The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12 Review: Postpartum

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So much damage has been done in the Waterford household, but with each damning event, things seem to change.

On The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12 while Serena Joy is attempting to experience the joys of motherhood fully, June is acting as a human cow knowing she's doing it to keep her baby alive.

But a woman's body doesn't work only by manipulation of the breasts. There's more to it than that including manipulation of the hormones and the mind. Being separated from Holly was drying up the well.

Is Holly a Hostage? - The Handmaid's Tale

Dragging June to the church to see the baby without the thought she would get to hold her spend any significant time with her after three weeks was borderline cruel, but Aunt Lydia was, as always, looking out for June.

Offred, your output is not as good as we would like. Seeing her might "prime the pumps" so to speak.

Aunt Lydia

Fred obviously arrived with specific instructions about how to play the situation, but if Serena Joy hasn't learned by now she cannot leave Fred to his own devices where June is concerned, then she deserves to be at the mercy of his whims.

Despite the protests, Aunt Lydia pointed out it made more sense for the baby and all involved if June was in the same house to keep her breasts engorged instead of plotting the weird little trip as many times as it took to make it work. 

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11 Review: Holly

Knowing June, she would probably use mind over matter to ensure her breasts dried up so they would need to meet every day. 

Aunt Lydia Saves the Day - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

Returning to the house allowed for Serena Joy to become ever more uncomfortable, making the baby she named Nicole to become even fussier. Babies can sense their mother's discomfort, and that's what's being portrayed in The Handmaid's Tale.

As much as it might seem like the worst advertising for adoption, it's more about the children reading their mother's demeanor and reacting accordingly. The wives aren't comfortable with raising other women's children even if it is supposed to be a dream come true. Because of that, their children fuss and fidget.

The more they fuss and fidget, the more guilt is put upon the mother, and the cycle continues. 

Comforting Nicole - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

June's return occurred at a time of turmoil in the Waterford house, as things between Nick (somewhat of a hero) and Eden were falling apart. 

At the same time we finally get to know Eden and see the potential of real friendships bloom between her and the others in the house, she takes her chance with love and runs off with Isaac.

June: I think, in this place, you grab love wherever you can find it.
Eden: Blessed night. And sweet dreams.
June: Sweet dreams.

There's something to be said for Gilead's ability to create a young woman who can still fall prey to love under such stifling conditions. When she arrived, she was willing to do whatever it took to make it work with Nick, but when Eden was shut off from him, she sought out affection where she could find it.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 10 Review: The Last Ceremony

People will do what they need to do to find and receive love. Fred tried to act as if he had no idea why a girl who was so "lucky" would run off, but June didn't let him pull that with her. She knew he knew very well why Eden left.

Because Eden didn't have the same opportunities as Fred to find and take affection clandestinely and go home to his marriage and continue pretending everything would be alright.

The Witnesses - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

I'll be sorry to see Sydney Sweeney go. As I said in my Sharp Objects review, she does a metamorphosis for every role she plays. She was bright and delightfully silly in Everything Sucks! and unrecognizable in comparison here as Eden. She next shows up in a pivotal role on Sharp Objects and is different still.

She's a wonderful talent who gives her all to her roles and makes them memorable. That's certainly how her final scene played out as Eden refused to give in to what could have saved her life. She held firm to her convictions and the truth of her love.

It was surprising Isaac, who seemed like such a dirtbag when he was first introduced, stood by her side like a man. Love can change a person. It changed both of them, and they had to grow up too fast.

Preacher: Children of God, renounce your sins and plead for his mercy.
Eden: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking...

June is Horrified - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

Growing up only to die isn't what anyone should suffer, but that's the road they traveled, and it was a choice they made. An honorable choice that made everyone sitting in the bleachers witnessing their deaths seem like hypocrites.

June and Nick had only earlier been talking fantastically about the life they'd never lead with their daughter, Holly, taking her to the beach where she'd eat sand and how lovely it would be if they could be together. 

Fred has spent nights with June, and the handmaids before her and both Serena Joy and Nick are aware of that and the fact Nicole is the child of the union of June and Nick.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 9 Review: Smart Power

Yet two children, innocents, were at the bottom of a deep pool having been put to death for adultery. Ouch.

Nobody seemed to come through it unscathed. It's another changing point in the Waterford house. How could anybody watch Eden die for her convictions -- for love -- and not be changed? 

Try as I might, I wanted to understand Isaiah 49:24, but I don't. 

Serena Joy: Thus said the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children.

Whatever happened when June reached out after the incident, Serena Joy had a bit of the woman we had seen midseason pumping through her veins again. Whether it was only for the baby or as a way to help heal the nightmare that has become Gilead I have no idea. A small gesture or large, it was a gesture.

Serena Joy, earlier demanding June not come near her child, now offers for mother and child to sit together and nurse. After her own attempt to comfort Nicole by way of nursing, maybe she understands more about what June and the baby have lost. It's unwise to guess. 

It's a moment June will cherish no matter how short.

Last Ditch Effort - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

Emily, too, discovered on the last leg of her handmaid's tour a new Commander. One who is responsible for one of the atrocities of Gilead.

Commander Joseph Lawrence is not your average commander. First of all, by way of introduction, he brings Bradley Whitford on board. We also discover through his distraught wife that he created the colonies knowing fully well it would be people digging that dirt.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 8 Review: Women's Work

His wife is terrorized by the thoughts of what he did and can't stop talking about it, even behind closed doors.

Up front, we know relatively nothing about Commander Lawrence, but he's eccentric. That's apparent right away. Not only did he accept Emily at a time no one else would dare, but he has a Martha who is missing an eye. Is he trying to make up for the colonies?

A New Posting - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

He also knows everything about Emily, which we learn when he takes her to the dining room and pours them both a drink. When she first looked at a comic book he had on a table, he noted that it used to be a hand one lost when reading without permission whereas now it is only a finger.

Drinks at the table suggest he doesn't much care for the rules that he helped to establish. He talks about Emily's life, her teaching, her marriage, and her child, equating losing her son to missing a limb, something she also understands. And does she understand how to heal that yet?

It borders on crazy talk, but I think Emily may be able to hold her own against Commander Lawrence. With a wife so distressed over what he's done, he seems incredibly interested in how someone like Emily has survived without falling apart given all she's been through already.

I just hope it doesn't mean he'll put her through even more. Could we dare hope she's finding a brief respite to the atrocities she's suffered?

Nick Wishes Differently - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12

Nick took Eden's death very hard. He tried to get her to lie and save herself, but she wouldn't do it. 

But I keep hearing in my head Fred telling Nick he would take care of him. With Eden gone, wouldn't it be something if he allowed Nick and June to be together in their home as long as they promised to give any children to Fred and Serena Joy?

What do you think the two would do in that instance? It's crazy talk, but it just hit me. 

One more to go. Where do you stand? Are there more cracks in the structure of Gilead?

Postpartum Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (42 Votes)

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.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12 Quotes

Offred, your output is not as good as we would like. Seeing her might "prime the pumps" so to speak.

Aunt Lydia

The future is full of possibilities for both of us. I'm going to take care of you.

Fred [to Nick]