The Handmaid's Tale | Episode 10 "The Last Ceremony" Recap
This was a terribly emotional episode and awfully timely given the US's current policy of ripping children from their immigrant parents' arms, but let's get into it.
The episode opens on the ritualistic rape of Emily by her much older commander. As usual, his wife is holding her down while June describes the inner monologue that a typical Handmaid might play out as a coping mechanism. Only, in stark contrast to the pin drop silent sex Fred has with June in her monthly fertility ritual, Emily's commander lets out audible gasps and grunts of pleasure and even, a resounding orgasmic sigh when he is finished. As he stumbles away upon completion, he falls to the floor from a heart attack. His wife immediately rushes to his side and asks Emily to get help. Emily smugly replies "It's better if I lay on my back." Yes, girl! The audacity of this woman to ask a Handmaid to assist in the rescue of a man who forces himself on her monthly. We are halfway in on second season and it's hard for me to wrap my mind around women who allow this to happen to other women. A small victory comes when the wife leaves to get an ambulance and Emily is left alone with the commander. She kicks him twice and I had one of those moments where you shout at the screen...you know? KICK THAT BASTARD AGAIN!
Word travels fast and June is looking at some crocodile heads in the supermarket when she overhears some handmaids gossiping about what transpired. She walks over to Emily to ask if she is ok, and here comes good ole Janine with her Pollyanna attitude about hopefully being in a better home next time. I'm still wondering if this is a coping mechanism or what? Like a brain split? I mean, I'm not a psychologist, but I'm positive she has to have some sort of dissociative personality disorder going on. What else explains her attitude and disposition?
June starts feeling contractions again, which she is seemingly trying to ignore. The longer the delay, the more uncertainty about her future is delayed. She notices the Guardian and Eden flirting. Although I know that Eden is a child, she is so Pro-Gilead, it's really difficult for me to feel any sort of empathy for her. However, at the end of the day, I completely understand that she just wants to feel some sort of human connection and intimacy, which of course is forbidden in Gilead. Everything is controlled, orchestrated and intentionally designed for some sort of purpose. Free will and the ability to love who you desire and who desires you, is strictly forbidden. How else would you be able to amass this kind of control over an entire population?
June tries to give encouragement to Emily and hope by sharing that Moira successfully escaped and is now living in Canada but her contractions interrupt her pep talk and she is rushed home. When Nick helps June out of the car home, Eden notices the way he holds her and handles her with care. It's what she longs for. What anyone would desire in this cold horrific world devoid of sensitivity and humanity. Is anyone else irritated when Serena doesn't even acknowledge June but immediately starts praying over the baby? She disgusts me so much. Especially when she says, "This is the will of God and we shall be glad and rejoice in it." Lady, so you are serving a God whose will it is for women to get raped monthly and have their children taken away? The Handmaid's Tale is becoming deeply depressing to bear witness to. That's how I feel. Like I am a fly on a wall to a life that could actually be real life and has been real life for some people.
I digress. What follows is one of those weird birth ceremonies where the wife fakes labor in one room with an actual harpist in the background, and the handmaid is another room getting ready for actual labor. The men also have their own gathering and the cigar passing starts early while they comment about their handmaids and one commander's has a pregnant wife. I'm very curious about how that works. What happens when a wife gets pregnant on her own? I'm also shocked to hear that you are allowed to have sex with your spouse in Gilead.
The way the wives rub Serena's back as if she really is pregnant speaks to how delusional these women are. The way she acts as if she really is pregnant, speaks to how deranged she is. Even getting her feet rubbed in the process. Her little fantasy is interrupted when Aunt Lydia comes to deliver the news that June was in false labor. Serena wants to have her induced, but Aunt Lydia is advising against this. She reassures her that Offred will eventually give birth soon, and will be on her way to a new post soon. "In another district" Serena sneers and this is what puts June in a panic.
That evening she appeals to the Commander to send her to the same district where her daughter is. Her mistake was in saying "if it is at all within your power to do that". The Commander's ego is fragile, as we've already seen on several occasions. To view him as anything but the powerful man he wants to be and perceives himself to be, is insulting. He kicks her out of his office, but not before June snidely informs him that the baby isn't his. "You have no idea what it is like to have a child of your own flesh and blood, and you never will."
Serena and the Commander are such base and disgusting people. Really! We are looking at two lunatics that have created a world where only their desires and needs matter. The fact that June would want to be close to the child that was violently taken away from her, is clearly a concept they don't understand and can't relate to. I mean after all, they fundamentally believe that the baby she currently is carrying, is theirs. It is offensive to Serena that June didn't give birth when she was supposed to and would have the audacity to be happy about it. So when the Commander comes to see her in the greenhouse, they have each other to commiserate with. They discuss inducing "naturally".
How on earth does a woman get to this? Seriously, if you have an idea, please comment because I want to know the psychology behind Serena's deranged thought process. The next scene took my breath away. It was Serena's suggestion, but the Commander, of course, went through with it.
Serena sends for June to come see her. When she comes down to the room, Serena is sitting on the bed and tells her to sit next to her. The Commander comes in and closes the door and Serena says, "We need to help the baby come out naturally." June immediately starts pleading with her about hurting the baby. Serena dismisses her and tells her it's what's best for the baby. The Commander flips June on her back as Serena holds her down and he proceeds to rape her. They are looking into each other's eyes the entire time. He actually recites scripture while he is doing it. The entire time, June only appeals to Serena who only tightens her grip. Did you feel sorry for Serena at some point? Maybe in the last episode? Because I never did. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities for me about this woman and any pain she feels, is that of her own creation.
Eden is helping Rita in the kitchen. To be honest, she is so boring to me. Her voice and her juvenile speech. I am always tempted to fast-forward whenever she is on screen. She takes out the trash and runs into the guardian for the house. They kiss while Nick is observing and smoking a cigarette outside. She breaks away from the kiss when she realizes Nick is watching. She immediately runs upstairs to pray for forgiveness. She hopes Nick would be mad at her. He isn't. She wants him to care. He doesn't. She got married because she wanted to be loved. He really doesn't and wont. She is this naive. Oh well. Poor her. Love don't live here. Welcome to Gilead, Eden!
The next day the Commander comes into June's room to tell her that he planned a surprise for her. At this point, we already know this is how he rolls. Abuse her. Reward her. Abuse again. She gets into the car with Nick. He hands Nick an address and tells him to be back in 3 hours and not to let anyone see them. He kisses her on the forehead. "You deserve this." Along the way Nick attempts to find out what happened, but June is completely gutted. She has recoiled within herself and simply can't speak.
They pull up to a beautiful home in the woods. Once again art imitates life as we witness June reunite with her daughter. It's so emotional. She is so happy to see her daughter. She is crying and hugging her. Her daughter hides behind her Martha, who lets June know that they've changed her name, of course! Turns out, her daughter does remember who she is. Asking her mother if it hurt when she got hit in the head and whether or not she tried to find her. This scene was the one that I had a visceral reaction to. As a mother, I could feel my actual heart breaking at the thought of having my child torn away from me. Her instinct is to protect her as most mothers would. To find out if her "new" parents are nice to her. Do they punish her? Hannah notices that her mother is pregnant. She knows that she can't keep the baby. It's not until they have to leave a few brief minutes later that Hannah's distrustful exterior breaks and she calls her 'mommy". When Hannah comes back for one last hug, June is ever the protective mother, instructing her to listen and be good. How are they doing this at our border??? Next thing we know, two guardians arrive, Nick draws his gun, ends up getting shot and dragged into the car. They also take Nick's car too. Leaving June behind with returning contractions, all alone in the middle of nowhere.
- As I watching the first scene with Emily, I was struck by how old this couple is in comparison to Serena and Fred. In the book, Serena was much older and for creative reasons, the showrunner decided to cast a younger Serena so there could be a sort of competition between her and Offred. The other thing that I thought about was the sexuality of a "wife" albeit archaic but there are legitimately women out there who believe that becoming a man's wife absolves them of certain sexual activities. Even if they were doing said activities before they got married. Since all these Wives are complicit in a society that sanctions ritualistic rape, and excuses it for the greater good, how many of them feel "relieved" that someone else is "doing their job"? In current day, the type that would turn a blind eye to a side-piece because of "at least he isn't bothering me" attitude....SPEAK ON IT!
- Serena is truly a pathetic character to me. It's no longer about her "ideals", it's about getting what she wants (meaning, purpose) and exerting power and authority over someone more powerless than she is (June). She and Fred are two sick, twisted megalomaniacs and these are the very personality types that should never be left in charge...Trump??? Case and point. Also, just like Trump won't step down from his disgusting immigration policy of separating children from their parents, Serena can't speak out against Gilead policies. It would be like admitting she was wrong and she is too deeply rooted in the sunken place at this point.
- Albeit understandable, June has lost the ability to be as cunning and strategic as the Commander and Serena are. My biggest problem with her is that she always plays her hand too soon and she fails to read simple cues depending on the personality type she is dealing with. Her mistake was not in the request that she made, but the implication that the Commander might not have the power to make it happen. Then to rub salt in the wound and throw it out there that the baby is not his. It's really not a smart move given her history with these people.
- They used sometimes word for word real, actual dialog between reunited parents and children that they received from UNICEF families, per the Behind the Scenes!
- Have you been watching little brown children being taken away from their parents at the border and nothing moved inside of you, but the scene with this blue-eyed blonde woman and her kidnapped child moved you to tears? Check your bias!
- The acting in this show is absolutely phenomenal as is the music selection.