As I watched The Last Ceremony, one thought kept running through my mind: why do I continue to watch a show that disturbs me so much? The answer is simple: The Handmaid’s Tale is a brilliant series with barely any flaws, but that doesn’t stop it from being exceptionally brutal and horrifying.
Every time I think this show can’t get any darker, it tops itself with something truly heinous. June’s vicious rape at the hands of Fred and Serena (yes, the Commander’s wife is just as responsible for the assault) has to be one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever witnessed on screen. It’s an agonizingly long sequence that’s brought to life in painstaking detail. The way Fred appears from the shadows, the way Serena forcefully grips June’s arms, and of course, June’s gut-wrenching screams – it’s all equally traumatic. How much is too much? The thing is, as much as I hated this sequence, I can’t deny that it makes sense in the show’s twisted world: Fred and Serena use the rape to punish June for her disobedience. Remember when we felt bad for Serena only a couple of weeks ago and were rooting for her redemption? Yeah I feel guilty about that now too.
Just as unsettling to watch is June’s reunion with Hannah. The commander affords his handmaid this “surprise” because he presumably feels some guilt after the rape, and the result is heartbreaking in every way. Both Elisabeth Moss and Jordan Blake deliver mind-blowing performances in their reunion, and I felt a hollow pit in my stomach as I watched their short-lived meeting unfold. Moreover, it’s scary how timely this storyline is, with babies being ripped from their parents’ arms in the US at this very instant, further amplifying the narrative’s impact. I get depressed just thinking about those final ten minutes, but there’s no denying how powerful and emotionally affecting they are.
Emily’s rape at the start of the hour is no less terrifying than June’s. It might be “easier” to watch since she’s not screaming, and since The Commander and his wife are forced to behave since they are putting on a show (the “ceremony”). However, Alexis Bledel’s face conveys all you need to know: horror, emptiness, and pure misery. Interestingly enough, the show injects a dose of dark humor into the proceedings with the Commander dying of a heart attack, and Emily refusing to help (since she should remain “on her back”). It’s a welcome contrast to the darkness, and it’s punctuated with Emily very satisfyingly kicking the fallen commander in the groin. Wow!
Two episodes left people. I don’t know how we’re going to survive this.
Bits & Fruits
– A bunch of handmaids in the market discuss if Emily’s commander died “on top of her” or “inside of her”. It’s nice to know that people still gossip even in dystopian times.
– A black Commander (I think that’s a first for the show) tells Fred that his wife is pregnant so he doesn’t need a Handmaid. You can tell that Fred is jealous. Very intriguing story possibilities here.
– Have we seen the older Commander before? The one who tells Fred that his Handmaid is “no fun” and has an “expiration date”. Disgusting.
– I still find it oh so ridiculous how the wives gather alongside one of their own (in this case Serena) and pretend to fake-breathe together. Idiots.
– June’s “false labor” face is everything.
– The same monologue we heard over Emily’s rape is heard once more during June’s.
– For a while now, I’ve been feeling like Serena is some sort of hero who’s going to come to her senses and save June by turning on Fred. However, she becomes a full-on villain here, ignoring June’s desperate cries for help during the rape. Disgusting.
– I was right about the sparks between Eden and Isaac who kissed this week. Eden then proceeded to apologize to Nick who couldn’t care less. I’m guessing she’s going to get him killed soon?
– Hannah’s name is “Agnes” now. Ouch.
– So fascinating to see that Hannah recognizes that June is pregnant and that she won’t be able to keep the baby.
– Hannah’s “Am I ever going to see you again?” wrecked me. But I think my tears really started flowing when June told Hannah to enjoy life and love her parents. The fact that she’s still looking out for her daughter is just beautiful.
– Nick hugging a sobbing June even if for a moment was really heartwarming. But where did they take him to?
– The cinematography in the snow as June bids Hannah goodbye is just stunning. This show is undeniably more beautiful than anything else on television. Notice the huge overhead panning shot at the end with June all alone in the middle of nowhere. Outstanding.
I can’t wait for this season to end, but there’s no denying that this was yet another jaw dropping piece of television.