Episode 8, “Women’s Work,” was my second favorite episode of Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not sure if it was Janine’s laugh out loud Star Wars reference, the Margaret Atwood quote in a show based on a Margaret Atwood novel, the fake praise be’s, or the Patty Hearst mind fuck that is happening with Offred and her captors, but I really enjoyed every moment of this one.
We open with the Commodores “Easy” playing on a record player. Record players, music boxes, shoddy science, and ladies not allowed to work. They truly have achieved their vision of a 1950’s MAGA (Make America Gilead Again) utopia.
Offred and Serena are in Fred’s office while they collaborate together on writing orders, plans, laws, local school lunch menus and other Gilead non-sense. Serena writes and Offred edits. “I think Noah’s Flood Elementary should have organic free-range turkey dogs on Tuesdays and not on Fridays. Don’t you think, Offred?”
Offred asks Serena if she misses working and Serena long pauses here for what seems like an entire inning of baseball. She gives a bullshit answer about being back in God’s grace and we as the audience see right through her lies. A lie that she is trying to convince herself of still, and by the end of the episode we see her precious world come crashing down. I believe they call this, schadenfreude?
Fred’s office has become ground zero for the breaking of Gilead rules. Fred’s sinful office habits are playing music, collecting forbidden reading materials, playing scrabble with handmaids and sexual assault. Meanwhile, Serena’s sins involve reading, writing, forging, setting up Commanders, possibly getting someone killed (Cushing), lying, impersonating, collaborating with a handmaid, etc. etc.
Before we leave this scene, Serena tells Offred “I won’t forget your help,” ohhhh and ahhhhh, Fred is coming home tomorrow. If you knew nothing about the dialogue in this scene and only saw Offred’s face, you could have totally known what Serena had told her. Elisabeth Moss is a national fucking treasure.
Fred stumbles his way out of the car like a drunk zombie. He shuffles his way up to the front door of Serena’s house mumbling something about brains. When he opens the door and the whole gang is there to greet him. He says something about missing Rita’s famous soups and Eden gives him a bundle of homemade father’s day gift certificates good for one free lawn mowing, once a week for a month, but Eden gets to pick the month and she chooses January.
Serena and Fred head to the scene of many recent crimes, the office. Fred basically is like, Oh you were such a big help hun. Now, let me get ready for my Canada trip and we will all forget that without work and creativity your brain is in late stages of atrophy. He quickly shuffles Serena out of the room, leaving her to stare blankly at her wooden door of oppression…..OF HER OWN MAKING.
Offred is back up in her room and we see the music box that Serena gave her and then took away from her last season. She’s regifting it back…again. The music box along with a single white rose. FYI that white roses signify marriage, spirituality and new starts. Either Serena is going to marry Offred or she’s planning a new start. I could go for a gay pick-me-up, so I’ll cross my fingers for option 1.
Over at Nick’s bungalow, poor Eden is standing in the 150 square foot space, staring at the door, waiting for her Nick to come home. Maybe this time he’ll kiss me, she thinks as she grips the front of her dull colored cult bloomer. Sorry girl. Nick does not care about you or your boring ass color scheme.
Serena and Offred have a kitchen moment where she tells Offred that baby Angela is not doing well. Offred offers up a lot of fake prayers and praise be’s in this episode but the one she offers for Angela actually sounds fairly genuine.
To Loaves and Fishes (Milk and Honey? Whatever)! Wait! Before L to the F, we get a Star Wars reference from a very happy Janine. When she dropped “May the Force be with you,” I almost peed my pants.
Eventually, the radiation twins are reunited for a scene inside Da Loaves. Alma asks Offred if Fred is back and Janine is like, “My posting is great. No blowjobs, just the ceremony. It’s a blessing.” Emily leans in and is like, “Being raped is not a blessing.” *Enter GIF of Drake cheering at the basketball game. Thank you, Emily!
The baby ambulance wee woo’s by and everyone kneels. Brianna let’s slip that its baby Angela that is sick and we can see Offred’s eye roll from space. Thanks Brianna. You’re not helping.
Janine is rightly concerned about Angela and Offred try’s her best to calm her down. Janine needs to see Angela and Offred, channeling her best Serena Joy, tells her that she can’t see the baby. “You sound just like them!” Janine screams. Oooooooo
Offred and Serena, back at it again! This time to discuss baby Angela’s health. Serena lets drop that Gilead might not be exploring EVERY doctor available to them. The best of the best lives in Gilead, but that doctor is a……da, da, daaaaaaaaaa WOMAN. *Gasp
A Martha, in fact, and Serena asks Offred what she thinks. I’m sorry, what? You want to know what Offred thinks? Ask me what I think Serena. I think you should make a time machine, go back in time, unwarp your fucked up cult brain that was high on the Bible, never blow up Congress and take over the government. Problem solved.
To the sin den, aka the office! Serena pops in with tea, as if she gives a shit about that, and then gets to the heart about why she is actually there. She wants Fred to sign off on getting a Martha transferred temporarily to see if she can help baby Angela. Fred be like, nah.
At the hospital, Serena convinces the Putnams to let Janine see the baby. I loved Mrs. Putnam’s face during this whole scene. Someone give Ever Caradine her own show because that lady can act.
The Putnams agree and Aunt Lydia and Janine arrive at the hospital. Aunt Lydia doesn’t want Janine to see the baby and lets Offred know that if she goes bridge jumpin’ again, she’s going to hold Offred personally responsible. I imagine “personally responsible” involves a cattle prod and scripture.
Eventually, the neonatal doc gets to the hospital and we learn she is a Martha. I love how they haven’t told her a damn thing. She’s like, what the hell am I doing here? I imagine in a world like Gilead, your first thought is probably that they are taking you somewhere to be murdered.
When this nameless Martha transformed back into Dr. Hodgson, she seamlessly took over the care of the infant like a boss, just like she would have done back in the olden days.
Eventually, Dr. Hodgson tells the Putnams that there is nothing that can be done. They all take turns holding the baby and saying their goodbyes. Even Janine is allowed in to hold Angela.
Back at Chez Waterford, the two besties return from the hospital only to find that the principal wants to see them in his office. I love how Serena is that friend who is like, let me do all the talking here. I got this.
Fred spills the beans and lets the new buddies know that he is aware of everything that they have been up to. He saw Offred’s handwriting on some of his paperwork and says, “You involved the Handmaid in your transgressions?”
Fred picks up his highly bookmarked bible and reads a passage that talks about how to discipline a wife. He takes his belt off, beats Serena and he makes Offred watch. I have a lot of feelings about this beating, but the one that sticks out the most is the feeling that this was really about ownership of Offred. Fred walked into Offred’s bedroom for a tryst and he saw his wife had taken “his” handmaid. Fred doesn’t give a rip about the paperwork. It’s Offred he covets the most.
Over at the bungalow, Eden is pretty proud of her new redesign. She reveals that she straightened up one of his drawers. On the corner of the desk is the Mayday letters that Nick rescued from Offred’s kitchen sink BBQ. Nick goes a little overboard with his menacing here, “Never touch my things, do you understand me?” Chill out, bro. You probs shouldn’t have left the Mayday letters just laying around your very small house with your very bored wife.
Serena and Offred have a moment as Serena is crying and in pain as she undresses in the bedroom. Offred stands outside the door and asks if she needs anything. Through her tears of pain and disappointment, she channels her old self (true self?) and tells Offred to go back to her room.
Offred is like, oh it’s on, bitch. She doesn’t listen to Serena and instead heads down to smooth things over with her rapist. I hated/loved this scene. I hate that Offred has to do this bullshit act with Fred, but I loved Elisabeth Moss acting her pants…errrr, dress off. The looks she gives as she is leaving is one of disgust, horror, and guilt all rolled into one. Keep survivin’ homegirl!
The last scene of the show is Aunt Lydia waking up to hear a signing Janine bouncing a healthy and recovered baby Angela in the window corner. When I saw the red handmaid’s dress on the floor, I was like, oh God! She’s naked and she’s going to jump out the window with the baby. Thankfully, I was wrong.
What are we to take away from this scene? For me, I firmly believe that Janine is actually a God. Perhaps, THEE God. All hail Janine! May she rule over us all with a benevolent…eye.
We have a lot to talk about in the podcast this week. If you have any feedback or thoughts about “Women’s Work” send us a message. Until we record the pod on Sunday,
Blessed be, bitches.
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