The Handmaid’s Tale: Episode Nine

It is the morning after—of June telling Luke about the last time she saw Hannah, that is. They are looking into each other’s eyes. June begins to apologize to Luke about Hannah, but telling him that she is safe. Luke wants to try to find her and bring her to Canada, saying that they can do it together. He takes out the material he has from his time searching for her, and June is amazed that he had done all of this. June thinks she may have someone in Gilead who can help them—Commander Lawrence. With the help of Mark, they set up a call with him on a secure line. When he picks up, June tells him that she wants his help to get Hannah. He thinks Hannah should stay where she is because she’s happy, and it’s home. June obviously disagrees. He then tells her that her friend Janine is okay, and that she’s at the Red Center, with Aunt Lydia taking care of her. June is relieved to hear that her friend is alive but upset that she is back in Gilead custody with that woman. June then tells Lawrence that the Americans can push to revise Section 22B in Canada’s trade agreement with Gilead if he helps her. He says that won’t work, and he will get her Hannah only if she gets him ten of the kids she flew to Canada. June won’t do that. He reduces it to only five children, but still, she refuses. Lawrence almost seems disappointed in her, that her negotiation skills aren’t as good and that she’s gone soft since leaving Gilead. Before hanging up on the phone, he tells her that she’s free, and she should be grateful and move on.

Janine is a Handmaid once again, except this time not for a Commander, but for the Aunts. She is scrubbing the floors in the cafeteria of their building when another Handmaid gets dragged in and sat down at a table where a tray of food is. This Handmaid is none other than the former young Commander’s wife, Esther. Aunt Lydia tells her to eat, but Esther is silent. She gives a smirk and pushes the food away, sending some of it crashing to the floor. A couple Aunts drag her out kicking and screaming, and Aunt Lydia tells Janine to clean up Esther’s mess.

Over in Toronto, Serena and Frank are opening up baby presents sent from some supporters they have there in Canada. Serena didn’t imagine her baby shower looking like this, but Frank reassures her that God’s plan is good, that this support they have is good, and hands her a note from one of those who sent a gift. That small action causes Serena to question him, because in Gilead, she couldn’t read. Yet, here he was, handing her something to read. Does he bend the rules only when no one is looking? Frank doesn’t pay it any mind, and tells her that the people want to hear her, and that maybe she should write a book.

Returning to the Red Center, the Aunts are eating dinner and talking about Esther and how she’s uncontrollable. Some of them begin to mention the punishments they should give her, like cutting off her tongue, which evokes a small sob from Janine. Aunt Lydia sends her away to collect herself. While she’s away, the other Aunts tell her that she can’t keep Janine with them forever and continue to give her special treatment. Aunt Lydia says she’s good here and is helping, and tries to avoid saying she would send her off to a Commander. Later in the evening, Lydia is in her room looking at her files. Janine comes in wanting to talk about Esther. She tells Aunt Lydia that she’s only acting tough because she’s scared, since she was abused not just by her husband but by a lot of men. She suggests that maybe Esther needs to be told what would happen to her if she doesn’t obey. Aunt Lydia decides to put Esther’s correction on hold for now and that tomorrow morning, Janine is to bring her breakfast and talk to her.

June, now with a more urgent drive to find Hannah, looks through paperwork and information that Luke had collected over the years. As she looks through, she finds a photo of Hannah and begins to lightly cry. Luke enters the room, something clearly on his mind. He tells June that he had been thinking about what happened on the phone with Lawrence and that he thinks there is someone else that could help— Nick.

His reasoning is that he knew Hannah had gotten back to the Mackenzies, and he could find out where she lives now. June isn’t sure, given how complicated the relationship is. She still is very much in love with Nick, and hasn’t really broken the news to Luke. Nevertheless, she agrees, because she thinks that he would do anything for her and Nicole, and that they can set up a call through Mark. But, Luke thinks this one should be handled differently. Instead of a call, he believes June should meet with him in person and bring Nicole with her. “How is he going to say no to you if you bring him his daughter?” he asks rhetorically. It is settled. This has to be done, for Hannah, even if it’s not the best for their relationship.

In the prison, Serena sits in her room writing when a friend, Naomi, the wife of Commander Warren, comes in to visit. They share some small talk, and Naomi sees that Serena has been writing. Serena is concerned that she will bring it up, but she almost ignores it and continues talking. She takes out gifts from the other wives and gives them to Serena. Then, Naomi mentions that if this “ordeal” isn’t over by the time the baby comes, that her and her husband would be honored to raise him in their home. That statement definitely irks Serena, and she responds to her friend, saying that she believes she will be fine and that she will be staying with her child. Naomi mentions she should return to Gilead, but Serena doesn’t think that would go over well with the Commanders. Naomi dismisses those feelings and tells Serena that she would be a hero, returning with her own child.

Elsewhere in the prison, Commander Warren is with Fred. He gives him a box of cigars, commending Fred on his loyalty to Gilead. Fred then asks him if there has been any negotiations on his behalf, to which Warren says that if they attempted negotiations, it would only embolden more kidnappings. Fred’s composure immediately changes—the place he had helped build is now leaving him to rot and only offering their “thoughts and prayers.”

We return to Janine, who has brought breakfast to Esther. She welcomes her as a friendly face, thinking that Janine snuck this food out for her. Janine doesn’t respond to that, and tells her about how she had made it to Chicago, but after the bombing, she was kind of happy that she was picked up and brought back here. “Nothing is worse than here,” Esther responds. Janine then brings up that Esther needs to take care of herself and that if she keeps misbehaving there will be consequences. Esther then realizes that Janine came here because of the Aunts, and gets upset. Janine tries to explain that they won’t let her die; that they will just keep hurting her and hurting her until she does what they say, because it’s their job to break someone down to do their bidding. Janine wants Esther to understand that by doing what they say, it helps her to stay alive and survive through this, so she can be here when things get better. She leaves Esther, teary eyed, on her bed, hoping that her words made a difference. Later in the episode, we then see Janine and Esther walk out of her room, as Esther has been eating and doing as the Aunts say. She now is able to get fresh air outside with Janine, and Aunt Lydia is terribly happy with herself at this improvement of behavior from the reformed Handmaid.

Back to June, we see her getting ready to leave with Nicole to see Nick. Mark lets her know that officers will be following her and to make sure to keep the meeting brief. Luke walks her to the car and kisses her goodbye, and she drives off. Later, she arrives at a stone house in the middle of the woods. She steps out of the car and takes Nicole, putting her in a stroller. June walks up to the house, and looks around, wondering where Nick is or if he’s even here yet. Then, in the background, you see a figure step out of the house. “June,” the figure says, and we know right away that it is Nick. She turns around, and he looks at her with a smile on his face. “Freedom agrees with you,” he says. They walk towards each other and start talking. June asks him how things are going in Gilead and thanks him for meeting her. Nick crouches down to see Nicole, who he hasn’t seen since June had given birth to her. June mentions that she has secret service with her so she can’t talk for long. They decide to continue the conversation inside and go into a room. June sits down on the windowsill while Nick stands.

June begins to ask about Hannah, but before she can finish, Nick pulls out a folder and says that he had already put stuff together for her, knowing that June wouldn’t have stopped looking for her. Nick mentions that getting her out is impossible right now, that there’s Guardians everywhere, but he’s here to do what he can. “You did that for me?” June says. The men in her life really are doing all they can to get Hannah back to her. Nick walks over to sit down next to her and they kiss, both tearing up. June gets Nicole out of the stroller to sit with them. Nick then remembers he has a gift for her, a doll. They sit in the window of the room, laughing and playing. They truly look like a happy little family.

The meeting is then over, and Nick and June are standing outside, foreheads touching. “Keep yourself safe,” Nick says. As June walks away, Nick yells out, “Hey June, try and be happy.” With a smile, she responds, “Yeah, you too.” Who knows if they will see each other again, but the time they had together would be cherished forever. June knows that as she walks back to the car and drives away, crying. We then see Nick put his wedding ring back on, which signals that things might get complicated in the finale and next season.

We return to the Waterfords as they talk in the church room. Fred is upset about how Gilead has given up on him, and Serena voices her fear that Gilead could come for their son because they think the baby belongs to the state. Fred tells her that he’ll do everything in his power to protect them. But Serena, quick in response, says, “What power? What could you possibly do from in here?” It’s true, though. Frank Waterford is powerless, without allies in Gilead, and no prospects of being free.

Well, maybe the no prospects part isn’t true. When June gets back from her meeting with Nick, she shows Luke, Moira, and Mark everything that Nick gave her. Mark calls the meeting a success, but it might be hard to make Nick a full-time asset. Instead, they can use their new asset that they have right there in Toronto—Fred Waterford, who has agreed to give up any information they want. The mood in the room turns really dark when he states that. June says softly, “Why would he do that.” After a pause, Mark replies, “In exchange for his freedom.” The prosecutor has dropped the charges against him. The room explodes with anger, because this whole time he has been using June and now he’s going to let this despicable man go free just because he’s being cooperative. Mark leaves the house, but June, a fire burning within her, walks out after him. Luke and Moira know that she’s about to explode and chase after her. June walks across the front lawn towards mark, yelling with the burning rage of a thousand suns, “That man is a fucking rapist and you know what he did to me!” She pushes Mark and Luke and Moira grab hold of her as she continues to yell that he knows what Fred did to her. “I will kill you, I will kill you!!” June exclaims with such a vengeance, that you know if Luke and Moira weren’t there to hold her back, that she would do just that.

What an ending to this episode, directed by the mega talented Elisabeth Moss. Shit is about to go down in the season 4 finale. I have no idea what will happen, but I know that it will be incredible.

Isabel Maina

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