Let’s chat The Handmaid’s Tale episode 2.07 – “After”. Sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword, er, bomb.
They just couldn’t do it, could they? Bruce Miller and co., just couldn’t let go of Fred Waterford. God, I wanted them to have the guts to kill off Commander Waterford in the worst way, but, alas, it ain’t gonna happen. I suppose we’ll have more conversations between he and June that start off with, “are you mad at me?” Soon, they’ll probably be asking each other the eternal question of “what do you wanna eat? I dunno, what do you wanna eat?” Maybe we’ll even be privy to the never ending battle over who retains complete control over the clicker?
All kidding aside, while I hate the idea that Fred still lives, I am absolutely sold on the notion of Serena and June working together to take down Commander Cushing, and finding ways to reshape the Theocracy (created in part by Serena) gone awry. But the funny part is that, as it is with most all of Gilead, nothing is truly as it seems. This working relationship between June and Serena is not one founded on friendship or even mutual respect — the struggle over the knitting needle is what proves that.
No, this relationship is borne out of the selfish need to protect themselves. Which, again, serves as a fantastic indictment on the nature of Gilead itself; all the rules apply for the betterment of the world, until they have to apply to you. At that point, then it’s ok to ask Nick to get documents, forge them with Fred’s name, frame the highest ranked Commander in Boston, and be allowed to, you know, read.
Regardless of however it came to be, June and Serena working together in whatever capacity they deem necessary is a unique trajectory for this show. They both know they are extremely intelligent women, who are capable of far more than just having babies or serving as trophy wives. But it forms an actual relationship in The Handmaid’s Tale that is not only deeply ironic, but one that will alter the plot profoundly.
What happens when Fred inevitably returns to the Waterford homestead? These documents are going to have his name written on them, and he’s going to have to answer for them. Better yet, Serena doesn’t suffer any fools – what does this do to their already tenuous (at best) relationship? It’s almost as if both Serena and June chose the metaphorical Red Pill from Morpheus and they’re going down the rabbit hole with Alice just to see how far it really goes.
Where that hole leads is really up to both June and Serena, but this relationship, with just the click of a pen, has effectively exploded unto this show with more force than any bomb new Oflgen set off. This is where “After” really gets it right. Playing the respective clicks between June and new dead Ofglen is one of the more subtle and powerful statements the show has ever made. With that in mind, “After” really succeeds because it begins with a sullen funeral for all the Handmaid’s that died because of the first click, but it ends with the remaining Handmaids telling each other their real names right before the second, and much more impactful second click.
Aunt Lydia calling off all the names of the Handmaids like Ofryan, Ofglen, Of (insert random name here) during the funeral is so gross and wrong. That is how those innocent women will be remembered forever – with someone else’s ascribed to them. Secretly stating their names to each other at the market, however, is such a great poetic juxtaposition for the Handmaids because if no one else will remember them for who they are, at least they will. There was something so cathartic watching June see Emily and saying, “my name is June.” Now, does this reek of the early makings for a Handmaid’s rebellion? Yeah, it kinda does.
Is this The Hunger Games yet? Nope. But I really think it WANTS to be. It’s certainly heading down that route. But then again, we’ve had so many of these moments with the slo-mo walks, and going through the fits and starts of the Handmaids finally starting to congeal as a rebellious group that it almost seems moot now. This has happened so many times that I wonder if they’re just teasing us with the possibility of rebellion only to have it never go anywhere. Which, again, is why the relationship between Serena and June matters so much – it will, hopefully, keep the show grounded in what matters most: character..
Where this episode goes HORRIBLY wrong though is the story in Little America with Moira. There’s nothing like a bad retcon – just ask Damon Lindelof about Nikki and Paulo on LOST. I can see why Miller wanted to give Moira more background, but audiences are just too smart today. Suddenly giving Moira a relationship and an explanation on her fertility is fine, if the legwork has been done in previous episodes. I don’t need all the details, or an exact road map, but there has to be some kind of acknowledgement about her relationship in order for me to buy that it ever existed. Sure it was sad to see Moira’s reaction and the dead face of her apparent lover, but it’s hard to get all worked up when the emotional math doesn’t add up for me.
So, here we are, the deck has been reshuffled, relationships have been rearranged, and the plot thickens. Give me the red pill – I’m ready to go down the rabbit hole with June and Serena.
Mary & Blake certified: B+
Apropos of nothing:
- Eden is going to be a thorn in June’s side. This is zero point zero chance of this ending well for Eden.
- The fact that Fred has been sidelined and the show continues with such ease shows you how useless he is. He was only a tool (and I use the word “tool” purposely) for shock and plot mechanics in season 1. But since that plot mechanic and shock has worn off in the season, he’s now irrelevant.
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