Season 2 / Episode 9, “Smart Power” /Hulu
**spoilers in the shape of maple leaves and fallen star spangled banners**
TW: emotional/verbal/physical/sexual abuse
Handmaid’s Tale took me out this episode. Every episode is increasingly harder to endure… as it should be, I guess. But this one, y’all. I know I already gave the spoiler alert, but I don’t want to ruin it with my feels. I’mma just say that that this recap is going to have a few extra emotions sprinkled throughout. Be ready.
Up, Up and Away
It is one thing to be held captive. It is another to re-imagine your captivity as something that it is not. That is the simplest form of Stockholm Syndrome. This episode opens with June/Offred re-imagining her position in the Waterford’s home. It is an AirBnB with pleasant yet creepy owners. She offers up various musings. They don’t last for long. She and Rita are summoned by Commander Waterford. Once downstairs, the women find out that he and Serena are leaving for a business trip to Canada. Not only that, he’s taking Nick with him and leaving some 20-year-old Eye in charge of “the baby.”
The only person looking forward to this trip is Fred. He meets Serena in her greenhouse to convince her that her presence is important on the trip. Waterford wants his wife to put on a front and show the Canadians how the women of Gilead have a voice. He wants Serena to be the ideal strong Gilead woman and begins to quote Proverbs 31, blah…blah…blah, barf. The grey mold that’s reappeared in Serena’s greenhouse isn’t the only thing taking the life out of this house. Fred’s ass is the life sucker.
Of course, before they leave Serena goes to check on “the baby.” She’s so freaking dramatic that she couldn’t just have a moment and then leave. No. Instead, Serena decides to drop a bomb on June (no pun intended). She’s decided that June will be taken away from the Waterford residence as soon as the baby is born. Talking about… “I think we’ve all had more than enough of one another.”
Once the Waterfords arrive in Candada, it looks at though Serena’s eyes are full of envy. She gazes at the passersby walking, wearing whatever they like, kissing on staircases. Her face is aglow. Both Fred and Nick can see it. Soon they meet the Canadian representatives and the Associate Deputy Minister for Immigration lets no shade go uncast. He lets Waterford know that he and his husband ain’t feeling a damned thing Gilead got to offer. Serena’s eyes are opened even wider once she’s handed a schedule for her day that looks more like a kindergarten classroom picture schedule.
I really don’t understand why Serena is so surprised at people’s reactions to her. A little girl is in awe of her as they wait for an elevator, but the baby’s mom is not having it. No eye contact. No smile. Do not engage. Hold that baby tight. That woman holds her daughter so tightly that it seems to drive Serena to drink.
At the bar ordering a Riesling, a handsomely cunning dude is beside Serena lighting a cigarette. Come to find out, this guy works for the “old” U.S. of A. and offers Serena cigarettes and an all-expense-paid one-way ticket the eff up outta Gilead off to Hawaii. Sweatergawd, she considered that shit for a minute. In the end, she defended her man and Gilead. Serena may have passed on “treason and coconuts,” but she swiped the hell outta them cigarettes and the book of matches ol’dude conveniently left once he was dismissed.
The Fairly Godmothers
While Serena is being handled like a preschooler, June is back home being monitored by a Hogwarts prefect wannabe. June and Janine are taking their daily walk with the new Eye close behind. Janine gets upset, “Janine style” when she finds out that Serena is going to make June leave without ever being with her baby. Dude decides to power trip when Janine grabs June and shows her disgust. Janine shouts some amazing expletives and the next thing you know, he butted her with his rifle and is pulling June away. It’s the shitshow of all shitshows.
June knows that there is nothing that she can do to stop her baby from being raised by the Waterfords. Because of that, she makes the best plans that she can. June talks to Rita on the sly once she gets home and asks her to be her baby’s godmother. She tells Rita that the baby will need someone kind, someone loving. This is when I really start to lose it. Being a godparent ain’t no joke. People typically don’t just ask that of anyone. That’s a “for better or worse…especially worse” type deal. Entrusting your child’s welfare to someone else on the off chance that you won’t be around to provide it is serious. Rita knows this and she accepts.
Not only that… June goes as far to ask Aunt Lydia. Aunt mf’ing LYDIA! June even hints about the beating that Fred gave Serena last week. She tells Lydia that if a man would harm his own wife, he’ll harm a child. We know one thing about Aunt Lydia for sure, and that’s that she don’t play when it comes to these babies. After a season and then some, we get a bit of a glimpse into Lydia’s character. She was a godmother once. Her sister’s baby. A baby that only lived 4 days. Lydia will now be a godmother to June’s baby. With Rita comes kindness. With Aunt Lydia comes protection. June is leaving her baby the best that she has to offer.
Gilead Bridges Falling Down
Back in Canada, Moira and Luke see that the Waterfords are in town and they are every bit of pissed the eff off. The U.S. Embassy can’t do shit, but there are some rallies planned. When the Waterfords pull up to their hotel, the crowd is hot and heavy. Deadass in the middle is Luke, June’s husband. He has a poster sized photo of him, June and their daughter Hannah. Luke becomes so upset that he runs to the front and tries to attack Fred. Fred is one some holier than thou “Let go of the lamb” when the security guards grab Luke, but we know Fred is shook.