Although this hour has moments of brilliance, it’s admittedly overstuffed in many ways.
An Unholy Alliance
I love the idea of June and Serena fighting a common enemy. But I sort of wish we got another episode or two before Serena took such a huge character swerve. It feels like it was only last week that she was bullying June, and now Yvonne is suddenly tasked with being an unlikely ally? As thrilling as this storyline was, it certainly needed more time to breathe.
On the bright side, everything about the episode’s final sequence is absolutely glorious. After getting sleazy Commander Cushing arrested (another rushed development as he could have easily terrorized our cast for a few more episodes), Serena gets a rush of power and decides to forge even more orders. The fact that she asks June to join her (she is an editor after all so her help would be greatly needed) is the cherry on top. The entire show feels like it was building towards these two oppressed women (Serena obviously got herself into this but she’s still in a position of weakness) fighting back against a system that’s wronged them. Did you get goosebumps? Because I sure did.
While I’m always an advocate of giving Samira Wiley more to do, Moira’s subplot really came out of left-field. She’s only mentioned her fiancé Odette once or twice in the past, and After rushes through a season’s worth of storylines where Moira is concerned. She carries a child to term, gives the baby to an English couple, meets Odette, falls in love, AND she mourns her love’s death. This is the epitome of overstuffed, and it lessens the impact of each of these pivotal events. It’s also remarkably random to have Moira suddenly want to look through the files of the dead. Thankfully, Wiley is tremendous as always, and her big tearjerker of a climax is appropriately gut-wrenching.
Putting aside the very unrealistic development that is Emily and Janine’s return as Handmaids (aren’t they all terribly unhealthy and probably infertile after their stay in the Colonies?), After contains one of the most singularly beautiful sequences this show’s ever done. Yes I am talking about June telling Emily her name, which sets off a silent revolution as all the Handmaids begin sharing their names one by one. It’s the most hopeful and affecting thing this show’s ever done, and the stirring music and beautiful staging make it absolutely unforgettable. This scene alone deserves all the awards!
Bits & Fruit
– The teaser is horrifyingly effective with our Handmaids in mourning. Their veils are so very haunting, but what’s even creepier is Aunt Lydia’s speech in which she genuinely presents herself as someone out for their best interest. So twisted.
– The snow add such a gorgeous touch to the episode. The cinematography is just out of this world.
– More Handmaids died as opposed to Commanders in last week’s explosion. That seems unlikely to me since we saw them all run.
– The visual of people hanging from trees will never not be terrifying.
– It’s a quick moment, but notice how Cushing puts his hand on Serena in the hospital. He’s so unsettling isn’t he?
– I really don’t like Luke. He’s far too dull.
– The Martha getting shot on the street was bone-chilling.
– I really like the dynamic between Serena and Nick for some reason. And them forming a trio with June (who sneakily set Serena on the warpath) was epic.
– I love Rebecca Rittenhouse from The Mindy Project so her casting as Odette was spot-on. She truly made me care for the character in the span of one episode.
– What was the evidence that Serena presented to get Ray arrested? The show wasn’t clear about that and it was a bit too easy.
– June’s eye roll about the lemon chicken was everything.
– Eden watches the name-sharing in the market. That can’t be good.
– Love all the closeups of June picking up the papers and the pen – two things she’s never been allowed to touch.
– Notice the clicking of the pen that perfectly ends the hour. Last week it was the ticking of the bomb. Mind blown? Yup.
It’s a bit too rushed and that somewhat lessens the impact of the narrative, but After still features some gamechanging developments.