Don’t get me wrong, because I happen to think The Handmaid’s Tale (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET, Bravo) is one of the most relevant, gripping and important shows on television. Every week I’m on the edge of my seat trying to figure out where the hell the story is going to go next.
But this is also a show that, in one and a half seasons, has given us stories involving institutionalized rape, mothers being forced to give up their babies, women working to death in radioactive wastelands, murder, body mutilation and religious zealots. It’s a lot to take in sometimes.
Sunday night’s latest episode, “Seeds,” introduced a whole new terrifying concept: child brides. Like every other issue introduced in this series (and in the book on which it’s based), this happens in real life. Children are married off around the world every single day, but because we don’t really see those kinds of things happening in North America it doesn’t always resonate with most of us living in our little bubbles.
That’s what makes Handmaid’s so brilliant, by the way. Seeing how these things would look enacted in America is chilling to the bone.
Anyhow, this all went down in the episode after Nick was audacious enough to ask Serena Joy about Offred’s mental state. As we know, Offred has been off ever since learning about how her attempted escape has impacted everyone else around her, and that continued to play out in the episode. She was compliant with Serena, and in a pretty big twist there were no voiceovers or flashbacks whatsoever. June had left the building, and the creatives behind the show wanted us to know it.
Serena knew it too, as we witnessed during her walk with Offred. But she feared Nick—the real baby daddy in this situation—was the bigger problem. So she played on The Commander’s already real fears of not being the father to this child and told her husband about Nick’s concerns. That in turn led to The Commander asking for a “special” promotion for his driver: a promotion to becoming a husband.
In true, twisted fashion, Serena brought Offred to the ceremony, which featured a dozen or so marriages. The bigger twist? Each bride was probably about 15 years old. If you put yourself in the shoes of Gilead officials, it makes sense. The whole purpose of this world is to increase fertility and what better way to do that than with young, fertile brides? But that doesn’t make the concept — or the fact that these girls are being groomed for the purpose, any less icky.
For his part, Nick landed a young girl named Eden (played by Sydney Sweeney, who will also star in Amy Adams’ upcoming HBO Canada series Sharp Objects). There were plenty of awkward moments that ensued, including a champagne toast and a sex pep talk from Serena.
Meanwhile, the wedding served to do one other thing: help bring June back into the forefront.
As I mentioned, the entire episode, Offred was a shell. The most concerning part of that was when she started bleeding and didn’t say anything about it. Probably because she was scared of what could happen, and probably also because she was partially in denial. Bleeding can happen during a pregnancy for a variety of reasons, and it doesn’t always mean a miscarriage. However, the amount of blood Offred passed, coupled with her eventually passing out in the garden, was absolutely a cause for concern.
Thankfully, as we learned in the closing minutes of the episode, Offred didn’t lose the baby. But that scare, along with seeing how young children are treated in Gilead, was enough to shake June loose from her reverie and wake up to why she was fighting in the first place. In a tear-inducing speech from under the hospital covers, she vowed not to let her baby grow up in this world no matter what, which means that the fight is finally back on.
June is back, baby. And although I’m still scared, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
The Handmaid’s Tale airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.