This post is the second part of our “3 part series”. It has all the important details you should know from The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 before watching the latest episodes of season 4.
Read The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 recap
Trigger warning : Sexual assault, Violence, Bombing and Murder.
Margaret Atwood-the author, of the book “The Handmaid’s Tale”, mentioned several times that her book is based on true historical events.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
In the dramatic first episode of the Handmaid’s Tale season 2, The Guardians take June away in a black van. Aunt Lydia goes to great lengths to create a barbaric act of revenge and psychological manipulation.
She asks June to hang all the Handmaids that refused to punish Ofwarren/Janine. Only to later reveal that it was her way to show that everyone is disposable, even the precious Handmaids. All this is followed by warnings and live examples of punishment they carry out on pregnant Hainmaids who disobey.
June escapes the Waterfords
June later visits a gynaecologist, Nick orchestrates an escape with the help of his underground connections. As she escapes, June burns out her robes and brutally rips her Handmaid’s tag from her ear.
She then reaches a secret place which is the former Boston Globe office. There she takes a moment to recall and acknowledge all the series of events with the help of newspaper clippings. She stays there for a while trying to build her physical and psychological strength. There she meets Nick and finds out that the premises of the printing press were used for executions. She pays a moving tribute to all those people.
June then moves to her next rendezvous point and sees that her contact is compromised. She is now left to fend for herself. This leads her to another sub-section of Gilead – The Econopeople. Those who are too ordinary to be “The Leaders” but too pious to be Handmaids. The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 reveals the facade of the lives of the people of Gilead.
June remembers her Mother
There, a family provides her shelter and she notices that they secretly practice another religion behind closed doors. June’s possible escape to Canada makes her think about her mother Holly. She was a political agitator, a committed feminist and an abortion doctor. June comes to the conclusion that her mother would be in the colonies or worse killed for her “crimes”.
Meanwhile, The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 gives us a glimpse of the colonies. The “rebel” Emily is seen working in those toxic wastelands. The interaction between her and other workers is heartbreaking to watch as they all waste away working there.
Thinking about her mother leaves June guilt-ridden for leaving Hannah as she boards her escape plane to Canada. But as she leaves, the Guardians surround the plane. She is again back in her red Robes and the Handmaid marker is re-inserted into her ear lobe.
They take her to Aunt Lydia where she is further psychologically tortured and gaslighted. Aunt Lydia reminds her of her affair with Luke (Pre- Gilead) and for hurting his wife Annie. Her guilt and isolation make her comply and she is returned to Waterford’s.
June’s Baby Shower after her “kidnapping”
To avoid further incidents by Handmaids, Fred and Serena tell everyone that Offred was kidnapped. They throw a baby shower where Offred casually speaks about her “previous baby shower”. That reminds everyone that a different world existed before Gilead.
Serena and June try to re-establish their place in the household. The state marries Nick to a child bride – Eden. Many other couples also get married in a weird communal ceremony called Prayvaganza. June almost loses her baby but later finds out that there is a heartbeat. She vows herself to get her unborn child out of Gilead.
In The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, The Resistance movement by Handmaids and Marthas successfully carried out a bomb attack on chief commanders of Gilead. Unfortunately, more Handmaids die as compared to the commanders. Fred Waterford is gravely injured and is resting at the hospital when another commander makes a pass at Serena.
She takes June’s help to draft regulations to round up the enemies of Gilead. Especially, to establish Fred’s authority among other commanders. As soon as Fred returns home, he thanks them and assumes the role of the household head.
Eden and Nick don’t get along
Meanwhile, Eden feels isolated and disturbed. As everyone in the household including June and Rita(Martha) keeps her as away from them as possible. And as Nick fails to perform his husbandly duties towards Eden out of his “whatever” for June. June tells him that Nick’s actions could lead to bad consequences so he unwillingly agrees to perform the “ritual”.
In a flashback, we learn that Moira agrees to be a surrogate to a childless couple. She later falls for her Obstetrician Odette. She tries to find out about her whereabouts in Little America.
Emily along with other fertile rebels are sent back and stationed at new households as Handmaids. This is prompted due to the shortage caused by the bombing. Emily’s new commander assaults her so she reacts violently. Aunt Lydia then re-stations at Commander Lawrence’s house.
Women of Gilead Unite in The Handmaid’s Tale season 2
Subsequently, an unknown disease increases infant mortality among Gilead’s children. Serena, moved by all this, performs another transgression by going against Fred’s suggestions. She takes the help of a Martha who was a renowned medical professional in her pre-Gilead days. We see that Aunt Lydia too is willing to bend some rules to save the child. Although we don’t learn what the illness could be, we know that it could be healed by the power of Maternal Love. Although it came with a price, Fred punishes Serena.
Later Fred and Serena visit Canada on a diplomatic mission. They get a first-hand account of how the world is reacting to Gilead. This is the first time in The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, we see Serena relax. When she is alone, a man approaches Serena and tells her that new fertility treatment is being developed and it creates a glimmer of hope. But she chooses to leave Canada along with Fred in the end.
As they prepare their return, Luke approaches their car from a swarm of protesters, to face his wife’s rapist and Moira claims her name and identity in front of Fred. Nick secretly meets Luke and hands him over a bundle of letters from Jezebels. Moira uses them and her first-hand account of the oppression to fight for their loved ones in Gilead.
June’s due date approaches
Back in Gilead, as June approaches her due date, Serena grows impatient as asks Fred to rape her to induce labour. Fred later feels bad for June and arranges a quick visit with Hannah in an abandoned house. June meets Hannah and talks to her. As they speak a swarm of Guardians approach them, and they take Nick away. June remains there and tries to escape in a car in the garage.
Fred and Serena also visit that place and get into a row with each other. Serena reveals that Nick is the father of June’s unborn child and as they continue to fight, June attempts to shoot them but stops herself.
Serena and Fred leave as June remain unseen. June then goes into labour and gives birth to a baby girl all by herself. She names the baby Holly as a tribute to her mother and as her maternal instincts kick in, she sacrifices her freedom to provide medication and treatment for the newborn child.
Back at Waterford’s house. Serena spends a lot of time getting to know the baby. June is seen pumping for the baby, at the Red centre. As this situation is not working for both the baby and June, Aunt Lydia convinces the Waterfords to let June stay with them for a while. As soon as June returns, we find out that Eden eloped with the houses’ Guardian. They are then returned to the state by Eden’s own parents and are both executed by the State by drowning them in a pool.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 gives us a clear understanding of all the brutal, oppressing and twisted ways of Gilead.
Serena taking matters into her hand
All the women in the house blame themselves for the fate of the young girl. June and Serena later find out that Eden used to read scripture. And that the “word of God” guided her actions as it upholds “love” to be above everything else. June urges Serena to protect their baby “Nicole” from all this.
Serena starts to think about her crucial role in the creation of Gilead as opposed to her situation now as a mere “wife” with no rights. She tries to convince the Leaders and Fred to allow women to read. In a dramatic way. She reads in front of the leaders and other wives and urges them to understand the importance of women reading the scripture. As reading is prohibited for women in Gilead, Fred punishes Serena by ordering someone to amputate her finger.
In the final episode of The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, we see that Aunt Lydia visits Commander Lawrence’s house to see how Emily is doing. She provokes Emily to which Emily reacts violently and stabs Aunt Lydia.
Marthas help June escape with the baby
A network of Marthas creates a plan to help June escape with her baby and Rita asks June to leave immediately. Nick helps by containing Fred in the room. Serena sees June leaving with the baby but allows it to keep Nicole safe and give her a better future than what Gilead could offer.
As June leaves, we see Commander Lawrence assisting Emily with her escape! June decides to save Hannah. She firmly believes that her skills are useful to stay and fight in Gilead rather than leaving. June places her baby in the hands of Emily and asks her to find Luke in Canada. As they both leave, we see June in a defiant stance as the screen fades off.
The Handmaid’s Tale season two ends with a major cliff hanger – Why did Commander Lawrence help Emily and June? and What is the fate of Nick and June after defying the Commander?
Read out next post about The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 recap to know how it unfolds.
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