This post contains spoilers for season two of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Even for passionate fans of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, episode 10, which aired last week, was particularly hard to watch.
When June (Elizabeth Moss) goes into labour, Fred Waterford, the commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) start eagerly preparing for the imminent arrival of their child. It soon becomes clear, however, that June is experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, and the baby isn’t on its way.
Furious and humiliated, Serena Joy takes June to a doctor and demands she be induced immediately. When the request is declined, the Waterfords decide to bring on their handmaid’s labour in “the most natural way” – through sex.
June is taken into the couple’s bedroom, and suddenly becomes aware of their plan. “No, please,” she says, panicked. “You could hurt the baby. . . . Serena, listen to me. You don’t have to do this.”
What follows is the harrowing rape of June, who is nine months pregnant.
In the wake of the disturbing scene, the episode’s writer, Yahlin Chang, had a crucial request for viewers: “Please don’t stop watching.”
"You have got to keep watching," she told Sydney Morning Herald. "There are amazing triumphs as well as huge upsets."
"I do worry about people not wanting to watch because this was a very hard episode to watch. I have to say episodes 11 through 13 are just unbelievable. There's just this ramp-up adrenaline, momentous, amazing feeling," she said.
"Especially the next episode right after this one, it's incredible. One of the best episodes of television ever."
Now, episode 11 - 'Holly' - has just dropped, and there's one galvanising moment in particular that's attracting attention.
As June sits in a car and contemplates using it as a getaway vehicle, to find a life of freedom for herself and her baby, a familiar voice comes through the radio.
“Radio Free America, broadcasting from somewhere in the Great White North," the voice says. To many, it will be recognisable almost immediately.
It's Oprah Winfrey.
"And now this news: The American government in Anchorage today received promises of economic aid from India and China," she says. "In the United Kingdom, economic sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada. Now a tune to remind everyone who’s listening, American patriot or Gilead traitor: We are still here."
Then, Bruce Springsteen’s 'Hungry Heart' starts to play.
It's a crucial moment for June, who is stuck between staying 'safe' and risking everything for the freedom of her unborn child.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, The Handmaid's Tale creator and showrunner Bruce Miller said those working on the show knew Oprah was a fan, and that it was a "lovely, easy process" to involve her in this story idea.
"The radio segment she recorded was inspired by the free radio of the Allies from World War II," he said. "It was an absolute honour to have Oprah featured on the show, and especially thrilling as she was the one who presented us with the Emmy last year."
Oprah's cameo is just one, small reminder that we should follow Chang's request: Keep watching - because there's utter brilliance to come.