Gilead will never cease to amaze me.
At a time I thought the actions of one handmaid in such a public and revered setting would garner the wrath of the Republic as a whole, instead, we saw life anew for some at the colonies and other surprises on The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 7.
Even the death of Commander Pryce didn't mean the end of life as June knew it at the Waterford's.
This installment was full of surprising moments allowed the first glimmer of hope for the women of Gilead.
It's not much, mind you, but Ofglen's bravery seems to have given the others who reside there at all levels a bit more of the same.
With the arrival of someone like Commander Cushing who was willing to get answers without considering the ramifications of his actions, others had to think on his behalf.
Killing the family of a rebel handmaid and making an example out of them (and from the looks of those hanging in their yards, many, many others) was pushing the envelope a little too far for the comfort of other families who may not wish to imagine they, too, might have a rebel in their midst.
Serena Joy knew she had one and still wasn't about to let a man like Cushing get his hands on her. Their circle of friends before Gilead was interconnected, and Serena Joy knew of the man and thought ill of him, to put it bluntly.
Serena Joy: Praise be. You're alright.
June: Yes, I'm fine.
Serena Joy: Guardians shooting Marthas in the street, and it's supposed to make us feel safer. It's asinine.
Fred's absence from the house was giving Serena Joy a sense of purpose again and a feeling of independence she hadn't had most likely since Gilead became a place, a place she unwittingly helped create.
I've been trying to think it through, how Serena Joy got suckered into becoming a stand-by-your-man woman when she was once so competent and independent, and I don't think it was in the original charter of Gilead. It couldn't have been.
Living with my aunt (not an Aunt), a woman of the '60s and the original feminist movement, she's appalled that we are just now coming to terms with the #MeToo movement.
She can't help but wonder what everyone thought they were doing years ago if not giving women voices to stop what we're only now beginning to say out loud.
It's almost as if we live in an alternate universe. For years, we let fear keep us in harm's way being oppressed by men in myriad forms for fear we'd be oppressed or physically harmed. The women of Gilead are in the same boat but treading a lot more water.
Serena Joy didn't realize just how much water she was treading until she had some time without the Commander watching over her like a prison guard. First, it was her speech that was laxer, then she began drinking a bit.
Serena Joy: Commander Cushing made turned our streets into a war zone. These are drafts of the new security orders.
June: From the Commander?
Serena Joy: They'll remove the additional checkpoint and start scaling down Guardian presence. It's about time things started getting back to normal around here, don't you think?
June: Yes, Mrs. Waterford.
Serena Joy's use of the word "normal" in that quote seemed to be in neon. Nothing that she had been doing or did from that moment on was normal by the association of her usual behavior in the house in Gilead. My spidey senses picked up that she meant normal by the standards of the former United States of America.
Since Nick assured her he knew how to get documents to the appropriate places, Serena Joy started writing up documents. I don't recall her being in Fred's study all that often, but what else did she have to do while he was gone?
Why wouldn't she want to know everything she could about the society she helped to create? She should know as much as possible about it to ensure she can speak at Fred's level if she's not the one who writes a lot of Fred's documents for him. Do we even know what he did before Gilead?
Serena Joy: You're an editor; is that right?
June: I used to be.
Serena Joy: Good. Read over these for me.
June: I'll need a pen.
The click of that pen was the perfect Peggy Olson moment. It was THE Peggy Olson moment from Mad Men Season 7. Peggy was normal. In this instance, for the first time, we saw Serena Joy and June acting as normal working women together -- well, as normal as things can get in a Commander's house in Gilead.
It never even dawned on me that, once again, Elisabeth Moss is playing an editor.
The idea of Serena Joy and June growing closer through intellectual pursuits is better than anything else I could have written. Women working in any kind of job that a man should be doing is strictly forbidden. Them doing it together is something we should relish.
The question is how much of what they're doing is Serena Joy sharing with Fred?
At first, I thought Nick was behind the warrant to arrest Commander Cushing, but since it was in the name of Commander Waterford, it's apparent that Serena Joy gave herself and Fred the authority to cut the man off at the knees. Will that come back to bite her, or will another, more Waterford friendly Commander take his place?
With all of the mystery surrounding Serena Joy and the waves of loyalty and kindness and back again, this is the storyline to watch as Season 2 draws to a close.
That doesn't mean it's the only storyline that was worth watching, as when word of the bombing got to Little America (I didn't realize that's what it was called!), Moira searched for her fiance in the available death records.
We learned why she was chosen as a handmaid, how she met her fiance and that the love of her life was, indeed, gone. That's a terrible way to find your loved one and it's horrible how few people were named in the available records.
That was also a theme of the hour, as when the handmaids were buried, they weren't even given the dignity of being done so with their given names.
I wish I could give you a world without violence, without pain. That's all I ever wanted. And in your name, dear Lord, we remember them. Ofryan. Ofleo. Ofhal. Ofzed. Ofbill. Ofduncan. Ofcharles...Aunt Lydia
What was interesting was that Little America waited to have the handmaid's full identities and photos of them before their indenture. I wonder where that information came from because it never seemed to me that Gilead would be all that invested in keeping track of the women with names.
That seems to be confirmed when they choose more handmaids to go back to society in the most atrocious way -- literally plucking them off the street while they were on their way to the gaseous mountain in the colonies.
You'd think someone would want to choose specific women to return to reproduction since the length of time they are sucking in the gases could damage their organs, but it was an entirely random moment.
It wasn't random enough that both Janine and Emily weren't among the chosen, of course, because what stories are left to tell in the colonies? Nothing happens there other than working and dying.
Once you pay the place a visit, the story seems to be over except what you gain from the experience if you make it out alive.
Janine jumped up on the back of June in the grocers as if she was a puppy with boundless energy. She will never let the f*ckers get her down. Emily, on the other hand, was as horrified by being back in society as she was to have been sent to her death.
I thought her mind might have gone when she appeared not to have recognized June but instead had forgotten June never got the chance to tell Emily her name.
It's something June never wants to happen again, and watching the handmaids share their names as if it was a whispered game in primary school made me all goose-pimply.
Eden being there was worrisome and her presence brings with it fear that someday she's going to rat on June for something she may or may not have ever done. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
As for "After," the possibilities as a result of interactions between June and Serena Joy are most promising, and they seem to find more common ground all the time. If they can bond as women and keep moving forward, that could be a turning point for all of the women in Gilead.
Once again, let's go out with the most fitting music that came with the simple click of a pen. The Handmaid's Tale knows how to take a story and kick it up a notch with the soundtrack, don't they?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.