It bugs me that they may be keeping Nick alive to further the love triangle plot with June and Luke. For the love of God, June’s story cannot culminate in how it relates to men.

I have nothing to say about Eden. She was supposed to be significant, but she was written as such an afterthought, she made no impression on me.

Which leaves us with Serena. One of you said on Wednesday that they kept trying to make you care about Serena. I’m on the fence about this. I, too, thought they were trying to garner sympathy for her. But now I’m not so sure. By her pulling a 180 after getting what she wanted, I think the show is making a comment on people who only fight injustice when it affects them. If that’s true and the world she created destroys her piece by piece, it will be the most cathartic thing to come out of the show.

And don’t get me started on the ways I want to see Fred suffer…

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45 Responses to “The Handmaid’s Tale season two finale – where do we go from here? (spoilers)”

  1. Sway says:

    I knew June would not get in the truck the moment she pulled out Hannah’s photo, told Holly/Nicole about her and tucked the photo IN THE BABY’S CLOTHES and not back in her own. I also remembered vividly how she promised Hannah at the end of their meeting that she’s going to try and see her again.

    I liked the fact she told Emily to call the baby Nicole. I felt she did it out of being grateful to Serena for letting the child go, and also, because the baby’s father’s name is Nick.

    I didn’t at any point feel Nick or Emily should have died. I think the show did a great job with its second season without relying on the pointless deaths of characters who still have a lot more to give. It was an amazing season overall despite it being harder to watch than the first. Can’t wait for next one!

  2. tracking says:

    The only thing I enjoyed about this episode was the badassery of the Marthas. Given all of her prior reversals, I did not expect Serena to give up Nicole/Holly. That did garner some sympathy, though it’s not easy to separate that from all the inhumane things she was willing to do to get her. June’s decision to stay in Gilead was ridiculous. First, no mom would leave a tiny nursling with no food making a very dangerous bid for freedom. How is Emily supposed to feed/calm/quiet the baby when she gets hungry in a matter of mere hours? Very dangerous. And it would have been more strategic to make a plan for Hannah’s extraction when safe in Canada. Even if it was satisfying for June to leave the “bastards” quote, she just eliminated any possibility of plausible deniability. Not like she can now just waltz back into the Waterfords’ household and plan from there. Narratively speaking, it would have been so much better to go with the escape to Canada, and introduce new primary protagonists (perhaps related to Joseph’s household) in season 3, with the occasional cut to June&co working with the resistance from a position of safety. June, the Waterfords, and uber-angry Lydia redux? No thanks.

  3. AmandaPanda says:

    I was hoping celebitchy would cover this! I’ve been watching avidly. I also thought it was brilliant TV.

    But BUT BUT – I didn’t like the finale. I think it kind of worked in concept but I found the whole thing too rushed. In particular Serena’s transition from vehement supporter of the regime to giving up her much longed for baby. Having “reading the bible” / Eden dying be the catalyst for all of that seemed really superficial to me. I mean, this chick must have seen hundreds of horrible executions in her role as Fred’s wife.

    Also commander Lawrence’s arc seemed really rushed, plus a fire just came out of nowhere? Why? Was it just for June? Surely the Marthas would try to get as many handmaids or people out as possible – why only June and Emily? That was a big old truck.

    Lastly, I completely agree with June’s decision to stay in Gilead but as per usual she’s made it difficult for herself by carving that into the wall etc.

    I saw the show runner said they were planning for 10 seasons – I really hope not, I don’t think it could survive meaningfully that long. 4 would be perfect. And if they don’t stick with atwoods original ending re June’s fate (I won’t spoil for those who haven’t read the book) it’ll be a travesty in my view.

    • VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

      The whole point with Serena being so affected by Eden’s death is that Eden was the first generation, “true believer” of Gilead. She lived in Serena’s household and the minute she made one mistake……her own father turned her in and she was executed. There is no room for mistakes, especially for women. Eden was supposed to be the example that showed the entire world that Gilead was right–remember that scene where Eden comes to ask Serena if she needs any help, and Serena replies that Eden is so sweet and she wishes June/Offred behaved the same way? That’s a dig on how they were raised/their current positions in life.

      I think that was the moment Serena realized Holly/Nicole would never be safe. Ever. The entire season arc for Serena was realizing she has no power, when it comes down to it.

      • AmandaPanda says:

        But see I don’t agree with that. Eden, by definition, remembered life pre Gilead. She had a bible, she could read. Clearly she wasn’t brought up as a Gilead child. I kind of get why Serena was affected as her own personal relationship with God waS clearly based on a very intellectual understanding of scripture, but I just don’t see eden as the bell wether that she’s been set up to be.

      • PBAN says:

        she could have been pushed by what they did to her. Just showed clear as day that she is only a hair’s breath from a Handmaiden. She just got a look at how precarious her real situation is. She can be replaced just like a Handmaiden. Women are all the same. One mistake or misstep and you will get it like any woman

      • mtam says:

        I agree with you. I’ll also add that I really don’t believe Serena wavered from her faith and the values of Gilead, and she really did think it would have been best for her daughter to learn to read scripture, but upon Fred’s reaction (and her mutilation) she realized he didn’t care about what’s best for Nicole, and that also Fred might not be as powerful as they all like to believe he is.

        I also think she, as the commander’s wife, thought she was untouchable, and that at the end of the day, they were partners—but she was wrong. Hearing that Eden’s own father turned her in–meaning ultimately his daughter’s wellbeing was not a priority–and seeing Fred also unwilling to put Nicole first, it’s what got to Serena. She didn’t lose faith in Gilead per se, but in her husband and his willingness to keep their daughter (and her) safe.

      • VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

        @mtam
        ITA. I think Fred is slowly losing influence….that scene where he pushes for leniency for Commander Putnam (after it was found out that he was raping Janine outside of the Ceremony) is telling…..He got as far as he did by passing off Serena’s work as his own i.e. writing the laws in Gilead. In pre-Gilead, he was more than happy to wear cardigans and carry Serena’s stuff while she went on book tours and did public speeches.

  4. Honeybadger says:

    Eden was hugely important. Her death has begun to open the eyes of the women of Gilead. Her death is what sent Serena to the council in a nascent attempt to expand the roles of women.

  5. Ninks says:

    I didn’t watch it when season 2 started because I was campaigning for the abortion referendum here and it felt way too close to home, and from seeing all the reviews I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve read couple of episode synopsis, so I think that if I decide to go with season 3, I won’t be lost. Hopefully they’ll start following the resistence now instead of wallowing in the suffering and torture porn.

  6. Clucky says:

    Thank you for this post! I quit watching after episode 10 because I thought it was the season finale. Season 1 only had 10 episodes so I thought Season 2 would as well. Looks like I’ve got some episodes to catch up on now.

  7. Miss Gloss says:

    The finale was so good!! I was upset with June not getting into the truck, but obviously we knew she would stay to save Hannah. She has to. Although, I do think they could create a storyline with her doing it from the other side. Or at least coming back to see Luke and returning to get Hannah is how I wanted it to happen. The love triangle thing is complicated and she can’t love two men, so one will die, likely Nick obviously. I hate and also care for Serena at the same time. I like that she’s turning. I wish she would have left with that reporter. This show is so good. The cinematography, the score, the character depth…all of it. I can’t stop thinking about that finale. And, eff Fred. Joseph Fiennes plays creepy so well (also creeped me out in American Horror Story). I hate Fred so much. So many hard scenes with that douche this season.

  8. Sam says:

    There is a love/hate relationship with Serena. I do believe the concept behind Serena’s change of heart was to show us that Gilead was a great idea until the ideals directly impacted her negatively. NOW her eyes have been open to what it’s going to be like, for ALL women. She and Fred have this idea that because of their powerful position, they are allowed to just bend the rules when they find them inconvenient. She realizes now that she is not granted the same leeway that Fred is. NOW it is a problem. I think in a similar vain, we are going to see Fred slowly realize he is not the all powerful being he thinks he is. We know that Nick was an eye specifically there to watch Fred. While the commander who instituted that died in the attack, he COULDN’T have been the only one in the know about it. My thoughts are that Fred’s days are numbered as well.
    My fear is that we haven’t seen anything about Emilys wife on the other side, and that is because she has moved on. I don’t want to imagine the second round of torment she’ll experience if she learns her wife and child are with someone else.

  9. Sash says:

    Honestly, I think I’m done with this show. The more the season went on, the more it became apparent that it should have been kept as a limited series and been done with the first season finale.

  10. Amelie says:

    The finale was so maddening. I get June not wanting to leave Hannah behind but as a handmaid in Gilead, does she really think she’s going to affect change by herself? If she’s caught, that’s immediate death unless they come up with a bogus reason to keep her alive. All the Marthas and Nick risked their lives to get her and the baby out and she repays that by being a total ungrateful idiot.

    As for Serena, it’s a testament to the actress’s performance that you feel revulsion and sympathy for her at the same time. She is despicable yet she shows glimpses of humanity. Do I feel sorry for Serena that she lost Nicole? No, that was never her baby to begin with or hers to keep. But she’s starting to realize that even if she had a daughter she wouldn’t be safe in the world she helped build. Eden’s character wasn’t a throwaway; her death was meant to make Serena realize no girl or woman in Gilead is safe.

    Everybody’s performance was stellar this season even if I found some of the plot lines a bit circular. June nearly escapes twice only to be brought back to the Waterfords (the fact she went straight back after she gave birth was so annoying to me). June and Nick somehow manage to carry on without being discovered by Fred or Serena is unbelievable. Also I feel that Serena knew?? Which is why they forced Nick to marry Eden in the first place. She really loves to psychologically torture June.

    I’ll give this one more season but uh doing this for 10 seasons like the unending Walking Dead no I don’t think so. You need a beginning, middle, and an end which is why so many shows lose their way after a few seasons when they run out of ideas. I can’t do 10 seasons of torture, rape, and oppression!

    Also not really a spoiler… the book ends just like the first season. June gets into a car with the Eyes and her fate remains unknown.

    • Medusa says:

      Serena does know about June and Nick because she realized Fred is sterile and encouraged June to have sex with Nick in order to get pregnant. Nick married Eden because of Fred, not Serena. Fred realized Holly/Nicole is probably not his and he’s obsessed with June so he arranged for Nick to marry Eden.

    • VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

      IDK, it depends…they can probably get 2 more seasons out of basically “the fall” of Gilead….then expand the storyline about how the United States rebuilds and reestablishes relationships with their sister countries i.e. Mexico and Canada……if there are any handmaidens in Mexico (I can’t remember if they sent any or not), then there could be some sort of a war/effort to get them out if Mexico won’t play ball, since the Mexican ambassador from the first season ignored June’s pleas for help…….establish tribunals and trials for the war criminals i.e. the Commanders and their wives to a certain extent….and touching on the personal…Nick and Luke and June…….Hannah and Nicole and June and Luke and Nick…..Emily finding her wife and son…….Aunt Lydia…..Janine and her son Cole?……and so on.

      If they actually plan the show and didn’t just throw out an arbitrary number, it can work.

      I could actually see a redemptive Serena who ends up helping but is ultimately executed or dies.

  11. Steph says:

    Vox has a great take on Serena, I honestly don’t have any sympathy left for Serena. She dig her own grave. I was so mad at June because everyone is risking their life for her, it felt a little bit like a Children of Men moment for me. The second season was the best but I hope they know what to do with June.

  12. JeanGrey says:

    I was yelling at Emily saying “WTF are you doing?” when she went in on Aunt Lydia. I knew from the get that Lawrence was different. When he tripped over some stuff off camera and yells at his Martha and she calls him an old man like she’s talking to a friend, his tolerance of his yelling and dissenting wife, and the fact that he was trying to find out about her life pre-Gilead it gave me the impression he was more of an ally disgusted at the way things have turned out. Then she goes and signs her own death warrant because of her PTSD. But glad he helped her out.

    I don’t get June leaving her un-weaned infant to Emily either. That pissed me off.

    Serena is very complicated. She’s turning out to be like Jaime Lannister on GoT to me. Very morally grey but seems to be turning around. I love Yvonne Strahovski. In one ep where June is helping her edit her documents and June posits that in another reality, they could have been colleagues and seemed to even respect each other for that brief time, I saw more in Serena. She needs to snap out of her fundamentalist bubble and I love that June’s strength is helping her. At the end of the day, she too is being abused and oppressed by Fred and the rest of the men. While she was a willing participant at first, she too has become a victim. Seeing what happened to Eden was her catalyst. Also, now being a mother, she sees things though her daughter’s eyes and what struggles she will endure.

    I didn’t like the scenes where June was on the run as much as when they all play against each other. Same for when Emily was at the colonies. Their strengths are as an ensemble. Moira also needs more screen time.

    • mrs.odie says:

      The infant can survive without nursing for a few hours, though she’ll be VERY mad. If you look at the map of Gilead, there is rebel held territory in Massachusetts, only a few miles form where Emily and Nicole depart. They only have to get to there, not all the way to Canada. And even if they did, Mayday knew they were smuggling an infant out of Gilead. It’s very possible they have supplies (diapers, formula) for that exact mission.

  13. Sunnyjyl says:

    I really needed to talk about the last episode the night I watched it. Now, a few days later, I’m not feeling as emotional. I could not believe Drew left her baby. If she cries while they are escaping, it’s game over for everyone in that truck. She can sneak back in, later, to rescue Hannah. Sheesh.

    I truly wondered how Rita and Nick would be kept alive, but now I think the entire household will have to stick together to stay alive. They are all complicit. Drew/Offred will have to go underground in Gilead. There has to be an Underground, doesn’t there? I saw a picture of her dressed in rags, sitting in field, which leads me to believe she will play a completely different role in Season 3.

  14. Lila says:

    I love this show but I don’t know how many years I can spend being psychologically tortured watching it, especially when the real world lately is doing a fine job on me. I think they should conclude next year as the final season and go out with a great bang.

  15. Murphy says:

    I really liked the finale because it was the one episode that ended in a way that I can wait for the next one. all the others I was like “FUUUUUU why can’t we see what happens?!” this one I’m like “ok. she’s going to go back, I can wait.”

  16. laura-j says:

    I love this show, but I really think she should have left, she has so much information she could give the Canadian resistance.

    And how was she not killed for Slapping Fred, then cussing him out? I mean really they got the baby… they don’t need her anymore.

    And I’m not sure I can handle much more torture porn… Especially if aunt Lydia is alive. I’d like to see it end after next season… As someone mentioned above, no walking dead…

    I would have been ok if it ended after this episode if June got in the truck… Would have been ambiguous, but we would have ended slightly hopefully.

    • VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

      Because Fred likes dominant women. Look at the flashback scenes of how he was with Serena pr-Gilead….she was the voice, the champion for change, always reassuring him what he was doing was right, and he was her support behind the scenes. It is actually an amazing look at how Gilead ruined their marriage. When Serena was not allowed to speak at the meeting with the Commanders when they were drafting the laws, etc…I think he was genuinely sad/upset that she couldn’t be part of it–and he wanted to fight for it, but she said no, we can’t be divided….so then she continued their ideals/work in secret i.e. writing the laws. But once those laws were implemented, and she became a useless piece of ornamentation…..she didn’t expect that. But she conformed…….and all that was left was two people resenting where they ended up.

      Fred also has everything to gain by keeping Serena and June at odds, hence him beating Serena and making June watch after he found out they worked together to get rid of Commander Cushing. Honestly–I think he is resentful of the situation he thinks Serena put them in i.e. Gilead. And I thought the scene where he and Serena were arguing about June running away, etc….that was probably the closest we’ve ever seen the two of them, and I think that is probably one of the few moments that he showed that he cared about Serena (attempting to comfort her when she breaks down saying she has nothing, etc)…..

      He doesn’t care that the baby isn’t his, and he probably only cares about the baby as a status symbol if that……

  17. PBAN says:

    I don’t know if June staying was all about Hannah. Looking at what the Marthas were able to do; get her, Emily and the baby out. Looking at how whatshisname let Emily go and is showing some remorse. There could be other men like him. I think she stayed because she saw hope from within. that it is possible to disrupt and make change. It’s slow but its possible. She looked like she had a plan going forward. She’s not alone.

  18. Eleonor says:

    I came here to say that Fred Waterford is THE worst, kudos to the actor because I want to slap his face. Every. Single. Time.
    When he appears on screen, I want to kick his delusional a@@.

  19. Leigh says:

    “But I also understood there is no way she could choose one daughter over another. I’d have hated her if she had.”

    I would not have interpreted her fleeing to freedom this way at all. This is a show of course so I’m sure she’ll turn into June Skywalker and save the day, but were this real life there’s little should could within the confines of Gilead to save Hannah and she should have fled and lived to fight another day.

  20. Evie says:

    No one asked June if she wanted to leave right at that minute. Of course she does want to leave and protect Holly BUT she has a Hannah. The scene when Hannah finally called her mummy, with her voice cracking with pain still haunts me. She could never leave Hannah. Ever.
    She didn’t choose to go right then, and she didn’t choose to become pregnant and have another baby but she is doing her best to
    save both of them.

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