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The Handmaid's Tale - Useful & God Bless the Child - Review

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This review will cover two more powerful episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. “Useful” was written by Yahlin Chang. Eric Tuchman wrote “God Bless the Child” and both episodes were directed by Amma Asante, whose other credits include Belle, A United Kingdom, and Where Hands Touch. These episodes continue the wonderful imagery of the show. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and water signifies re-birth. More powerful performances from Yvonne Strahovski (Serena), Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia), and Alexis Bledel (Emily) in “God Bless the Child” – and of course, Elisabeth Moss (June) continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

“Useful” begins again with a shot of June looking up – this time at the Marthas hanging for heresy. She’s there to see if Cora is among them. Her internal monologue points out that they can’t be hung for helping the resistance because officially there is no resistance – they can’t be made into martyrs – and yet, of course, they are by those who know, like June. Martyrs inspire, June tells us – heretics are just stupid. Martyrs are useful to the resistance – but then heretics are useful to Gilead. And June wonders if she is being stupid – she doubts. But she also doubts that Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) would do that.

She’s joined by Alma (Nina Kiri) and Janine (Madeline Brewer). Alma suggests that they are done – hanging people – and June says with Marthas. Alma and Janine are hustled away by Guardians, and June realizes that is she is to get anything done, she needs allies. But she needs allies with power – that won’t be handmaids or Marthas.

I loved the shot of her walking into the kitchen with the fire in front of her – June IS on fire now – she’s ready to burn it all down – let’s not forget the final song of last season – I just love how all the imagery flows through the entire series.

The scene at Lawrence’s is not entirely successful for me. June walks in to find Beth (Kristen Gutoskie) and Sienna (Sugenja Sri) – the new Martha – attending Lawrence as he eats. Beth is actually adding berries to his bowl as he eats – until he waves her and Sienna – on coffee duty – away. June muses that it must be strange to be a man watched by women all the time. To have them flinch when he moves. To have them wondering what will he do next. Does he like me? Will he keep me? Am I safe here? I didn’t think that Lawrence was necessarily that dismissive of women or that in need of having his power stroked – at least not given his relationship with his wife. Clearly, what June describes is every woman’s relationship with men – not just in Gilead. The universal fear of a man who is physically stronger – the universal fears of every abused woman.

Beth and June are clearly wary of Sienna. She is clearly young and na├»ve – but is she a spy? Or is she a “true believer” – another zealot for Gilead? Beth is clearly rattled, but still lets June help her get ready for the Commanders’ meeting. Sienna tells them that her old Commander said that Lawrence won’t go to meetings and he’s so powerful that he can get the others to come to him. It’s not comforting news.

When Lawrence spills his drink, he calls Sienna to clean it up. June takes the opportunity to tell Beth that she doesn’t think Cora was on the gallows. Beth points out that she must be on her way to the colonies then. Neither of them have been getting any messages – it seems the network has been destroyed or is at least lying low. When Lawrence calls Beth for a refill, she says he’s testing them – they are all disposable. He also gives Sienna a hard time for a stain on her dress. She runs off, terrified.

When the doorbell rings, June looks Lawrence right in the eye and asks if she can get the door for him. He tests her – can she? Is she capable of making decisions? What is the punishment for a Handmaid opening the front door? If there isn’t one, should there be one and what should it be? What would be fair? June is too afraid to answer. Lawrence dismisses her as not capable. He’s testing her, but not in the way that she thinks.

Fred (Joseph Fiennes) arrives for the meeting. He’s been demoted. As he hands his coat to Beth, June takes the opportunity to speak to him. Tellingly, she is lighting the candles – more of that fire. She tells him that she hopes he and Mrs Waterford are well. She specifically asks after Serena. Fred isn’t sure that she’s ok, but June insists that she’s tough. June also takes the opportunity to try to pump Fred for information on Lawrence. He doesn’t give her anything concrete – they’ve always found him a bit hard to read. Fred does tell her that he’s a survivor – and not sentimental like Fred is. June replies that she never found Fred sentimental – just merciful. She tells him that she will always be grateful to him for just being alive, but she’s not in his house anymore. The flirting changes and June tells him that she needs to know anything that can help her – he tells her that Lawrence doesn’t like to be bored.

It’s at this point that Lawrence walks in – and is clearly playing with them. He comments that they knew each other – she used to be Of-Fred – he stresses the Of to be clear about the possession. He asks her if she misses it. Fred steps in and points out that she’s OfJoseph now and excuses himself. He makes it quite clear that he’s not a threat to Lawrence.

Lawrence asks June if she’s working hard – and she says yes. And he asks at what? He knows that she’s working Fred.

Meanwhile, Serena has taken refuge at her Mother’s – Pamela Joy (Laila Robins) – house on the water – ocean. She is domineering and a bully. It’s the perfect way to continue re-framing Serena as a hero instead of a villain. Clearly, she had a horrible childhood. Pamela has invited her prayer circle to the house and nothing Serena says will get her out of it. She’s had Rita (Amanda Brugel) alter a dress for Serena – it’s even more hideous than most of them! It’s a nice metaphor for Pamela remaking Serena in her image – and perhaps this “Christian” upbringing is where it all began.

Sienna comes into the kitchen to tell June that Lawrence wants her to pour instead of her because Sienna wasn’t pouring fast enough. Lawrence knows that Sienna isn’t “fast” enough – in the sense of smart enough. While it seems like he’s simply brought June in to belittle her, he’s clearly brought her in so she can eavesdrop on the meeting and learn what’s going on. He doesn’t have to tell her anything if she hears it first hand – he’s not culpable. It’s smart! He also covers himself by treating her so horribly and demonstrating his own disdain for women.

When June walks into the library, she is shocked to see Nick (Max Minghella) there – as a Commander! Lawrence notices the look that passes between them. Commander Calhoun (Jonathan Watton) is eager to start bombing their enemies, but Lawrence nixes the plan, saying there’s value to be mined – children and fertile women. Calhoun is also eager to begin “salvaging” – which appears to be Gilead-speak for killing as the alternative is sending women to the colonies, which Calhoun considers merely a slap on the wrist. They have to keep their women from getting out of control – and here he looks pointedly at Fred.

And this is clearly why Lawrence has called in June. She’s a problem, so he makes an example of her. Of how women can be “fun.” He clearly knows all about her. He tells her that they are trying to determine one’s value – according to gender. Wasn’t she once a copyeditor? Does she know of any books on the topic? He suggests that she was thinking of the Descent of Man – it’s Darwin’s theory on sexual selection – connected to natural selection. Darwin’s theories have been refuted and were entirely based in Victorian thought – so closely aligned to Gilead thought.

Nick is alarmed when Lawrence asks June to get the book for him off his shelf. She can’t be seen to be reading! Fred is also alarmed – and Putnam (Stephen Kunken) looks amused. Lawrence doesn’t give her the opportunity to “browse” directing her to the correct shelf – and then distinguishing the book by its yellow lettering. Yellow for fear? Or just happenstance? When she pulls the book out, Lawrence says “good job” like she’s a dog – and her face hardens. She kneels as she hands him the book and asks if there’s anything else that she can help with. Her face remains furious as she leaves the room, but Nick is impressed. She is even more furious as she hears the Commanders laughing as she leaves the room. In slow motion she retreats to the dining room and sits in the sunlight – biding her time.

Back at her mother’s, there’s a beautiful shot of Serena in a round window – a nice symbol of her coming full circle back to her mother’s. Rita has made a leather cover for Serena’s missing finger. She tells Serena that she will get through “this.” It’s telling that Rita who has had no kindness from Serena is kinder to her than her own mother.

Pamela has clearly told all her many friends about Serena’s entire life and business. Daniel (Dylan Trowgridge) calls her into the center of the circle. She’s forced to recite psalm 62 and to sit in the middle of the circle as they chant that she should be obedient to her husband. Her mother has clearly set the entire thing up.

This scene moves immediately to Fred – and it seems he’s pouring his heart out to Serena. His words echo the prayer. The Commander is the head of the household – marriage is until death do we part…. But he’s not speaking to Serena. He’s practicing this speech with one of the women from Jezebel’s (Cait Alexander).

This scene flows beautifully into the next as June prepares to bring tea to Lawrence. She tells us that she’s composing herself – and then plays on the word – “as one composes a speech.” She tells us that she’s not proud of herself for “this” or any of it. She has a job to do though. Lawrence is going through the files of the women that they’ve captured. He asks June if she thinks an accountant could make a good cook. She says yes.

She commiserates that he’s had a long day. He tells her that his day is just beginning. She commiserates that it’s tiring having people around. He asks her if she considers herself good at managing people. She says not particularly. He replies that she seems to be good at making friends and influencing people. Good at intimacy. She says thank you. She’s clearly offering herself for him to kiss. There’s a beautiful moment of pause here – and then Lawrence shows he knows exactly what she’s up to. He asks if this worked on Fred – but then, he’s not exactly an intellectual giant – but neither is June. She suggests he doesn’t know her yet.

Lawrence asks if women don’t want to be defined by their bodies, why do they keep using them to get what they want? June says maybe they aren’t – maybe men are just to easily distracted. He goes immediately to the Waterfords – she really mucked that up. Fred demoted, Serena de-fingered, and baby baby-napped. She left the place literally in ashes. He asks if she thinks that they got what they deserved and she tells him that no one in Gilead gets what they deserve. She tells him that she did what she had to do. He considers her transactional – if she gets him to like her, he will help her. June tells him that she thinks he might do the right thing.

Lawrence wants to know what she knows about the “right thing.” She tells him that she knows he got Emily out and let the Marthas run a resistance ring through his house. He considers it just a way of blowing off steam. He tells her that he helped Emily because she is unnaturally smart and could be useful to the world one day. He also tells June that he thinks more about her daughter than she does – he’s saving the planet for her – the human race. June insists that she’s trying to be a mother. Lawrence points out that Hannah has a mother – and that Mrs Mackenzie never stole anyone else’s husband! How does he know all this????

Lawrence tells her that Mrs Mackenzie used to organize baskets for starving orphans in Africa – before. What did June ever do? Besides not picking her sick daughter up from school – again, how does he know all this??? – and edit esoteric books. He calls her use-less. June responds that he wrote those useless books! June keeps arguing – and points out that it must be scary and awful to see the numbers on the spreadsheets turn into real people. She says she sees why he’d hole up in the house and do a good deed now and again to let himself sleep at night. She clearly hits a nerve. He tells her – how tempting it is to invent a humanity for anyone at all. He then suggests that they take a drive.

He takes her to what looks like an old meat packing plant – so very reminiscent of any of the detention camps from either WWII – or today in America. There are cages full of women. The background is green and grey so June’s red cape pops. Lawrence tells her that there will be no salvages – they are all going to the colonies. All but five. There are only five openings and five is better than nothing. He tells June that she gets to choose who is worthy of becoming a Martha. He gives her their folders. He points out that “moral stains” are pointless. He tells her to pick the best person for the job. She refuses to choose – and he threatens to kill them all. She refuses to take responsibility for their deaths. Lawrence calls it a technical detail – and sees that it’s an important distinction for her. She leaves – in his Delorean?? – refusing to choose.

Serena has retreated outside to stand in a storm rather than stay in the house with her mother. Pamela continues to treat her like a child, dictating she take off her wet clothes and eat soup. Serena tells her that she shouldn’t have brought her friends over and told them everything about her and her marriage. Pamela says she’s sorry and won’t do it again – a pointless apology now that she’s already told them! Pamela wants her to go back to Fred – she doesn’t want to hear anything from Serena about how it was. She’s just a spoiled little girl. What happened, what Serena wants – none of it matters. Pamela tells her that there’s no place in this world without Fred. Strahovski is simply magnificent in this scene.

Pamela tells her that she needs to take a deep breath and realize what she has. She tells Serena enough drama! Pamela tells her that the worst pain a mother could bear is to see her child in pain. Serena denies it’s the worst pain. Pamela tells her to stop indulging in self pity because Serena gave that baby away – and it wasn’t even hers. Pamela goes to draw her a hot bath – that will help. And it’s a nice throwback to how many times we’ve seen June in the bath…

Nick comes to Lawrence’s house. He knows Beth – but even she knows that he’s not there for her. He goes to see June. She says that he’s a Commander now – he can go and get Hannah and get them both out. But he can’t. He asks if there’s something wrong with Lawrence – June calls him a psychopath. She wants Nick to find out about Lawrence, but he’s too high up for Nick. Nick tells June that he can’t really do anything because he’s being sent to the front. Chicago. June responds, “You’ll get killed.” He tells her that he wanted to say good bye. It looks like she’s just going to let him go – but she does have feelings for him still. I loved the shot of them on either side of the wall and she reaches around to pull him back in.

The next scene begins with yet another beautiful shot of June sitting at a white table with a white bowl in front of the window with white shutters – and the light behind her. She’s told she has a visitor in the parlor – it’s Serena. She’s come to find out how June deals with her grief. She asks June if she thinks about the baby. June tells her every minute – and Serena wants to know how to stop. June notices the cover for Serena’s finger – a reminder of what Serena has sacrificed for the baby.

June asks how Serena remembers the baby. Serena says in the bath – there’s that water imagery again – the sign of re-birth because the baby has re-made Serena. She also remembers how the baby used to raise her hand – June suggests it’s like she had a point to make. Maybe she’ll be a politician – and June tells Serena that the baby got that from her. Serena denies that the baby got anything from her – she wasn’t the mother. June insists that only a mother could have done what Serena did. I loved that we go back to Darwin and the nature versus nurture debate.

June urges Serena to think about all the other mothers who have had their children taken away from them. Serena says – like you – but for the first time, Serena doesn’t get angry about it. She does tell June that’s not why she came. June insists that they can help each other – they can’t count on the men. They hate them and are not on their side. Serena insists that she tried and she’s not that person anymore. June recognizes that she’s scared – she needs to use that. Maybe they are stronger than they think they are. And just wow. These two actresses at the top of their game just crush this scene.

June takes her own advice – she presents Lawrence with her choices – thoroughly surprising him. Or does she? Has he also recognized that she’s stronger than she thinks she is? The voiceover tells us that there was a time when women were able to choose. And we also see Serena about to make a choice. June tells us that Aunt Lydia would have said they were a society that was dying. You know the choices you are expected to make. It’s hard when men revile you. This is accompanied by the image of the leather sheath for Serena’s missing finger – concrete evidence of that revulsion. Serena takes it off and walks into the ocean – to commit suicide.

June walks into the kitchen to tell Beth that they have five new Marthas for the resistance: an engineer, an IT tech, a journalist, a lawyer, and a thief. And June starts to turn Sienna. June also thinks of her mother – she wanted a woman’s culture – it isn’t what she meant, but it exists.

Serena walks into the ocean up to her waist – she looks into the setting sun – there’s that fire imagery – and she turns around. She chooses to fight – and Fred is right there on the shore, watching her. He hasn’t tried to go after her. As June said, they aren’t going to help them. She walks right past him. Serena knows she is stronger – and smarter – than he is.

June’s voice tells us that what they need to do is watch them, study them, feed them, and please them. They can make them feel strong. They know their worst nightmares – and that’s what they’ll become. I loved the shot of June’s upturned face as she says – we’re coming for them. Just wait. And the episode ends with the sound of the tide – it too is coming and it’s inevitable…

“God Bless the Child” begins with one of the beautiful cinematic rituals that the show does so well. June – in voiceover – tells us that they come together – in peace – and with rifles – to bless the children. June wonders as she watches the lines of Marthas and Wives and Handmaids – who among them can be turned – ignited (there’s that fire imagery again!) – to burn this shit place to the ground.

Aunt Lydia herds the handmaids, admonishing them to behave from a scooter. Alma dubs her ‘hell on wheels.’ At the church, Aunt Lydia tells them that the most blessed handmaids – those who have delivered children – get to sit in a place of honor. June is shocked when Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) is also called to the front. Aunt Lydia makes a particular point in telling Janine that she’s got a special place for her. The handmaids are now subjected to thorough searches before attending a ceremony.

There’s another beautiful shot from above of the handmaids climbing a staircase that looks like an eye – Under his eye, indeed! June learns that Ofmatthew has had not 1 but three babies for Gilead. She considers herself blessed – but it’s the first crack we’ve seen in her.

The episode is interspersed with June’s memories of baptizing Hannah. We get a brief guest appearance by Cherry Jones as Holly. When the godfather they’ve chosen doesn’t show up, Holly urges them not to bother. Hannah doesn’t need to be sanctified by some holier than thou child molesters. Holly does have a point when she tells June that you can’t let religion control your choices – we’ve seen how that works out in Gilead. Moira (Samira Wiley) points out that the church isn’t thrilled she’s to be the fairy godmother. It’s Luke (O-T Fagbenle) who takes charge and says that they are doing it.

June sees Fred arrive. She knows she should hate him, but it’s more complicated than that. He’s there without Serena. Naomi (Ever Carradine) is there with Agnes – and was it just me or shouldn’t that baby be a lot bigger by now? After all, June got pregnant after the baby was born, so it should be at least a year old by now… It’s clear which baby is Ofmatthew’s and June remarks that he’s cute. Ofmatthew says that they are all beautiful miracles – but she seems slightly less serene than ususal.

It makes a great contrast to jump back and forth between the two ceremonies. Hannah’s baptism is an intimate family affair. June and Luke are asked to love God and their neighbors and raise Hannah as a Christian – and Holly and Moira are asked to help June and Luke. In Gilead, it’s the entire crowd that is asked to watch and guide the parents – more surveillance. Under his eye again…

The ceremony in Gilead takes a beat to remember the daughter of Gilead who was stolen from them by evil. By an unrepentant sinner. June smiles as Commander Logan (Tom Barnett) tells the assembled to pray for the child. He goes on to say may the Lord protect her and keep her safe. June knows that she IS safe – much safer than she’d be in Gilead.

Back in Toronto, Emily is reunited with Sylvia (Clea DuVall – who is always very welcome as a guest star!). Emily has a moment or two of panic when Sylvia is late because she couldn’t find parking. The two hesitate awkwardly before hugging each other. It’s not a fairy tale ending.

Mrs Putnam invites the Handmaids to the reception. On the way there, June asks Aunt Lydia how she’s feeling, and Aunt Lydia essentially tells her to mind her own business. Janine bubbles about seeing Angela – and Aunt Lydia again show favoritism and prompts Janine to say that she’s expected to be a “good girl.”

Naomi welcomes the Handmaids. She then tells June that she’ll never forget what she did for Angela. She wouldn’t be there if June hadn’t been on the bridge that day. But I also wonder – and it’s clear from June’s face that she’s wondering it too – is she also alluding to what June did for Nichole – and prompting Serena to try to speak out? I think there’s a very good chance that Naomi can also be ignited… Ofmatthew comments that Handmaids shouldn’t be there. It’s not how it’s done. And that’s another indication that Naomi isn’t playing strictly by the rules.

June is lurking and watching the Commanders and their wives when Serena shows up. She stops for a quiet word with June, asking what she’s missed. June is hilarious as she says jello shots, karaoke, charades… the usual! June then mentions that she didn’t see Serena at the dedication. It was awkward enough for Fred! Serena says that she would hate to be a distraction. June points out that the wives might surprise her. They look to Serena as a leader and they followed her once before. It’s a nice glass half full moment when Serena says half of them left her – and June counters that half stayed.

Serena asks if June regrets not leaving. June tells her not without Hannah – at least there’s still hope if she’s there. She might get to see her again. Serena says she can’t say the same for Nichole – but she’s not as angry and bitter as would have been before. Fred comes over to say that he’s happy she’s there. Serena tells him that she’s there for Naomi. Fred offers his hand and Serena walks right past him.

In Toronto, Emily looks at the pictures on the walls; the toys and pictures on the table; the baby boots on the mantle. All evidence of how much she’s missed. Sylvia taps her fingers nervously. She tells Emily that she got that special tea Emily likes – the one that tastes like dirt – for breakfast. Emily suggests that she can get breakfast at the hotel – she doesn’t want to make it awkward for Sylvia. Sylvia laughs nervously and agrees that it IS awkward. But who cares!

The two are waiting for Oliver to get home from school. Sylvia tells Emily that he begged to stay home from school, but Sylvia thought Emily might need a moment to catch her breath before seeing him too – it’s good thinking. What Emily really wants to know is whether Oliver remembers her – after all, there are no reminders in the living room. Sylvia takes Emily up to Oliver’s room – there are pictures of Emily everywhere – including one of her fighting to get home that was drawn by Oliver.

Oliver finds them there. He tells Emily that he’s not supposed to hug her until she’s ready. Emily says why don’t they make a deal to hug when they are both ready. Emily tells Oliver she missed him. He shows her the fossils he’s drawn in school. Over his head, Emily marvels at how big he is – Sylvia just acknowledges it.

Aunt Lydia finds a quiet place to rest. Janine brings her tea. Aunt Lydia is upset that they are blaming her for Emily. Aunt Lydia wishes that she hadn’t rescued Emily from the colonies. Janine tells Aunt Lydia that she’s glad that she rescued her.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Ofmatthew defends Aunt Lydia as just doing her job. They are all just trying to get through it. Alma points out that Ofmatthew wasn’t burnt by Aunt Lydia, and Ofmatthew says she can’t blame Aunt Lydia for that! June just looks at Ofmatthew. Fred interrupts them and sends the handmaids to the buffet!

June points out that the handmaids can’t eat from the buffet, and Fred says that he’ll handle the complaints. He’s come to talk to June about Serena. Fred wants to get on with things… together. June asks if that’s what he wants – and he says of course. She’s his wife. June asks if that’s what his wife wants. Fred says she hasn’t been very forthcoming – and says June knows how she can be. June says “stubborn.” Fred says that he doesn’t think that Serena can be satisfied planting flowers and knitting sweaters. June points out that she’s not sure that Serena ever was satisfied. She asks if he’s really open to change. Could he give her a real voice – behind the scenes of course. She suggests it’s worth discussing. Fred remarks that Serena hasn’t said more than two words to him…. It’s clear that he wants June to sound her out for him.

There is yet another gorgeous shot of Serena in the pool room. There is steam rising from the pool and Serena lights a cigarette. She’s still near the water – but she’s smoking again – she’s ready for the next phase in her rebirth. June joins her. There’s another wonderful shot of Serena with the sunlight behind her and then June’s face with the light flickering off the water on her face. The two sit. June tells Serena that Fred wants to reconcile, but he doesn’t know how to do it. She tells Serena she made a suggestion – more freedom in their marriage.

Serena wonders to do what. June tells her that as Mrs Waterford she has influence and power. Serena says up to a point. And June tells her to move the point! Like they did before. June points out that Fred is lost without Serena – she’s not wrong. She tells Serena – wear the dress. And I so wanted her to say “and the pants” – but she says, pull the strings. Serena can make Fred her puppet again. Serena offers June a cigarette – and the two both light up!

Back in Toronto, Oliver is getting ready for bed. Sylvia picks up the dinosaur book they’ve been reading at night. Emily is leaning against the door, and Oliver asks her to read it to him. It’s such a familiar, normal family moment that Emily and Sylvia are both overcome by their emotions and begin crying. Oliver takes over reading for Emily when he sees her distress. DuVall and Bledel are both terrific.

Naomi brings Agnes into the gathering and offers to let Serena hold her. The baby is like a magnet to Janine who sees nothing else as she intrudes into the gathering. June is terrified when Aunt Lydia shows up. Janine asks to hold the baby. Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken) is right there saying no, but Naomi surprised me. She points out that God is gracious and righteous and full of compassion and she lets Janine hold the baby. Aunt Lydia is not happy – but June sees this as a real breakthrough.

Unfortunately, Janine goes too far. She says that Agnes is lucky to have the Putnams as her parents – and then she offers to give them another child. She wants to be their handmaid again. June tries to pull Janine away and then Aunt Lydia is there. Janine implores Aunt Lydia - isn’t this what they were taught? She’s willing to “serve” as long as she can be with her daughter. And then Aunt Lydia begins to hit her. June tries to stop her and Aunt Lydia turns on her. June ends up cowering momentarily on the floor and Aunt Lydia goes back to beating Janine. The wives and Commanders are all stunned. Finally, June flings herself protectively over Janine and screams NO at Aunt Lydia.

Guardians drag Janine away and Aunt Lydia finally seems to realize where she is and what she’s done. Ann Dowd is simply brilliant in this scene. She gives her deepest apologies to the Putnams and limps to another room. June looks at Serena – it’s a perfect demonstration of what the Handmaids are forced to endure – all for wanting to be with her baby. Aunt Lydia finally makes it to another room and collapses into a chair where she also collapses mentally.

Back in Toronto, Sylvia is sitting on the porch. Emily asks if she’s cold, and she says yes, but she likes it. She asks if Emily needs anything. She’s going to head to the hotel, but sees that Sylvia would like her to stay for a while. The two sit in silence.

At the Putnams, the Handmaids prepare to leave. Alma asks if Janine’s alright – it’s a nice parallel to the previous scene. June tells Alma that Janine’s had worse – and it gives us hope for Emily. She’s certainly had worse than this awkward, painful homecoming. Ofmatthew makes herself even more unpleasant by saying to June “that’s what you get” – Janine got what she deserved in her eyes.

Serena has a final word with June, saying that’s not the way the party should have ended – poor Naomi. June is not amused – Naomi isn’t the one who got beaten. Serena says this is exactly why the system was designed as it was. However, Serena tells June exactly where Hannah likely attends school and that the girls play outside after lunch. Maybe June can find a way to see her. When June turns to thank her, Serena has disappeared.

Back at Hannah’s christening, Luke is so happy they did it. June agrees when Luke says that the day was important to say thank you to God. It’s their day – so they are going to choose where to eat. I loved that Holly is insisting on a vegan restaurant even though she’s not vegan – there isn’t a lot of room for humor in this story, but what there is, is a nice relief.

In Gilead, a Guardian insists on seeing Commander Waterford. June follows and finds Fred and Serena watching footage of a protest from Toronto. Luke is front and center with Nichole – who he names and shows to the camera. Serena, in the end, gets to see her daughter – safe, happy, and loved – before June gets to see Hannah. June identifies Luke for the Guardians – and she smiles. Serena asks to see the footage again – and echoing Emily’s words about Oliver – comments on how big she’s gotten. June leaves the room and sinks to the floor, crying through her tears.

Back in Toronto, Luke and Moira have Nicole baptized. They have a hard time explaining their relationship to the baby, but the Priest (Kevin Whalen) is completely sympathetic when he learns the mother is in Gilead. Luke tells him that they think the baby should be absolved of Gilead’s sins. The episode ends with a terrific gospel song – “Down to the River to Pray” song by Alison Krauss. It’s a perfect water metaphor – that carries us through all the images of water of rebirth and absolutions – and baptism under fire. Have I mentioned recently how much I love this show?

What did you think of the episodes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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