In last week’s article, I made the mistake of calling After the second to last episode for this season. Perhaps it was wishful thinking to escape this dreary, morbid world like June, but I was wrong. We’re only halfway there.
At least After offered hope in a new direction: the trio working together to take down the evil man invoking martial law. No, I’m not talking Harry, Ron, and Hermione vs. Voldemort. But Serena, Nick, and June vs. Commander Cushing.
Let’s back up. The Rachel and Leah Center was bombed by Ofglen, Commander Waterford is in the hospital in and out of consciousness, Pryce is dead, and Commander Cushing has taken over in the void, which leads to all of Ofglen’s family swinging from the trees, a Martha murdered in the street while reaching for her papers, and a visit to the Waterford’s.
Cushing interrogates Offred about her kidnapping, demanding she tell him who in the house helped her escape. I thought it an odd approach for the commander, perhaps showing his ignorance at handling such delicate situations. If you know a handmaid ran and got far, one should assume she went willingly – perhaps even desperate to leave Gilead. That should factor into your questioning. She probably isn’t going to rat out the person who has the most potential for getting her to freedom again. But he says, “You can trust me. If your house has been infected with terrorists, I need to know.” The only terrorist in the house at the moment is you, Cushing.
Now if you played the Nick Choose Your Own Adventure last week, then you know one potential outcome is Serena taking over the household. The series has been moving towards this for a while. We’ve watched in flashbacks as Serena helped orchestrate the movement in America, helped plan the attack on the nation’s capitol, spoke at rallies, and after all her work to raise Gilead she is shut out of meetings due to her gender and no longer instrumental. She’s only a wife.
Perhaps it’s the stress of seeing her husband immobilized in a hospital bed, or seeing her neighbors murdered for the decision of their handmaid’s, but Serena is uncharacteristically candid with Offred in the kitchen. Offred makes sure Serena understand the stakes, appealing to her worst nightmare. Cushing slaughtered all of Ofglen’s family, and if he believes a family is corrupted he won’t let even a child be raised in that home.
Serena then visits Nick to have him submit a warrant of vague name (Consular of Divine Law) for what, we don’t know. Until Cushing comes calling again. Offred watches from the window, Serena from the front door that she opened for Nick, who watches from the steps of the house, as Cushing is arrested thanks to this trio’s plotting.
I look forward to seeing where this triangle of tenuous trust leads. I hope the show continues to carry forward with Serena being the leader of the household for some time so we can watch more of this dynamic play out.
Throughout this, Moira had a lovely acting moment of breaking down over finding death pictures of her fiance. Although her portrayal of anguish and heartbreak was wonderful, I kept wonder WTF with her sequence. First, I hardly remember her having a fiance from past episodes. Second, the long, tedious surrogate pregnancy felt out of place, like a last minute character development the writers felt they needed to toss to Moira. I also couldn’t get on board with her dating her OBGYN. Something about that just gave me the willies. And why are there binders and binders and binders in Canada of photos of the dead in Gilead? Who took all these death pictures? Who forwarded them to Canada? When and why were all these people shot down? It felt too convenient and a way to just toss the characters in Canada a bone.
Near the show’s end, the handmaids all whisper their names to each other in the market. No one knew Ofglen’s real name. That won’t happen again. Of course, I couldn’t help but noticed the cut away to Nick’s loyalist new bride. Perhaps she’s the true terrorist in the household.
In the end, Offred and Serena once again form a secret alliance. This time not for a child but for something that may appear innocuous but goes against the foundation of Gilead. Editing governmental documents and decrees. The women take charge!
Photos courtesy of Hulu.