The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2/ Episode 13 “The Word” [Season Finale] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Do not let the bastards grind you down

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For those, like me, who thought The Handmaid’s Tale was in a perpetual cycle, many things happen which break the wheel and lead us to believe Season 3 will be the fall of Gilead.

Director(s) Mike Barker
Writer(s) Bruce Miller
Air Date 7/11/2018

Ain’t No Girl Safe Raised in Gilead: June, Serena Joy, Fred

After the death of Eden, June becomes really concerned about Nicohle’s future. Especially as she goes through her things and finds a bible. And if you recall from the last episode, reading isn’t something necessarily allowed, even bibles apparently, and part of the reason is, as seen in Eden’s book, it leads to questions. Which, for a government ran completely by men, with little diversity, who want to maintain power, the less questions asked the easier to rule.

However, with June posing questions to Serena Joy about the safety of her baby in a world like Gilead. One which would kill a 15-year-old for having feelings. A world where a father would rather turn in his daughter than risk his life or comfort, what does that say for Nicohle’s future? Both Serena Joy and June are strong-minded women so nature and nurture both have her screwed.

So, being that June has once more found herself planting seeds and pushing Serena Joy to be who she once saw herself becoming, she gathers the mothers to meet with government officials. Why? Well, to simply make an amendment to have the Bible taught in schools. However, Serena Joy takes things a bit far when she feels brushed off by taking out Eden’s bible and reading from it. For that, she loses half of her pinky and once again realizes she lives in a world, of her own making, which has rejected her.


Serena Joy shows June her cut off pinky.

Hold up, so if they don’t teach the bible at school, what are they teaching from? Also, are people, well who aren’t commanders, or run households like Commander Lawrence, just in general aren’t allowed to read? Is there a fear that, like we see with Eden’s bible, messages may be passed through them?

Then there is the government council. Being that how the government works in Gilead is probably something gone into within the books but not heavily in the series, color me confused. It being all male makes sense since a woman’s role, in many a commander’s mind, is either an accessory, a maid, or for the sake of continuing the human race. However, that whole scene with Serena Joy and the mothers staging what kind of felt a bit like a protest seemed odd.

For one, it leads you to question who can and can’t get an audience with the council? Also, do you have to be high up to propose amendments or can any able-bodied man with some status can? Because Gilead is under military rule and clearly elections aren’t a thing and probably never will be. So just Serena Joy getting a forum seemed so weird considering what we have seen thus far.

Though not as weird as Fred letting her pinky get cut off. I get she publicly embarrassed him and many may have thought she needed to be taught a lesson. However, considering all June gets away with, including smacking the MESS out of Fred, you really are going to let people do this to your wife? You’ll offer June the chance to stay, against the rules, arrange more visits with Hannah, bring more attention to your rule breaking, but won’t figure out a way to keep your wife from being maimed? Unlike June, any time Serena Joy steps out from the role of a wife it is for Gilead’s benefit. What the hell dude?

All Villains Eventually Fall: Emily, Aunt Lydia, Joseph

From what it seems, the night of the “Ceremony” is not decided by commanders as it is another party. However, when it comes to Joseph, while he enjoys Emily’s company he has no intention to have sex with her. Not even in some kind of, “Let’s get to know each other first” type of way. He just isn’t interested. Which is a bit shocking but nice for Emily.

However, the issue remains she is tired of Gilead and so she takes a knife. One which you couldn’t be too sure of the purpose at first. Was it to stab Joseph if he tried to rape her or kill herself? Well, with Joseph not making a move, neither option seems necessary. But, when Aunt Lydia comes by the next morning and decides to do as she usually does, and be passive aggressive, Emily stabs her. She stabs her, Aunt Lydia goes over a banister and last we see of her she is bleeding out but maybe not dead.


Aunt Lydia dying after Emily stabbed her.

DID THEY REALLY JUST KILL OFF AUNT LYDIA? Damn Serena Joy, Aunt Lydia was the most compelling villain on this show and she got killed by Emily? Was allowed to die and her death covered up by a character we just met? This is some 100% Grade A bull****. Yet, as increasingly shown as the episode goes on, every character can’t keep living like they are. The cycle which keeps repeating itself for Emily and June isn’t sustainable. Have both been broken? Yes. However, their spirits refuse to die and upon the slightest bit of hope given, they are back to their old selves.

In the case of Emily, this home that Commander Lawrence provided, it gave her hope. Which makes her killing Aunt Lydia an even more perplexing decision. She found a place where she wouldn’t be raped, maybe could have the chance to have the only kind of normalcy Gilead had to offer her, and live what could be considered a privileged life. Yet, over Aunt Lydia’s usual rude comments she not only ruins the good thing she has going but also puts Commander Lawrence in a rather messed up situation? He is the reason she probably didn’t end up back in the colonies! He read your entire file and accepted you and you do this dumb mess? Who does she think she is? June?

No One Gets Left Behind or Forgotten: Emily, June, Joseph, Serena Joy, Rita, Nick, Fred

Well, the answer is yes. Because Commander Lawrence, for some reason, rather than turn Emily in and maintain his privacy and peace, alongside half a dozen Marthas, including Rita, it is arranged for both June and Emily to get out of Gilead. This includes June’s daughter. How? Well, a series of fires. Which, because arson and things like that aren’t common, calls nearly every guardian’s attention and makes the escape for June fairly easy.

That is, until Serena Joy catches her and while she may not care about June leaving, taking “her” baby too? Major issue. Well, until June convinces her of how horrible it would be for “her” baby, to grow up in Gilead considering all that has recently happened. So, she lets the baby go. All the while, Fred catches on to what is going on outside, takes note of Rita acting strange and discovers what has happened to June and the baby. But, before he can make a fuss, Nick stops him. Even puts his hand to his gun as a warning.

Leaving you to believe June, Emily, and the baby would be off scott free. But one problem remains. The issue which keeps June from being completely serious about leaving: Hannah. No matter how good the opportunity is, Nicohle can’t be Hannah’s replacement. She can’t raise this kid knowing her first born is still stuck in Gilead. So she hands the baby to Emily, who gets in a guardian’s truck, and she walks away – looking fiercely determined.


June deciding to stick to and return to Gilead to get her daughter.

First and foremost, it is messed up we didn’t learn if Aunt Lydia is dead or just in the hospital. Following that, I’m trying to imagine the aftermath of all this. There were multiple fires in Gilead in what looked like a rather coordinated effort. Rita clearly knew something was going on and Nick helped cover for both Rita and June. Not to forget, Nick threatened a commander! If things seemed bad now, imagine how they will be after what happened? Add in Serena Joy and the wives grandstanding? A serious crackdown is bound for Gilead.

But, the problem with that happening is Emily is out now. A woman who not only experienced the life of a handmaid but also that of working in the colonies. She gives a voice and face to all those letters Nick handed over to Luke. Add in the genital mutilation, and you got yourself a face of the movement. Also a wanted criminal. For her killing a person before she left makes it where she is a part of whatever future negotiation Gilead has with Canada.

Leading to the need to question why Lawrence stuck his neck out for her. She calls him professor so does that mean he was in academia too? I don’t believe they were at the same college, so it isn’t likely they were peers and he wanted to help out an acquaintance. So why would a man who values his privacy so much call in favors, if not ask for them, which could put him under a microscope? Just based on how Aunt Lydia acted when she walked in, clearly, despite her seemingly being the Aunt for the area, she hasn’t been in that house often or before. So what pushed him to cover up a murder and get this Handmaid he just met out of the country?

The only real answer is that he is some form of a rebel. Not a rebel in him simply not following the rules and doing as Fred does. More so a full-fledged, he makes it where certain people can get out, get in, and things can happen, sort of rebel. Like, as much as I would love to credit the Marthas for the fires and the great escape, you know Commander Lawrence had to have some part in that. Leading also to the question of when do the Marthas meet to plan stuff like this?

Lastly, what exactly is June going to do in season 3? She sure as hell can’t return to the Waterford household. Bad enough losing a handmaid but a baby? Then, to make her decision even more questionable, it isn’t like she even knows where Hannah is to try to snatch her up and run. For we saw how hard it was to get free on her own, imagine a woman with a child? Especially considering, outside of a few glimpses in season 1, we have not seen multiple children at once this whole season. So as for the idea of maybe becoming a Martha and kidnapping Hannah, pretending to be one of the Econopeople, who wouldn’t be anywhere near the area Hannah lives, or another option, it is hard to fathom what’s the move here?

Question(s) Left Unanswered

A color coded map of Gilead.

  1. Please, can someone decipher this photo above? What are these territories?

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

In tragedy lies opportunity. – Fred


  1. The finale is a game changer and means huge implications that have to be worked out in season 3.

Low Points

  1. We don’t know the fate of Aunt Lydia.

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About Amari Sali 2902 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.