We hit both highs and lows through season two of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale but we're going to break it all down here. Beware for spoilers in this piece because we are going into every episode, not full breakdowns, but glimpses. Elisabeth Moss returns as June/Offred trapped with the Waterfords once again. We are served thirteen episodes where hope is bleak and the cycle remains almost unchanged.
What season two did well:
Elisabeth Moss owns her role once again as the badass handmaid, even if she loses hope at one point. June is back with the Waterfords quickly as season two begins, but she almost escapes within the first few episodes, thanks to help from Nick (Max Minghella). We get a bigger picture of June’s mindset and life this time around. Her anger becomes our anger as the season progresses especially in the heart wrenching scene where she gets to see her daughter, Hannah.
Last season, The Handmaid’s Tale made us hate Yvonne Strahovski because of her portrayal of the high and mighty Serena Waterford. She was in Chuck, and we love her so this was painful, but season two changes things. Serena still has moments where she loses us but she’s sympathetic. We get a view into her and Fred’s (Joseph Fiennes) past and learn that she was the more powerful member of their marriage. Gilead breaks Serena this season as she realizes that, even as a commander's wife, she isn’t immune to the cruelties of this society. Strahovski does a wonderful job portraying Serena, expertly crossing in and out of the lines between loving her and hating her.
Though we only get two episodes with Bradley Whitford’s eccentric commander, we want to see more. Emily (Alexis Bledel) becomes the handmaid in his house at the end of the season, learning that he was built the economy of Gilead. Lawrence, we learn in the short time he’s around, regrets Gilead. He doesn’t participate in ‘the ceremony’ and ultimately helps Emily escape. He claims he’s “getting himself in some deep shit.” We’d like to know where his story goes next and could he help destroy Gilead from the inside?
The Marthas are rarely featured in the series, other then Rita who’s with June and the Waterfords, but they are the unsung heroes of this series. In the season finale, we learn that they have a system to help people escape, and they have united to accomplish this. Throughout the season finale, two commanders are seen looking for their Marthas, and in the end we find out they’ve been working together to help Offred and her baby escape.
We didn’t get to know Nick very well in the first season once he become Mrs. Waterford answer to conceiving a child. The story does a wonderful job of expanding on his character in season two. As far as we know, he was a faithful Eye until June entered his life, but now he’s involving himself in multiple attempts to get her and their child free from Gilead’s clutches. We also see him rocked by Gilead’s violence in the second to last episode. He’s not perfect, but among the men of this series, he’s a good one.
What season two didn’t do well:
In season one, Alexis Bledel’s character was our vision of hope and resistance. She killed a guard with a car, after being mutilated because of a relationship she had with a Martha. The writers decided to bring her back for season two instead of letting the character go out in a moment of glory. She starts in the colonies which was one of the hardest parts to watch of season two. Emily returns as a handmaid after the bombing (which somehow killed one commander and a bunch of handmaids even though they were running away) being placed in Lawrence’s home. We did have two great things come from her unnecessary addition to season two. Emily violently attacked Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) in the finale leaving Lydia’s future uncertain. Emily also brought about the introduction of Commander Lawrence. For those two things, we’ll overlook the insanity it took to bring her back as a handmaid.
Eden (Sydney Sweeney) was a fifteen year old girl pulled from her family to be married to Nick. Had her character had more time on screen, her story could have really shook the series but we didn’t get enough time. At her first introduction, she is an obstacle for June and Nick, which as shippers we didn’t like. Then she comes off as a pious submissive of Gilead aimed to please in any way she can, annoying in every scene. Just as he story gets interesting because she falls in love with a guardian named Isaac (Rohan Mead), we only get glimpses of their love story. Suddenly, they’re so deeply in love they run away, get caught, and are drowned in a swimming pool. Don’t get us wrong, that scene was emotional but it could have been more had they given us more time with Eden.
Scenes without June or Serena
The Handmaid’s Tale tried to venture away from the central plot with glimpses of life in Canada where Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley) live. We want to root for scenes like these where we can see what life is like on the other side, but the show has done such a good job with June that we only want to see what is going on in her world. Any scene that takes away from June’s story as Offred, even flashbacks, are unwelcome. Season three needs to find a way to make us care enough about these other characters that we become invested in their stories too.
June’s almost escapes
We saw June almost get out of Gilead twice in season two, three times if you count her almost escape that was interrupted by labor. The first two times, she was caught and shipped straight back to the Waterfords, but the third time she chooses to stay. June gives her baby to Emily before staying behind. It’s obvious, she stays to find Hannah before truly escaping but from a viewers standpoint, it becomes a useless plot device. We want her out, and we want to see what her life would be like reunited with Luke and Moira now that she has a child with another man, who she’s also in love with. Maybe she’ll get send to Commander Lawrence because he’d be all about kidnapping Hannah and assisting in another prison break, or at least he seems like he would.
Overall, season two was phenomenal once again with just a few areas of concern, especially moving forward to future seasons. We don’t want this show to get caught up in the same pattern over and over, losing us and ruining what they’ve worked so hard to create. Let’s see June, the Marthas, Nick, Serena, and Lawrence take down Gilead. Praise be and blessed day.