Season 2 of Hulu Original The Handmaid’s Tale began with silence. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) found herself in the back of the Eyes’ van, filled with desperation and terror. Soon, she’s taken out of the van and pushed into a crowd of handmaids, fitted with a muzzle, and herded into Fenway Park.
Unfortunately, the baseball field was no longer the site of pleasant afternoons and evenings watching America’s favorite game. Instead, gallows filled the field, and masked guards pushed the handmaids onto them and slid a noose over each head while shoving apart any attempts at hand-holding or comfort among the women. Each woman remained truly alone facing the terror of her impending death.
Soon, a guard pulled the lever and the floor dropped. The handmaids undoubtedly believe that’s it, but the entire setup was an elaborate ruse to scare them. The floor only dropped a few inches. It’s not as if Gilead could afford to waste viable ovaries. No, they wanted to scare their broodmares with brains into being “good girls” and toeing the line.
Aunt Lydia appeared and preached to them, telling them the hangings will be real if they remain insubordinate. Offred said her first words of season 2 in a voiceover “Our Father, who art in Heaven. Seriously? What the actual f—?”
In a flashback, June received a call from work that her daughter Hannah had a fever. The school tried to reach her, but when they couldn’t, they called an ambulance because of new government regulations. She rushed to the hospital to find Hannah feeling ill with a fever, but she didn’t have a severe illness. June faced invasive and pointed questions from a caregiver at the hospital who finally let her go and told her that children needed to be in safe environments and that the government would ensure that.
Back in the present, the wayward handmaids who refused to stone Janine knelt in the rain holding stones in outstretched hands as punishment. Trembling, they faced shocks with a cattle prod from Aunt Lydia if an arm happened to slip, and Offred received one. Soon a messenger came to whisper the joyous news to Aunt Lydia — Offred is pregnant. She announced the blessing and immediately rushed Offred inside to change into dry clothes and eat. Offred attempted to maintain some control over herself by refusing to eat, but Aunt Lydia took her on a walk to show her what happens to pregnant women who try to harm their fetuses.
Wanting to avoid that fate, Offred returned and ate. Aunt Lydia brought in the rest of the handmaids who followed Offred’s refusal to murder Janine and tortured them. First, she chained Ofrobert to the stove and lit it. Offred listened to her screams as she continued to eat during a truly horrifying scene.
Returning once more to the flashback, June took Hannah home where she heard a blaring TV as she rushed to unlock the door to their apartment. Once inside she learned that men with machine guns attacked the capitol, killing untold numbers of government officials. Later, as she put Hannah to bed, somebody bombed the White House and martial law declared. The fear in her household was palpable.
In the present, Offred submitted to a genuinely dehumanizing transvaginal ultrasound with Serena and Fred present, enjoying a first glimpse of “their” baby — a sack of cells at only five weeks gestation. After seeing the baby on the ultrasound, Serena kissed Offred’s forehead and said, “God bless you.” Everybody left the room and as the final technician left, he quietly said, ‘Godspeed, June.”
Offred immediately noticed he used her real name, and she knew something had to be up. When she put on her boots, she found a key with a red square on it. She used the key to leave the exam room, and then followed red squares through a dark hall and into a refrigerated truck filled with pig carcasses. She rode among the dead swine and the driver dropped her off at a garage with the instructions to stay inside until somebody comes for her.
Inside, she found Nick and he gave her clothes to change into and instructed her to cut her hair. She took off her red handmaid outfit and wings and burned them, then she cut her hair, and tossed it on the fire too. Finally, she brutally cut her tracker out of her ear, which led to an incredible amount of bleeding.
Seemingly reborn, she announced, “My name is June Osborne. I’m from Brookline, Massachusetts. I’m 34 years old. I stand five-foot-three in bare feet. I weigh 120 pounds. I have viable ovaries. I’m five weeks pregnant. I am free.”
But is she indeed free? It appears as if Gilead remains inside her if her viable ovaries remain a defining feature of her personhood. So far, Season 2 is as dark and uncomfortable and good as Season 1, if not more.