The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 episode 7 review: After


In an episode that tries to shock but ends up mostly just moving pieces, The Handmaid’s Tale is much more of a quiet ride this week.

Everything in Gilead has a ritual on The Handmaid’s Tale. That includes funerals for Handmaids, who are buried in red coffins and have living Handmaids walk and touch the coffins. But it’s Aunt Lydia who speaks beyond the ritual — saying she wants to give them “a world without violence,” as if the very existence of handmaids and Gilead is not violent.

In a more literal sense, though, the latest violence has affected Fred, although he hasn’t died. That means Serena’s in charge, as much as Gilead lets a woman be in charge of anything. It doesn’t stop investigators from invading the Waterford home and questioning June about her escape.

And it is escape. Commander Cushing hasn’t bought the kidnapping story. This scene seems like it’s supposed to come off as intimidating, but something about it falls flat. Shooting a Martha in the street is new, but even Elisabeth Moss’ acting horrified doesn’t bump it up to the quiet horror that pervades an episode like “First Blood.”

At least Serena calls it out as “asinine.” It’s a word that can also apply to Nick kissing June in the corner of the hospital! So is Serena talking smack about Cushing, even if it’s delightful to listen to.

Less asinine but definitely wild is Serena asking Nick to help her forge warrants, since it also leads to her getting rid of Cushing as he tries to enter the Waterford house again … and asking June to read the orders and edit them.

The payoff for Janine and Emily getting pulled aside in the Colonies takes almost the entire episode. It does, however, result in their becoming Handmaids again.

And so, in the fresh market, the Handmaids start telling each other their real names. It spreads from Emily to June to Brianna to Dolores and beyond, and hopeful music swells to close their scene.

Up in Canada/Little America, we finally get to spend more time with Luke and Moira (and June, in flashback). Turns out that before everything happened, Moira signed a contract for a quarter of a million dollars to carry someone else’s baby (using her egg). This isn’t the first time that the show has done something to allude to the lowering birthrates. We go through everything with Moira — even down to handing the baby over and forging a connection with the doctor who helped her, Odette — the girlfriend Moira mentions at the start of the episode.

All of these flashbacks put a new spin on how Moira then sits and looks through Canada’s records of the dead, since there’s a special section for children. But it’s not baby Gavin we and Moira find; it’s Odette.

The hopeful note from the Handmaids doesn’t last long, though, as the names of the dead are read out and Moira puts a photo of her and Odette on the memorial.

For not using Little America often, The Handmaid’s Tale still has a good feel on how to use it to provide gut punches now and then. Those scenes and their related flashbacks are the strongest part of “After” as a whole.

Next: The top 8 awful and awesome moments from The Terror

Don’t let the side thoughts grind you down:

  • While the Handmaids’ name exchange happens in the market, Eden’s there too. That doesn’t seem wise.
  • “It’s about time things start getting back to normal around here,” Serena says in her scene with June. Calling it ironic doesn’t even begin to describe that line.
  • Ending the episode on a click of a pen from June — and breaking right into “Venus” — should not work as well as it does.