Impeccably directed by Daina Reid, Holly is a story of survival, and it’s downright glorious.
No Wasted Seconds
I love that this episode picks up directly where The Last Ceremony left us. In fact, it doesn’t waste a moment as we witness June’s terrifying plight in real time. I know some viewers might find this hour slow, but I love how immersive it is – you experience every decision that June makes in the wake of finding herself stranded in the middle of nowhere. Whether our heroine is breathlessly trying to start a car, or engaging in multiple stare-downs with a creepy wolf, the attention to detail really amplifies the narrative’s impact. Amazing!
And truly this is an episode that’s packed with breathless tension. Just look no further than Serena and Fred arriving at the house and engaging in an all-out battle as June slowly finds, loads and aims a sniper rifle at the dastardly couple. Although she ultimately decides not to shoot, I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole way through. That’s a testament not only to the stellar acting involved, but the utterly magnificent editing by Aaron Marshall. The sequence is just a full-on masterpiece in every way.
I know I constantly praise the cinematography on The Handmaid’s Tale, but how gorgeous are those overhead shots of June in her red attire contrasted on the white snow? It’s truly breathtaking stuff. In fact, every single shot this week is meticulously thought-out and staged. Holly truly deserves all the awards in the world (not just the Emmy for Elisabeth Moss which is most certainly in the bag).
Of course the episode’s crown jewel is the juxtaposition of June giving birth alone in the secluded house, with Hannah’s birth in the past. It’s fascinating to see the differences: the present timeline is the perfect embodiment of the power of the human spirit (just listen to June’s primal screams), while the past sequence conveys how much love June had in her life (even her mom ultimately arrived to support her alongside Luke and Moira).
Elisabeth Moss gives a practically wordless performance this week, and it’s a thing of beauty. It’s such a hopeless, depressing situation, and yet she keeps mustering up the strength to carry on (because as her mom tells her, she’s “stronger than she thinks”). This is one inspiring and powerful piece of television.
Bits & Fruits
– Stunning opening shot with the extreme close-up of June’s eyes as the camera pans back. Wow.
– Nifty touch: we hear June’s steps and panting over the opening credits.
– Is that a picture of Hannah? Was she living in this house?
– Gut-wrenching flashback to June sending a sobbing Hannah off to school and leaving her behind.
– If that voice on the radio sounded familiar to you, you’ll be ecstatic to know that it’s none other than Oprah Winfrey. Apparently, she’s a huge fan of the show which is pretty darn cool. It’s also worth mentioning that she announces that there are “sanctions” on Gillead, and that the US is requesting aid from Europe. I’m ready to see more of the outside world next season.
– It’s a small detail but I loved the fact that June only finds green “Wife” attire in the closet and has to go to the husband’s closet to find something.
– Harrowing moment: Serena telling Fred that he raped June, only for him to retaliate that it was “her idea”. Yuck. I think I’m gonna barf.
– Pure misery: June being unable to crash through the garage door, then trying to dig with the shovel, tripping and bleeding. It’s rock bottom, but she still gets back up. Wow.
– Notice the parallels between the wolf’s howls and June’s screams during childbirth? I have no words.
– The visual of June on a bed of blood is one I won’t soon forget.
– For a second, I thought June was walking out of the house with the gun to kill herself. But no, her baby comes first and she proceeded to shoot into the sky to alert Gillead of her location.
– Love how June even flashes back to Aunt Lydia’s breathing techniques to get through the birth. We even see Janine giving birth which is a perfect touch.
– June names her baby Holly, after her mom. Can you say awwww?
– After giving birth, June hugs her baby and cuddles her, umbilical cord still attached. It’s a very cathartic sequence. Until, the car arrives…
– So who is June talking to in the voiceover? Holly? Or someone else?
June: I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force.
Fred: If you’d shown that girl one ounce of kindness, she would never have left!
Serena: Kindness? You raped her yesterday!
Fred: That was your idea!
This is one of those all-time great hours of television. Absolutely spectacular.