No one ever said watching a drama about a misogynist and extremist society that institutionalizes rape and steals babies away from “undeserving” women would be easy. But holy heck has the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo) given us lots to think about.
Between some of the parallels you can draw with what’s happening in the world today and the dark, unforgiving scenes the leading characters have found themselves in, we’re at the point where we need therapy sessions after every episode of this show.
Heading into this week’s finale, here are 23 times the show just made us want to curl up into a ball and hug our loved ones tight.
The opening moments leading up to Fenway
We knew it was going to be a tough season to swallow from the opening sequence, in which June and her fellow handmaids were bound, gagged and led to makeshift gallows at what is formerly Fenway Park. While the guards didn’t wind up pulling the lever, Aunt Lydia did inform the girls it was “a lesson” to them all for refusing to stone Janine. Voiceover June said it all when she asked, “Seriously? What the actual f–k?”
Aunt Lydia’s second punishment
Apparently pretending to kill the handmaids in the season two premiere wasn’t enough of a lesson, according to Aunt Lydia. Not only did she go on to make them hold stones up in the rain afterwards, but then she proceeded to burn all of their hands on a stovetop burner while lamenting how “willful and full of apologies” they were “when it comes time to pay the Piper.”
Extreme mom guilt
In an early flashback scene when Hannah got sick at school, we saw a whole new level of mom-shaming when the nurse/social worker began grilling June about her motives as a parent and refusing to acknowledge her real last name.
“I understand, Mrs. Bankole. We have busy lives,” the worker said. “But children are so precious we have to make certain that they are in a safe home environment with fit parents. I just have a few more questions, Mrs. Bankole.”
And that was before things got really bad.
June carves up her own ear
How desperate was June to get rid of the mark that branded her a handmaid? Desperate enough that she was willing to slice through her own ear to cut it out. It was a bloody, chilling scene that set the tone for the season.
The Boston Globe massacres
When you’re trying to take over a country with extremism, one of the first groups of people you target is journalists. June realized that in an early episode when she was hiding out at the former Boston Globe offices, where she discovered the remains of a massacre. Even though we didn’t actually see any deaths go down, the trinkets left behind by the dead were almost more devastating.
Emily’s colleague is hanged
Thanks to the full-time addition of
as Emily this season we were able to also get a glimpse into how awful things were for the LGBTQ communities in the months leading up to the Gilead takeover. At Emily’s former university we saw another gay colleague warn her about the dangers of having her wife and son as her phone’s screensaver, and later we saw him hanging, with the word “faggot” written beneath him on the sidewalk.
Emily being separated from her wife and son
They tried to get out, they really did. But apparently they waited just a little too long because by the time Emily, her wife Sylvia and their son hightailed it to the airport gay marriages were no longer legally recognized, and Emily was forced to send her loved ones—who happened to have Canadian passports—on without her.
June is caught
We all knew it was only a matter of time before June was caught (once she leaves Gilead there are only so many places the story can go), but that didn’t make her capture any less harrowing to watch. As guardians shot the plane up and dragged her off kicking and screaming, we realized the full reach of a one Mr. Fred Waterford.
No breaks for Ofglen
The new Ofglen was so intent on being pious in season one, but then she had the audacity to say, “I’m sorry Aunt Lydia” when she was unable to stone Janine. As a result we learned in season two that her tongue had been cut out. The powers that be in Gilead have never been above mutilation, so that comes as no real surprise, but it’s also no surprise that the remaining handmaids in June’s district have been tortured into submission.
June’s saviour is hanged
Well, damn. Did anyone else’s stomach turn when Aunt Lydia walked Offred to the wall where the driver who saved her had been hanged? As if that weren’t enough, Aunt Lydia informed us that his little boy had also been sent to live with new parents and the econowife is now a handmaid somewhere. We can’t help but wonder if she and June will meet again.
Yes, this whole marriage was orchestrated by Fred and Serena out of jealousy… but let’s just remind ourselves of these two words: child bride. Yeah, Gilead is so desperate for births that 15-year-old girls are now being married off.
Fred’s turning point
The Fred we know and loathe from the current day storyline is a pretty different man from the one presented in the flashbacks. It’s clear that back then, it was Serena who wore the pants. But then Serena was shot, forcing Fred into action. He tracked down his wife’s shooter, and rather than killing him directly he exacted Gilead-levels of revenge by shooting the man’s wife in front of him so that he’d know the same pain.
Ofglen has had enough
Once Ofglen lost her tongue she was no longer able to speak out against the horrors Gilead inflicts on women, so instead she spoke with violence. You can bet that everyone heard her words as she suicide-bombed the new handmaids centre.
A Martha is shot on the street
We’re terrified of Fred Waterford, but for Offred’s sake we were even more terrified of Commander Pryce’s replacement, Commander Cushing. The man hinted at the fact that he knew Offred wasn’t kidnapped, and he also exacted his own reign of terror on the neighbourhood by allowing random executions to take place in the middle of the street. And that includes the poor Martha who was just reaching for her pass.
Moira’s dead fiancée
Just when you thought Moira was due for a little happiness, she learned that her fiancée Odette had been rounded up and killed right before Gilead took over. (Because how dare a female doctor exist?) Even sadder than the reveal, however, was the sheer number of binders full of unidentified dead people, showcasing one of the largest on-paper examples of the horrors exacted by Gilead officials to-date.
Janine saves baby Angela
We can’t help but wonder, were Angela a boy, would Fred have allowed a female doctor to look at her? This was the first glimpse of Fred’s true colours, when he refused to do everything he could to save that baby. Considering the rise of Gilead was supposed to be directly linked to increasing the human population in the first place, it was a chilling scene to behold. Even more chilling was watching Janine plead to see her baby, who in the end she was able to save with her mother’s touch.
Fred beats Serena
If you didn’t hate Fred before, you certainly hated him after this scene. Not only did he effectively ruin the peace between Offred and Serena by lashing his wife with his belt, but he actually seemed to take pleasure in it. Gross.
Serena opts to stay in Gilead
We knew Serena really, really wanted a baby, but it’s slightly shocking and infinitely infuriating that she would refuse help from the resistance, especially after they said they’d help her get a baby. Our only solace was that she helped to create this world, so now she’s also choosing to stay and live in it.
Fred and Serena rape June
The ceremonies are one thing, because at least (and this is a justification, but indulge us) the handmaids can mentally prepare to check out. In this case, when Fred and Serena decided to rape June to induce labour, it was malicious intent all the way. Not only were they showing her their power, but they sprung it on her and held her down despite her pleading, making it the most harrowing of all the rape scenes in this show so far.
June sees Hannah
This was a moment we’ve been waiting for ever since the show began, but it ended up being so depressing we almost wished it hadn’t happened. What do you say to a child you haven’t seen in four years in just under 10 minutes, while also reassuring her that you love her, you never gave up on her, and you will never, ever forget her?
June goes into labour
The “Holly” episode of the series was as haunting as they come.
’s performance in the episode was nothing short of Emmy-worthy throughout, but the scene that had us fighting back the most tears was the one in which she had to give birth by herself, in a pool of her own blood.
Bye bye baby
Imagine having to go through that entire ordeal, only to have your baby ripped away from you. That was exactly what happened when June was “saved” by neighbours who heard her shots. Back in Gilead’s clutches she tried to comply and produce the required breast milk to feed Holly/Nicole, but her supply began drying up when she was barred access to her baby. The whole thing led to that heartless moment when Fred brought Nicole to June just to get the milk flowing again, only to leave again without allowing Offred to touch her baby.
As Offred told a young Eden, if you can actually find love in this world you should hold onto it. That’s what the pious 15-year-old did when she ran away with Guardian Isaac, so, of course, Gilead executed her for it. Yes, she could have saved herself, but what—in the mind of the teen– was the point of living in a world without love?
It’s almost too much to bear. Let’s hope for some kind of hope pretty damned soon, especially heading into the second season finale. Until then we’ll be hiding under our blankets in anticipation.