Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale season one, and the premiere of season two.
Season two of The Handmaid’s Tale has dropped and even though we’ve only been granted a taster with the first two episodes available, there is already so much to unravel when it comes to the dystopian television show that is currently making up the bulk of our nightmares.
Season two of The Handmaid’s Tale picks up moments after season one left off, as we are treated to scenes of brutality and violence as we watch June (Elisabeth Moss) and her fellow handmaid’s be brutally and psychologically tortured for disobeying the aunts and failing to murder one of their own in cold blood.
As always, the first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale are a mixed bag of present day scenes that push the story along coupled with flashback sequences that serve as world-building tools and allow us to piece together the puzzle of how the Gilead came to be.
These glimpses into June’s past life often serve to not only enrich her as a character, painting her in a more multi-dimensional and relatable way so that we can now see by contrast what a broken women she, but also serves to portray how violent the take-over by Gilead appeared to be.
But in The Handmaid’s Tale season two premiere episode, entitled June, one of the flashback sequences contained a brief, domestic chat between June and her husband Luke (O. T. Fagbenle), which to the naked eye could read like any normal couple discussing some life admin business in a rush before they head out the door to work.
However, when you really focus on their conversation and what it means, you’ll see that this moment is a clue that points to the fact that Gilead had infiltrated society long before the big visual attacks we saw in the first season. The protesters being gunned down in the streets, families escaping through checkpoints and June being violently and unceremoniously fired from her job.
In this scene June reminds Luke about the “form” she needs him to sign before she heads out on a grocery run and to the pharmacy.
Luke seems only mildly shocked that he has to sign it, remarking “they actually ask to see it?” and June says yes and insists that there is line for the husband’s signature and she needs that in order to purchase the medicine she needs.
It’s a small, passing moment made even more intricate by the fact that neither of these character actually ever utter the words “birth control” out loud to each other. But we can still figure out what they are referring to, because by the end of the conversation, the form is abandoned and the couple look lovingly into each others eyes and talk about possibly having another baby.
Every huge clue and plot twist that you missed in The Handmaid’s Tale, season one. Post continues.
The reason this small scene sticks out so spectacularly amongst the more graphic, violent or action filled moments from the premiere episode is because it proves that June is not a new victim to the regime of Gilead. She has in fact been living by their rules for such a long time that it’s almost possible to believe she was ever a truly free being.
While she and Luke think the form is a bit ridiculous, they also treat it more as an acceptable life annoyance rather than as the horrifying loss of basic human rights that it is, the right to purchase medicine for and have control over ones own body if you are a woman.
June does not seem aghast and surprised by this practice, as she does at other points in the series when her life and rights are turned over to her husband, such as the scene where all her wealth is transferred into his bank account.
Knowing now that even the life June remembers, a life where she was able to work, chose to be married and raise her daughter, was never the life of relative freedom we believed her to have led.
And since every event in The Handmaid’s Tale, both the novel and the television series, are based on real life events happening somewhere in the world, it’s also a sobering reminder as to why we all find this show so truly horrifying.
Episodes one and two of The Handmaid’s Tale are available now on SBS and SBS On Demand. New episodes air weekly. Season one is now available to watch in full on SBS On Demand.
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