If there’s one thing Gilead loves, it’s childbirth
WORDS BY KIERA FAHEY
If there’s one thing Gilead loves, it’s childbirth, and episode 11 finally delivers us a newborn.
The episode begins where we left June in episode 10, alone in the house in the woods, where Fred gave her a chance to meet with her daughter for 10 short minutes. The storyline is quiet and solitary, with June alone and wordless for its majority. But despite this, it is the episode that gives her the most agency and we see more of her strength and independence.
June seems to break the fourth wall, mirroring some of Atwood’s original postmodernism by using an epistolary form in narrating a letter written to the other handmaids — ‘I’m sorry there’s so much pain in this story… but there’s nothing I can do to change it’. The audience can’t help but agree.
However, to the audience’s delight, an unexpected highlight of this episode was the cameo from Oprah Winfrey. The soothing timbre of her familiar voice delivers news from the Resistance. This segment was apparently inspired by the free radio of the Allies in WW2, and has definite wartime undertones. We learn that the United Kingdom is sanctioning Gilead, whilst India and China are giving them aid. It’s an alternate reality which both highlights the possibility of a changing global political landscape and echoes current events.
The characters of the Commander and Serena were also given greater depth in this episode. Whilst searching for Offred at the house, they get into an argument. Here, we see that the couple is cognisant of what the monthly ‘ceremonies’ really are — ‘You raped her yesterday!’ ‘It was your idea!’. A normal married couple quarrel but with far darker content. She tells him that she has nothing left, and is desperate for her baby — her raison-d’être as a Commander’s wife. She realises that the Republic of Gilead that she helped created has failed to give her the one thing she was trying to protect.
Undoubtedly, the climax of this episode was the birth of June’s child. Alone, naked and in front of a roaring fire, June gives birth. This scene contrasts with the flashbacks to her first birth, where she is surrounded by Moira, Luke, her mum and medical professionals.
A scene we’ve seen many times in the series by now, the end of the episode shows June whisked away in a black van, ignorant of her destination but clearly privileging the health of her baby over her freedom.
Typical of the Handmaid’s Tale, the struggle continues but we can see the glimpses of hope and strength in June’s character. Will June and Holly be returned to the Waterfords? Will they have a chance to escape into Canada?