THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Episode 12: “Postpartum”
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 5, 2018
Secrets and unease are what drive “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Not knowing what the characters’ true motivations are casts a veil of ambiguity over the series and keeps you guessing what will happen next. But the more a spotlight gets shined on a particular character, say Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) in this second season, the more you start to feel these characters true motivations start to shine through. And even in the case of Serena, she flip-flops just enough to keep things interesting. And as “Postpartum” reveals to us, with each new character introduced, we must all over again determine whether this is a person that can be trusted or is this a person who is going to get a good character hurt, and often, even after two seasons, we’re not sure the answer on that.
Holly is home. Or should I say Nichole. The baby that Offred (Elisabeth Moss) had last week is now home with Serena. And although Offred is pumping breast milk from the Red Center at the start of the episode, it’s only a matter of time before she’s back in the house after some urging from Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and some folding by Commander Waterford (Ralph Fiennes). Once again, the story of what happened to Offred in the last episode is turned to make the Waterford household not sound so bad. Nick (Max Minghella) is the hero, being wrongfully detained by some overzealous Guardians, while Offred is brave for facing the odds in the lone house and producing a healthy baby in the process. Serena wants Offred nowhere near the baby, so Offred must listen to the baby’s cries through the floor boards of the bathroom or smell the baby’s dirty clothes from the hamper left in the kitchen. Serena is trying to force herself on this child and even attempts breastfeeding her at one point, which leaves the baby confused and leaves Serena embarrassed.
The congruent story in this episode is that of Eden (Sydney Sweeney). She speaks with Offred about love to which Offred tells her, “in this place, you grab love wherever you can find it.” The household wakes the next morning to find that their Guardian Isaac (Rohan Mead) and Eden are both missing, which isn’t a surprise, as they were caught kissing only last week. They are found and brought to a college to face their judgment. but instead of renouncing what they have done, they take their punishment, which results in weights being chained to them and them being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool, where they drown in front of the household as well as their families. The highlight here is seeing Serena crying over the entire situation. Yes, she was close to Eden, but also seeing a young girl executed, who was extremely devout to the word of God, must put some things into perspective for her. By the end of the episode, she is quoting scripture and allowing Offred to breastfeed Holly/Nichole. It will be interesting to see where Serena’s storyline goes next.
Separate from all of this, Emily (Alexis Bledel) is being moved to a new house, where the man behind the economic system of Gilead, Commander Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) is housed. There’s something off about him, however, with a one-eyed, smart-talking Martha (Victoria Fodor) as well as a house full of art that makes Aunt Lydia snarl. Once again, here’s a character with mysterious intentions. We meet the Commander’s wife (Julie Dretzin), who tells Emily that her husband came up with the idea of the colonies, to which Emily has basically just come from the front-lines of, telling her that the dirt they are digging up is poison, which we basically knew already. She has a breakdown and the Commander must put her back to bed. He then offers Emily a drink and they discuss her life before Gilead, to which he has a lot of knowledge. Again, he seems like a nice guy, but who knows what kind of warped sense of purpose he has hidden underneath this smart guy veneer.
With this being the penultimate episode of Season Two, so many thing have still to be wrapped up. Where will they leave Offred in the season finale? Aunt Lydia has expressed that many households are interested in her outside of the Waterfords. But with Serena’s change of heart at the end of the episode, will they be keeping her around? Commander Waterford is still showing an interest in Offred as well. What’s going to happen to Nick? He feels extremely guilty after the death of his wife, Eden. Will that lead him to do something rash? He and Offred spent some time fantasizing about taking their child to beach. Could an escape attempt be coming? I, for one, am still curious as to what Nick’s deal was with Commander Pryce, who was killed in the explosion. He was having Nick watch over the Waterford household for some reason, to which we were never privy. Will we ever learn what that was about? All I know for sure is that something big is going to happen at the end of next week’s episode, which will in turn create a new dynamic to be picked up in the already ordered Season Three.
July 4, 2018
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood