‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ 2×05 Review: Bloodbath

Hope – a tiny, whispered seedling of hope – emerges from The Handmaid’s Tale 2×05 “Seeds,” in its final breaths. The episode is another stunning depiction of the impacts of oppression under a repressive theocratic regime. “Seeds,” like “Other Women,” is a more close-up and intimate study of the characters.

While it does travel to the Colonies and to an epically disturbing wedding ceremony, it doesn’t do the sweeping, large-scale camera work and action of the first three episodes.

The result is that “Seeds” feels like death. The loss and hopelessness are so great, the show tiptoes right up to the edge of watchability. And then right at the instant when the giving up seems complete, when the grief is simply too much to bear, when it is simply too dark to see past – there is a flicker.

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It’s beautifully crafted, with Offred dying by doing nothing. Her existence is basically one long, twisted and torture-filled trolley problem. Offred chooses to let the train smash into the brick wall. Inaction is her suicide.

I love this choice. It’s so deeply disturbing and yet relatable.

Offred slowly bleeding out, having us believe she is losing her baby and probably her own life, shows us how June is a fighter to her literal last drop. Even though Offred gives up, there is something inside her, some piece that remains June and that allows her baby to survive.

Offred’s slow death does another important thing in the episode: it characterizes Nick and his devotion to June. Nick has learned how to stay alive. He fights for the person he loves, all while wearing masks to hide what is really happening.

He approaches Serena and she calls him out:

Nick: She doesn’t have anyone to look out for her.

Serena: It appears she does.

He is in a web of deceit and at the same time, he holds precious his duty to keep June alive. He has to marry a child, and celebrate with the Waterfords, all while dying inside because he can’t even look at June.

Importantly, Nick is keenly aware that part of his ability to keep June alive is that he can never tell her what to do. She has demanded autonomy and Nick will not forsake that vow he’s silently made to her.

Nick consistently steps aside so that June can have space, however cramped and limited, to make choices. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.

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I need Nick and June together something fierce. And yet, I fear the passion-filled scenes between the pair were at the top of the season for a purpose. Now that Nick has an assigned wife, trysts with June will not be easy to come by.

Nick could be found out at any time. I fear for his life. Two times now, my heart has stopped beating in my chest: When June gazes at Nick’s apartment and sees only leaves, and when Aunt Lydia takes her to the hanging man. Both times, I thought Nick had died.

The Handmaid’s Tale is so intentional, there must be meaning to these foreboding images.

Whether it would make a point or not, I cannot handle Nick dying. A “happy ending” is not a possibility on The Handmaid’s Tale, but I at least need to see June and Nick’s child brought into the world with both parents living.

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I would prefer to see them bonded together to fight against Gilead by the end of Season 2 and for Season 3 to feature an extended May Day.

Preferences sure don’t get very far on this show, though!

The use of color on “Seeds” is masterful and brings out a grotesque Kubrick-like madness to Offred’s character. In particular, Offred’s bloody bath is poignant because of the crimson water.

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She is soaking in and reflected upon water that is bleeding.

It is powerful imagery. The bathtub is a place where June had previously been able to capture a moment to herself. It has also been the place where June could defy Aunt Lydia and rebel.

Now, it is the sight of her bloody indifference.

The whites, blues, greys, and reds in the mass wedding bring forth the madness of conformity.

Nick is trapped. He can’t run or rebel. He just has to react strategically, all while knowing that June is NOT okay.

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She loses her mind during the mass wedding ceremony. Her silent clapping scene showcases the totality of her fall.

But still… still, the fighter lurking inside her, her baby, but more importantly, June, awakens in the hospital room. The final vow we see in the episode, the one June makes to her child to “get them out,” is a ray of hope.

It is time for The Handmaid’s Tale to switch gears a bit, I think.

There is only so much torture and only so many morose stories we can take. While I would never expect something light-hearted, I hope that the next couple of episodes have a more fascinating (rather than torture-filled) focus.

Perhaps it is time to go back across the border to check in on Moira and Luke.

What did you think of “Seeds?” Join our conversation in the comments below!

The Handmaid’s Tale streams Wednesdays on Hulu.