The Handmaid's Tale recap: season 2, episode 8 – will Serena join the revolution?

The commander’s wife is starting to rage against the machine, with the help of Lionel Ritchie, but there’s a price to pay in another brutal instalment

Is Serena’s faith wavering?
Is Serena’s faith wavering? Photograph: George Kraychyk/Hulu
Is Serena’s faith wavering? Photograph: George Kraychyk/Hulu
Julia Raeside

Last modified on Mon 3 Jun 2019 05.12 EDT

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching The Handmaid’s Tale, series two, on Channel 4 in the UK. Please do not add spoilers from later episodes.


No flashbacks this week, just 100% teal and red with flashes of bright white and gloomy beige. I felt so sorry for Eden this week, trying to work up a moodboard for her mushroom-grey annexe. Even the yellow curtains she makes look soup-coloured.

Back in the study, Serena confesses that she detests knitting. Transgressive words for a Gilead wife. This episode seems to be setting up Serena for a one-woman insurgency. She is turning away from the status quo and pushing for the return of her independence. The idea that she would keep sublimating this come the end of the episode is hard to swallow.

The household lines up to welcome Fred home. Offred grits her teeth and offers a platitude about his blessed recovery. Serena tries to redraw her relationship with Fred, but he physically shuts her out of the workplace. What does she expect?

Ofrobert played by Nina Kiri and Offred played by Elisabeth Moss
Ofrobert played by Nina Kiri and Offred played by Elisabeth Moss Photograph: George Kraychyk/Hulu

“It was nice working with you too,” thinks June as she finds a music box and a flower in her room, gifts from her new but short-lived colleague. Fred is home from hospital and he will later find these incriminating items and assume that Offred has radicalised his wife.

Emily, who is even more rage-filled since her return from the colonies, says being raped is not a blessing and that the only true blessing was that bomb. At that moment, the baby ambulance rushes past, sirens blaring; Janine freaks out to think of Charlotte (now Angela) suffering. When Offred says she would not be allowed to see her baby, Janine’s “You sound just like one of them” cuts June to the quick.

As Serena brings Fred his tea, I can’t help wondering if she has poisoned it. She is enraged by his refusal to help baby Angela and let her be treated by a woman. She is enraged about a lot these days, but something – concern for the continuation of the human race? – is keeping her on track.

The one true glimmer of hope this week comes in the form of baby Angela’s miracle recovery. Those scenes in the hospital are so affecting; Janine’s childish innocence allows her to shut out the horrors of the world around her and beam love at her child.

As all hope seems to fade and Dr Hudson says nothing more can be done, Janine gets to hold her baby for the last time. “Mom’s here,” she coos as Warren and his wife look on. She looks at June through the glass as she removes her mask and gloves and holds the little girl. It is utterly heartbreaking.

Later, in Fred’s study, Offred and Serena face Fred’s wrath as he discovers their treachery. How did they ever think they would get away with it? Fred reads a bible passage about wives submitting to their husbands and drags a chair to the middle of the room.

The beating he administers to Serena is brutal and humiliating. Surely, this is the end of faith for her. Surely, she can’t advocate the ways of Gilead for another second after seeing what she has seen. Offred’s rejection by Serena, through the bedroom door, is devastating. Just for a moment, the women found sisterhood in each other, albeit a tense version of it.

June goes to Fred’s office to “apologise”. She wants to kill him, that much is clear, but he won’t let her in, finally realising he can never trust her now. In the white hospital room, Lydia and the Putnams are fast asleep while Janine sits in the window cradling Angela, who has made her unlikely recovery. Lydia weeps and laughs as the giggling baby smiles back. “I only wanna be with you,” sings Janine, laughing baby accompanying her, over the closing credits.

Commander Waterford played by Joseph Fiennes
Commander Waterford played by Joseph Fiennes Photograph: George Kraychyk/Hulu

The sound of music

Listen to Easy by the Commodores. Spotify

Are Offred and Serena really listening to Easy by the Commodores while they work in Fred’s study? Is this really a record Fred would own? I buy it, just about, but it set off this episode on an odd footing.

Listen to Rain Sometimes by Penny Goodwin. Spotify

Fred plays Rain Sometimes by Penny Goodwin, which distorts and slows as Offred falls to the floor outside his office, knowing that neither husband nor wife will help her now.

Blessed be the fruit. May the lord open.

Grim scale

Serena’s punishment was awful and the apparent fate of baby Angela gave my heart a thorough going over before the surprise happy ending. So, I give this week a solid six.

Under his eye

  • Janine’s “May the force be with you” to June on their way to the market is a sweet moment and right up there with “Blessed be the Fruit Loops”.

  • Dr Hudson cries as she robes up and a male consultant fan-boys her and talks her to like a doctor again for the first time in years. She puts that stethoscope on and becomes herself again.

  • What else are we going to find in Fred’s record collection? And how come he is allowed to listen to music from the before time? Surely, it should all be devout anthems and organ music.

Quick Guide

The Handmaid's Tale: all our episode-by-episode recaps


Season 3

Episode 1: Night
Episode 2: Mary and Martha
Episode 3: Useful
Episode 4: God Bless the Child
Episode 5: Unknown Caller
Episode 6: Household
Episode 7: Under His Eye
Episode 8: Unfit
Episode 9: Heroic
Episode 10: Witness
Episode 11: Liars

Season 2

Episode 1: June
Episode 2: Unwomen
Episode 3: Baggage
Episode 4: Other Women
Episode 5: Seeds
Episode 6: First Blood
Episode 7: After
Episode 8: Women’s Work
Episode 9: Smart Power
Episode 10: The Last Ceremony
Episode 11: Holly
Episode 12: Postpartum
Episode 13: The Word

Season 1

Episode 1: Offred
Episode 2: Birth Day
Episode 3: Late
Episode 4: Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum
Episode 5: Faithful
Episode 6: A Woman’s Place
Episode 7: The Other Side
Episode 8: Jezebels
Episode 9: The Bridge
Episode 10: Night

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