Then and now. Gilead and America. How things were and how things are. Such is the constant toggle of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the focus of this episode.
The Handmaid’s Tale loves comparing Gilead’s strict religious ceremonies with a messier, but more authentic way. In season 2’s “Seeds,” Nick (Max Minghella) and Eden (Sydney Sweeney) got married in a creepy mass ceremony in which virginal young brides covered their heads with veils. In the same episode, two women in the Colonies got married, their love an act of defiance.
If “Seeds” focused on marriage, “God Bless the Child” is all about baptisms. Under the perpetual gray clouds of Gilead, June (Elisabeth Moss) marches in military formation to the church, where the newborns will be baptized in a ceremony called dedication. June’s own daughter, Nichole, is missing from the ceremony, but the rest of Cambridge is color-coded and gathered in this church.
Back in the golden-hued past, June and Luke bring their mischievous inner circle to Hannah’s baptism. Holly (Cherry Jones), forever the doomed psychic Cassandra of The Handmaid’s Tale, warns June against using religion to make decisions. Moira (Samira Wiley) scandalizes a prudish couple by calling herself a fairy godmother. Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and June aren’t necessarily religious, but they decide it’s important to give thanks to God — or whatever benevolent presence filled their lives with such warmth. Gathered all together, it’s awful to think of where these five rambunctious individuals are now.
June is at the dedication, trying to become a resistance leader. June looks around at the Marthas, handmaids, and Wives of Gilead and sees only potential recruits to the cause. She has to be careful — after the explosion during the Commander conference last season, Gilead knows about the resistance. Before walking into the church, all handmaids are searched for bombs or weapons.
So, who can June recruit? At first glance, OfMatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) seems like a rule-abiding lost cause. Then June learns she’s had three children in Gilead so far (translation: she’s had three children taken from her). Analyze OfMatthew’s statement: “We’re all trying to make it through this without any trouble.” Is she a true believer, or is she terrified?
Then, there’s Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) — June’s white whale. One moment, June almost convinces her to use her power to help; the next, Serena’s detached. Still, June keeps trying.
Now’s a good time to address a strange trend in June’s behavior. Why is June still playing nice with the Waterfords? It’s incredible (nearly unbelievable) that June has patience for the woman who a) orchestrated a rape against her and b) speaks about Nichole as if she were her own daughter. And in two consecutive episodes, June has honest conversations with Fred – first about Lawrence, then about his marriage.
June’s obviously grappling with the fact that she doesn’t hate Waterfords when she probably should, given their past treatment of her. Is it that she’s fond of them? Or is her hatred for her former bosses eclipsed by her desire to overthrow Gilead? The truth is, her ability to manipulate the Waterfords might come in handy. By playing marriage counselor with Fred, June can push her own campaign forward. First, convince Fred to give Serena more freedom to influence Gilead’s direction. Then, convince Serena to use that freedom.
Here’s what’s obvious: Whether it’s giving the Waterfords advice or being nosy, June can do whatever she wants now. She’s like a cat with nine lives. She survives every reckless incident, because The Handmaid’s Tale needs a main character.
Take this episode’s Janine (Madeline Brewer) incident, because there’s always a Janine incident. At the Putnams’ dedication after-party, June inserts herself back into the Lydia (Ann Dowd), Janine, and Mrs. Putnam’s (Ever Carradine) hate-triangle. After holding baby Angela, Janine begs to be the Putnams’ handmaid again so she can be with her daughter. Janine clinically cannot help herself.
Neither can Aunt Lydia. Ever since Emily pushed her down the stairs (and gave her the cane, that all-too-handy weapon), Lydia’s been slowly losing it. She beats Janine with the cane and stops only when June throws herself on Janine.
Will June be punished for her brash savior action? Probably not. But will she make it out of Gilead anytime soon? Definitely not. Not until she has Hannah — which remains her main goal.
Hopefully she hurries up with this whole revolution thing, because Canada’s the place to be! Raise your hand if this episode of The Handmaid’s Tale has, yet again, convinced you to move to Canada. Canada: The place where all happy reunions and smiles are still possible. In by far the most poignant arc so far, Emily (Alexis Bledel) is reunited with her wife, Sylvia (Clea DuVall), and son, Oliver.
The memory of Sylvia and Oliver carried Emily through Gilead’s endless tortures. Looking around at Oliver’s room, full of family photos, she realizes they haven’t forgotten her either. Oliver draws pictures of his mother and waits for her to come home. Oliver’s pretty chill in that adorable, ignorant child way. The moms are losing it, and so am I!
Another crucial reunion takes Canada. Gilead authorities have tracked down footage of Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) holding baby Nichole. Nichole’s in good hands — the best hands. After seeing the video, June cries out of joy and relief and maybe fear. Because now that Nichole’s been found, is she still safe?
Fred’s infuriating use of the word “girls” when talking to the handmaids makes me think the word should be banned to describe anyone over the age of 12.
Are June’s instructions for Serena to “wear the dress, pull the strings” supposed to invoke the line buy the ticket, take the ride” from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? It’s about getting in over your head on purpose.
Is The Handmaid’s Tale actually just a cigarette ad?
Finally, the dedication showed all of the children of Cambridge gathered in one place. There’s a whole generation being raised under this regime. We saw it a bit with Eden and Hannah, but I hope we get more insight into Gilead’s young-ins this season.