The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 episode 5 review: Seeds


For an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Seeds” often feels uneven in its dialogue, but when things do click together, it’s another harrowing episode.

The opening sequence of this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale might remind you of another sci-fi classic getting an adaptation this year: Fahrenheit 451. Why? Because Offred (and it feels appropriate to call her Offred) starts burning the letters from other Handmaids. And though Nick stops her, she says only what a good Handmaid would. There’s no true tension in it, rather just disappointment that she’s so clearly changed.

It’s so obvious that even Nick and Serena both notice it and bring it up, over and over again. This may be the weakest part of the episode. The end of last week’s episode makes this all extraordinarily clear, and to have characters comment on it again seems a bit like overkill. More changes come as Offred starts bleeding.

She then falls out the window and is soaked in blood. Despite all this, she doesn’t lose the baby, and June appears, just for a moment, to call her unborn child “tough” and promise that the baby “will not grow up in this place.”

The tension comes in when Serena and Lydia have a post-pregnancy check-in meeting. I know I’ve praised both Yvonne Strahovski and Ann Dowd so far, but this scene, where the two circle around each other without screaming or fighting, is absolutely sublime to watch. “How do you take your tea?” should not sound like it’s full of curse words, but Strahovski injects acid into every syllable. It’s a pleasure to watch them, even as they’re both clearly antagonists.

In fact, this episode is really Strahovski’s. She has the opportunity to let Serena show her frustration in ways large and small — snarking at the idea of the Prayvaganza, mocking Offred’s boilerplate responses — and she relishes it. Moreover, she gets to take over with Eden, teaching her about the ways of the bedroom.

We haven’t spent much time in the colonies as of late, but in case you’ve forgotten how bad it is,  “Seeds” makes sure to get the point across, showing people dead in the morning and dropping on the way to work. The childlike confusion of Janine about death in the colonies feels decidedly incongruous — and that’s certainly the point.

Weirdly, the stonger subtlety of Emily losing a tooth only reinforces how awkward much of the dialogue of the episode. Even though it has a valid argument here — between enduring and dying or finding some joy even in suffering — the dialogue doesn’t always work. When it does, there’s magic.

But for the most part, “Seeds” is better when it’s silent.

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Don’t let the side thoughts grind you down:

  • The marriage ceremony is disturbing on multiple levels, not the least of which is how young the brides are. Nick’s discomfort is also obvious, but the lingering shots on multiple brides’ faces show that that’s what we’re supposed to be most worried about. Well, that and how getting married is a reward.
  • Rita’s “So that happened” may be the best reaction, even if she then follows it up by commenting on the youth of the bride yet again.
  • The contrast of Kit and Fiona’s marriage to Eden and Nick’s speaks for itself.
  • “They do not own you, and they do not own what you will become” hits you hard, and it should become something repeated.