The Handmaid's Tale season 2 episode 7 review: Fred lives, June and Serena team up

Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 30 May 2018 20:04
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The Handmaid's Tale has an uncanny ability to conjure up shots so bleak and yet so beautiful. Stills you instinctively want to make your desktop wallpaper until you realise they depict absolute horror.

It was on form in this regard again this week, opening on the strikingly symmetrical funeral of the handmaids who perished in last week's bombing. Acts of terrorism kill civilians too - even supporters - was the message, as viewers tried to resist the thought that the handmaids' funeral outfits could be one for the autumn/winter 2018 lookbook. The ravishing show was as ravishing as ever, though not quite as eventful as last week's very densely plotted episode.

Fred, who I assumed had died in the blast, somehow made it out alive, though his senior, Pryce, was not so lucky, and was swiftly replaced by a new commander named Cushing, who was intent on sending a message to would-be rebels by publicly executing people left, right and centre, regardless of the substance of the evidence of their ties to the bomb plot. His own methods came back to bite him, however, Serena, June and Nick conspiring to have him accused of treason himself.

Some sort of truce or even teaming up of Serena and June has felt on the cards for a while now, and ultimately this is what it took - a mutual existential threat to them. Their storyline ended this episode very positively, Serena assuming control of the house, recognising June's previous life as a newspaper editor and asking her to look over government documents, reading and writing of course being a major crime for women in Gilead. June unholstered the pen from its lid and clicked it like a trigger, an empowering moment, though I sense this unlikely cooperation between the pair will buckle under even light pressure.

Outside of Gilead, Luke and Moira learned of the bombing and Moira set about combing through the extensive archives of unidentified dead, Luke leaving her to it as he apparently finds it easier to assume the worst than go on in hope for loved ones' safety. These scenes were spliced together with flashbacks revealing that Moira once served as an egg donor, and though this event didn't influence her as strongly as one might have expected, it did lead to a chance meeting with a woman who would eventually become her girlfriend. This was, in fact, the first flashback this season that I thought dragged a little, and we were introduced to Moira's partner, Odette, at such a late stage that Moira's subsequent grieving when she found Odette's picture in the archives didn't quite have the emotional resonance it should have.

Still, another perfectly gripping episode, and one with undertones of rebellion. Janine and Emily were returned to Gilead and a new camaraderie was established by June among the handmaids, each of them telling all the others their real name - a revolt sparked by the empowering reinstatement of identity.

The Handmaid's Tale continues on Hulu on Wednesdays in the US, with Channel 4 following a few weeks behind in the UK.

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