There are so, so many creepy things to break down from the latest instalment of The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET, Bravo), from Serena’s look of joy during her (almost) fake birth and Emily’s “ball buster” ceremony of death, to Nick’s casual treatment of Eden and of course, Offred’s awful, awful rape.
Yet while all of those moments stuck with us long after the end credits finished rolling, we couldn’t help but pay extra attention to one creepy scene in particular: the reunion between June and Hannah. And for more reasons than one.
First and foremost, this was the first time we saw what present-day Hannah has become in Gilead. She now goes by Agnes (another puritan conversion by Gilead to the olden times, naturally), and harbours confusion about why her parents didn’t try harder to find her. That only makes sense — she was just five when she was taken, which means the now nine-year-old has been raised by her “new parents” for almost half of her life. That’s a lot of time to brainwash a kid against her old life.
Then, of course, there was the fact that the scene itself was harrowing and heartbreaking. What would you do if you had just 10 unexpected minutes with the child who was literally ripped out of your arms? Would you silently hug her and weep? Try to explain harder why you didn’t come and find her? Tell her all about the institutionalized rape surrounding her? In June’s case, she did the very best thing she could, which was to advise her daughter to survive, to listen to her new parents and to do as she was told. And June promised that she would try her hardest to come and find her again. Seriously, if that doesn’t rip your heart out…
Once again, Gilead has an uncanny way of resembling the real world, and the scene in which June had to say goodbye to her daughter all over again hit way too close to home given what’s going on in the United States right now, as immigrant children are ripped away from their parents. Of course the writers on this show would have no way of knowing, months ago when they wrote this, just how timely the storyline would be, but the fact that they were able to somehow mirror it speaks volumes to how these things can historically happen. It’s also another reason why it’s so important for us all to speak up when crap like this does go down, in order to try and evoke change.
But let’s get back to the show, shall we?
The fourth creepy component to the reunion scene is what started it in the first place, and that was Fred and Serena’s idea to rape Offred in order to encourage the baby to come “naturally,” and sooner. Neither one of them could wait for the handmaid to be out of their hair once and for all, with both of them ignoring the fact that Offred is actually a person and not a vessel for their child.
As we all know by now, in the Waterford household whenever Fred does something abhorrent to Offred he tries to make it up to her with a “treat;” in this case her reward was to visit her daughter. It seemed like a guilty enough power move for him to make, but let’s not forget that when he made it, he knew the child was Nick’s, thanks to Offred’s moment of rebellion. We saw earlier in the season that Fred was out to get Nick based on suspicions alone (that’s how Eden entered the picture as his wife, if you’ll recall), so we can’t help but feel like The Commander set Nick up. Why else would he ask him to take Offred to see Hannah and no one else? The fact that a black car full of guards swooped down on that vacant country home in the middle of nowhere just moments after Hannah, her Martha and the guard left can’t be a coincidence.
We suppose we’ll see next week where it all goes, but for now we’ll just have to hope that the episode title, “The Last Ceremony,” applies to all future ceremonies at the Waterfords. Because at this point we can’t stand either of those characters, and we hope to never have to see them and their rapey faces again.