The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2, Episode 8 “Women’s Work” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Serena Joy working.



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Many women get a taste of the old world and there is the slightest bit of hope things could get better for them. However, said blessing is finite.


Network
Hulu
Director(s)Kari Skogland
Writer(s)Nina Fiore, John Herrera
Air Date6/6/2018
Actors Introduced
Dr. HodgsonKaren Glave

Back To Work: Serena Joy, June, Commander Fred, Janine

With Fred in recovery and Serena Joy acting as his “conduit,” she is able to get back into the swing of having influence and writing memos and documents of importance. That is, rather than knitting and loathing her life as a domesticated housewife. June too, with being able to read and edit words, people seek her opinion, Serena Joy of all people, finds a sort of bliss as well.

Yet, all good things come to an end and with Commander Fred back, he relieves Serena Joy and doesn’t find out until later how far she and June went. But, his return doesn’t mean the last act. With Janine’s biological daughter, now belonging to Warren and Naomi Putnam, sick, the best doctor around, a Martha, is temporarily transferred with Fred’s forged signature.

Which, as much as it was relieving for June and Serena Joy to go to work? Oh, Dr. Hodgson could be so happy she could cry. But, alas, after running test and doing all she knew how, based off where medicine was when she was last in practice, the results bring up no reason Janine’s 10-month-old baby is in the state it’s in.

Commentary

June saying that she enjoys working with Serena Joy and could imagine them as colleagues.
June: In another life, maybe we could’ve been colleagues.

Imagine that. After a little more than a year, maybe two or more, of oppression and having as few rights as a woman in the 1800s, being able to live like you’re in modern times again. Serena got to write policy, take back that autonomy and power stripped of her despite being one of the architects for Gilead. June, in a strange way, got to be an editor again. Granted, an editor for the oppressive regime which stole her life and child from her, but it’s the taste of alcohol and the freedom you are led to believe which matters. Not thinking about the hangover and depression which comes the following day.

But what I will always find interesting about the peaceful times between Serena Joy and June is how much they seem like they could get along. Yes, ideology-wise, they are on opposite ends but Serena Joy humbling herself to the point of recognizing she needed June was something. And I truly believe June didn’t just help for the sake of gaining a favor or to work again. She may not believe in Gilead but something about working with Serena I think appealed to her. Having a greater purpose than growing a baby which, at this point, she may not be able to save from this world.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Serena Joy, June, Commander Fred

As soon as Fred realizes what Serena Joy and June have done, he calls them in and confronts them. Leading to it being admitted what they did and Serena Joy trying to remind Fred that she did nothing different from what she used to. However, with him noting that was then and this is now, she is given a reality check. If not a reminder that the man and country she built up has long turned their back on her.

Which leads to Fred, to remind Serena Joy of her place, beating her with his belt and coercing June to act as a witness. And after everything they’ve gone through, she tries to see if the friendship is still there and she can do anything but it seems Fred stole her joy, no pun intended. So it seems she’ll be back to being Mrs. Waterford and as for Fred? With Serena Joy seemingly going back to her old ways, June tries to test waters with Fred and it seems that may have become a cold link as well.

Commentary

Fred beating Serena Joy with a belt.

In the play Fruit Trilogy, within the first segment, there is this argument about how one action doesn’t change a person. No matter how terrible the action or decision. Which I bring up because, I think for Serena, there is this idea that the Fred she knew years ago, despite the series of actions taken, still exists. That may be, with this bombing, it would reset things. That maybe there could be steps taken so they could be how they used to be. An optimistic and futile thought. Meanwhile, June is just taking advantage of the situation likely knowing that Serena Joy’s idealism isn’t going to be met with Fred having a change of heart.

Something we even saw in the first season as Fred was trying to get June pregnant. There have been changes that just can’t be walked back from and being who Fred is, he enjoys this power. It makes him feel like a man and validated in a way which, I guess, he feels threatened by since Serena showed she is capable of doing his job. Much less, with her signature on that document, it also pushes the reminder that there are many women as talented, if not more, than the men in the same position.

So, in a way, you can see why he got mad. Her forcing his signature co-signed to a belief that isn’t in line with Gilead. Making it where, even if the purpose was to save the life of a child, she is making him out to be more of an outsider than he already is.

A Mother’s Love: Janine, Warren, Naomi, Aunt Lydia, June

Despite Dr. Hodgson’s death sentence, it seems just being in Janine’s arms makes the baby feel better. Which is a blessing for Warren and Naomi but also Aunt Lydia as well. For, despite sending Janine to the colonies, or simply having a hand in it, you know she still cares about that girl. To the point that, if that baby died and it broke Janine? Pregnant or not, June wouldn’t likely have another peaceful day as long as Aunt Lydia had time on her hands.

Luckily though, with Janine singing to the baby throughout the night, she seems better. Now, as for whether it was just she needed her mother’s love, vs. Naomi and Warren showing her off as a status symbol? Who knows?

Commentary

Janine talking to Aunt Lydia about her baby remembering her.
Janine: I told you. She remembers me.

You know Naomi is going to be mad as hell. She tries absolutely everything to be seen as this proper mom, the envy of the neighborhood but in her care, the baby nearly dies! Yet, this former junkie, missing an eye and crazy enough to attempt to kill the baby, she brings them back to health. Oh, she’ll never get over that embarrassment. Oh, and let’s not forget this isn’t the first time Janine embarrassed her. There is also her having sexual relations with Warren before she got kicked out of the house.

But, hey, all that matters is the baby is alive and June won’t have to deal with the wrath of Aunt Lydia. Who, I must admit, I was kind of surprised to see since you’d think Janine would be marked as a failure on her record and she wouldn’t be allowed to associate with her. However, as the scheduling of Aunts aren’t clear-cut, and she seemingly had the time, there she was for moral support.

Bringing up the need to question why we didn’t get to see Aunt Lydia and Janine’s reunion? She favored her quite a bit but also led her to slaughter and was part of the reason she was in the colonies. It would have been interesting to see how that reunion went before they got to the hospital.

Miscellaneous Commentary

Poor Eden

Eden in her lonely home.

While Eden isn’t even really on my radar, I must admit it is kind of sad to hear about how loving and interactive her family was and not she is with the Waterfords. A place where they don’t talk much, everyone seems mean or gloomy, and she is treated as more a liability, especially by Rita, than an asset. Never mind Nick is as distant as ever.

Highlights

  1. That joy some of the women had when their purpose went beyond serving a man but getting a sense of fulfillment.
  2. Janine getting to spend time with her baby.
  3. Emily giving no f**** and going off in the supermarket.
  4. How well Serena Joy and June were working together.
  5. Janine and June just casually talking about movies from before the Gilead regime.

Low Points

  1. Not getting to see Janine and Aunt Lydia’s reunion.

On The Fence

  1. Serena Joy getting a taste of her former life and, after a beating, seemingly letting that fire go out.
  2. So is Eden just going to be an obstacle for June to use Nick as she used to and that’s it?

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