The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, episode 8 recap: Women’s Work


The Handmaid’s Tale is taking an unexpected turn and rules are being broken in Gilead like never before.

Who else is completely shocked by the character development of Serena? I have to say I did not see her character taking such a drastic turn and having a change of heart. But this week on The Handmaid’s Tale, Serena really surprises us when she chooses to break Gilead law and help out someone else–but suffers for it greatly.

If you recall, last week she asked June to help her edit documents in the Commander’s absence (how thrilling was the pen clicking scene?!), but this week their special time had to come to an end when the Commander returned home from the hospital. And while we wish we saw more of their dynamic, the story has to go on.

As a token of her appreciation, Serena gifts June with a white rose and a music box–I mean, could we have even imagined this just episodes ago? No way.

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Alas, the Commander does return, to basically everyone’s dismay, and takes over his usual duties. However, the sadness over his return quickly fades after Serena and June try to help out with another dilemma. Janine’s baby, Angela, has fallen ill (remember, she is under the care of Naomi and Warren), and her chances of survival look slim.

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Serena goes to see the baby on her own at first, while June tries to handle a distraught Janine who learns about her baby’s health. Unfortunately, Serena comes bearing horrible news and tells June its unlikely Angela will survive. However, there may be a way to help the baby, but it would require breaking Gilead law.

One of the Marthas used to be a neonatologist and Serena wants to grant her a temporary transfer so she can examine Angela. It seems so ridiculous to think that such a successful woman now leads the life of a Martha, but then she also rises as a reminder that the situation may be what it is, but they still possess the core of who they are.

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When Serena approaches the Commander to get his approval regarding the transfer, he abruptly rejects it–because that’s just not the Gilead way. However, this does not stop Serena from going ahead and forging Fred’s signature anyway to make this happen.

I have to take a moment to appreciate just how amazing Yvonne Strahovski has been this season. It’s so addicting to watch this hated character transform into someone we find ourselves rooting for. The subtle changes in her personality and the hints of the woman she used to be are surfacing, and all the credit goes to Strahovski.

Not only does Serena make the transfer happen, but she sets up a way to let Janine spend time with the baby. Aunt Lydia isn’t too excited about this plan as she fears it will completely shatter Janine (does she really care about that, though?).

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The doctor is unable to figure out what is wrong with Angela which puts a gloomy damper on the momentum of the episode. But June is determined to let Janine spend every waking moment with the baby’s last hours of life, and arranges for her to go in and hold her.

Next: The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, episode 7 recap: After

Back at the Waterford residence, Fred learns what Serena has been up to in his absence, and is extremely livid. When they are called to his office, things take a very The Handmaid’s Tale turn. Disgusted over his wife’s betrayal, he decides that she needs to be punished. Off comes his belt and at that very moment, fear crawls into our hearts.

Fred proceeds to whip Serena as a form of punishment and forces June to watch him do it. The sounds of the whip are so agonizing to hear, and Serena’s pain is felt in every single moment. And for what was one depressing episode of television, it ends on a happy note and a miracle. Janine’s baby lives to see another day–all because of the sweet embrace and loving touch of her mom.

The Handmaid’s Tale streams new episodes every Wednesday on Hulu!