The Handmaid's Tale season 2 episode 11 'Holly' review & recap: Largely silent episode unfolds like a horror movie

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 27 June 2018 12:13
Comments
The Handmaid's Tale new episode trailer

"I'm sorry there's so much pain in this story...but there's nothing I can do to change it," June narrated at the opening of 'Holly', which was a little fourth wall-breaking as, though it was technically part of a letter to other handmaids, it felt like an admission to viewers after two relentlessly brutal seasons. A 'Yes it's bleak, but life can be bleak; deal with it.'

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

All The Handmaid's Tale episodes are survival episodes to some degree, but this week's was particularly direct and linear in this regard, as June was battered by waves of existential threats at the secluded house where she was abandoned last episode.

The tone was somewhere between a horror movie, DiCaprio survival movie The Revenant and one of the more desperate episodes of Breaking Bad, 'Holly' featuring very minimal dialogue and simply tracking June as she tried to keep herself and her baby alive.

The first hurdle came with Serena and Fred arriving at the house to search for her. The couple, who would be in big trouble if June's meeting with Hannah and subsequent escape got out, were more honest and venomous with each other than they have ever been in the show. Serena was particularly candid, it coming as quite a shock when she told her husband he is "such a fucking idiot" and used the correct word for the ritualised sex ceremonies she previously would have feared to utter: rape. When she suggested she and Fred are at risk of being hung on The Wall, Fred barked: "Maybe they'll hang us side-by-side; just my fucking luck." Ouch.

June, who had discovered a shotgun in the house by this point, trained it on her captors but couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger, pitying Serena too much to kill or injure her. There's a reason the showrunners want you to retain some sympathy for Serena, and I fear that - at this rate - the end of the season could see Fred have her arrested and/or killed.

The warring couple left the house without discovering June hiding upstairs, but her next challenge came with trying to liberate a would-be getaway car from a locked garage. The scene where she tried to repeatedly ram the door with the car with next to no run-up was reminiscent of the one-inch punch buried alive scene in Kill Bill II, only June was unsuccessful, the physical exertion of her efforts inducing labour.

A wolf, smelling the blood now pouring out of her, threatened to become a new antagonist in the episode when it appeared in the snow, but June stared it down with a look of pure 'Not fucking today. Not you as well.'

Her final struggle was the hardest, June being forced to give birth unassisted and with no pain relief or even clean bedding. It was a more visceral labour scene than we are used to seeing on television - June screaming while naked on all fours - and it did a much better job of conveying the pain and ultimately the power of childbirth than so many silly sitcom portrayals before it.

The lead-up to this was peppered with a series of flashbacks somewhat more half-hearted than we're used to that married up with the events of the present. We saw Hannah's first days at school - the first time June had to abandon her child, the fashion repercussions of her baby bump - juxtaposed with how later the bump threatened to give her away to authorities, and how her mother suggested a natural home birth for Hannah - something June didn't like the idea of at the time anyway and now found herself forced to undergo.

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

The episode closed with June cradling her newborn, apparently healthy, baby, which she named Holly after her mother, whose spirit she has come to appreciate more since Gilead happened. The writing could have been stronger in the "I tell, therefore you are" finish to the narrated letter to handmaids, but it was still a nice moment, a rare one that is nevertheless tinged with sadness, not least because June now no longer has the protection of being pregnant.

Having fired shotgun blasts to alert people nearby of her presence earlier in the episode (we're to assume she decided to put her baby's health above her shot a freedom), a car approached just before the titles rolled - let's hope it's a local and nascent rebel, not one of the guards who abducted Nick.

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

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in