The Handmaid’s Tale‘s return to (ab)normality after June’s attempted escape has been soul-destroying for all involved. June – now Offred once again – is depleted, Nick is heartbroken watching her glide around the house having given up fighting, and even Serena seems to miss the old June and is unsettled by her new subservience.
It was another muted episode this week as everyone in Gilead just got their head down and got on with it, though it had a powerful juxtaposition at its core.
There was a gay wedding in the colonies, where one woman wed another on her deathbed, while a surprise twist back in town saw Nick ‘gifted’ an arranged marriage (to a young teenager presumably being auditioned for breeding). Janine (formerly Ofwarren) and Offred’s responses to their predicaments in the two contrasting environments mirrored one another, the former attempting to find small moments of wonder in the bleak labour camp, the latter trying to salvage some sense of normalcy in the Waterfords’ household. It all begged the question: is it better to exist in a living hell with a semblance of freedom (of speech, of sexuality, of identity etc), or in silent captivity with a semblance of well-being (at least you get a warm bath).
This week, the colonies scored a rare, albeit grim victory, the initially skeptical Emily (formerly Ofglen), who accused Ofwarren of “dressing up a slaughterhouse”, eventually seeing the small beauty in the wedding at the episode’s close, while Offred threw herself out of a window. This seemed to be an attempted abortion-suicide, but both mother and baby survived, and the unborn child’s resilience stirred something in Offred, renewing her desire to escape; Offred had understandably been so focused on her own condition that she hadn’t previously truly appreciated the responsibility she has to try and liberate her child.
‘Seeds’ isn’t the first episode of season 2 I would choose to re-watch, but it was another very competent episode in what is a frighteningly consistent show, the production design, cinematography and colour grading (the burnt, acrid tones of the colonies! The imperial colours of Gilead!) being unparalleled on television right now.
The Handmaid’s Tale continues Wednesdays on Hulu and arrives in the UK on Channel 4 later this month.