A birth, an Oprah, a Serena, a Moira, a denial, a denial, a denial. Tara Ward recaps episode 11 of The Handmaid’s Tale, season 2.
This I (do not) know is true, but I do know Oprah was the welcome voice of the resistance in this week’s intense episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. June listened to her soothing tones on the car radio while she planned her escape from Gilead, as Oprah dropped political truth bombs via the resistance airwaves of Radio Free America. “We are still here,” Oprah told June, before playing the classic Bruce Springsteen hit ‘Hungry Heart’. Everybody’s got a hungry heart, everybody’s putting sanctions on Gilead’s arse. God bless America.
Oprah’s message was a moment of joy in an episode that took our last scraps of hope, threw them into the flames, pulled them out again, drenched them in June’s blood and shot them into a million pieces. It was, as always, brutally magnificent television. All June had to do was find the keys to the garage that housed the car so she could drive to Canada in the ten minutes she had spare before she gave birth. That’s not much to ask of the universe, aka Oprah, right?
Spoiler alert: June did not escape.
“You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!” Oprah could have told June, but let’s not get carried away like we’re Tom Cruise jumping on a yellow couch. This is The Handmaid’s Tale, where the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. June might have found the perfect vehicle to escape in, but it’s worth nothing if she can’t drive it out of the garage. Fools, did you think June was about to catch a break? That door was as impenetrable as the Commander’s shrivelled soul. May the Lord open, indeed.
June was so close to freedom we could sniff it, even if it did smell like Bruce Springsteen’s sweaty headband. We could also smell the Waterfords, who were literally steaming that they’d misplaced their handmaid for the second time. I thought Serena was angry that time she threw potting mix all over the greenhouse after the dystopian fungus killed her seedlings, but this was next level. Their marriage was imploding, their precious vessel was missing, and Serena was sick of sorting her husband’s shit out. Seems fair.
June hid in the attic with a rifle and watched the Waterfords argue over how many times you can lose a handmaid before it reflects badly on your slave management skills. Serena told Fred he was a “fucking idiot”, Fred called Serena a bitch, and I didn’t know whose side to take because they were both correct. “You’ve left me with nothing,” Serena sobbed, and if this wasn’t an ‘a-ha’ moment for Fred then he should kneel down before the royal altar of Queen Oprah forever and ever amen.
Sadly, the Waterfords left before June could take them out like the sniper she was born to be. Her contractions began in earnest, and it’s good to know ‘ramming a stolen car into a wall’ and ‘Bruce Springsteen 80s classics’ are legitimate methods to naturally induce labour. Frightened and alone, June flashbacked to her pregnancy with Hannah when her mother Holly told her “you are stronger than you think”. It was timely advice, because by this stage I too was gripping my stomach in terror and trying to centre myself with some deep breathing.
Also, can we meet Moira’s friend Bridget? Bridget gave birth in the woods and YouTubed it, and that’s an Oprah full circle moment if ever I’ve seen one.
Baby Holly’s birth was a primal scene of strength and power and general all-round female awesomeness. June birthed naked in front of the fire, but she wasn’t alone; she was with her mother and Luke and Hannah and Moira. She was with the handmaids and Aunt Lydia and their enthusiastic cries of “push, push, push”. Hell, she was probably even with Oprah and Bruce and YouTubey Bridget. That face! Those groans! Congratulations Elisabeth Moss, you just gave birth to an Emmy.
Also, shout out to Moira, because this was all of us at some point.
I don’t know if they do placenta smoothies in dystopia, but June earned herself a jumbo sized one. Before she delivered Holly, she stumbled into the snow to shoot the rifle into the air, knowing she had to return to the Waterfords. “Here I am,” she said. “Come get me.” As the automatic garage door slammed shut on freedom, June shared precious moments with her newborn daughter while I howled like the wolf that stared June down in the forest. Awoooo, The Handmaid’s Tale. Awooooo.
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“I’m sorry there’s so much pain in this story,” June said at the start of the episode, but it’s fine. With two more episodes to go in season two, I’m still confident Oprah will burst into Gilead on a flaming chariot to slay the patriarchy and save the day. She’s never let us down yet, and in the words of the resistance: stars and stripes forever, baby.
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