‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2, Episode 11 Recap: Offred's Choice
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
- Offred puts the pedal to the metal and tries to escape Gilead, but a few things get in her way.
- The Waterfords try to figure out how they’re going to explain another missing pregnant handmaid, and wonder if it will cost them their lives.
- Offred accepts her fate and makes an extraordinary decision to protect the health of her baby.
- The population of Gilead increases by precisely one little nugget.
You may want to grab the tissues now, because this episode is a real whirlwind.
On the Road Again…Maybe
The episode opens on Offred (Elisabeth Moss), who is still standing in the snow and reeling after watching Nick (Max Minghella) get shot and driven away by his fellow Guardians. She tries to follow the car, but ultimately heads back inside to regroup. On her trek back to the house, she spies a car in the locked garage, oh, and a wolf guarding it. With a look of fierce determination, she returns indoors and searches for anything that can help her get out of Gilead. She finds lots of taxidermied animals, some canned food and then, a framed photo of Hannah (Jordana Blake) with her new family.
But it’s one of Hannah’s drawings that really breaks her heart. She thinks back to when Hannah first started school. She didn’t want to leave June’s side even for a few hours, and now there’s an entirely new new woman she calls mama.
Offred snaps out of her reverie and finds a set of keys that, thankfully, open the garage. She takes the car cover off to find a vintage whip with a racing stripe. Not necessarily under the radar, but it’ll have to do. She turns on the car and powers up the radio. She hears Oprah’s soothing voice coming from “Somewhere in the Great White North,” and it seems there’s hope in sight: The American government is now receiving additional funding from India and China, the U.K. is placing harsh sanctions on Gilead, and Canada is raising its refugee cap to house more Gilead escapees. But before Offred can drive away into the sunset, she needs supplies and some fresh duds. So she gathers water, canned food and first-aid materials, and changes into a jacket belonging to Hannah’s other parents.
She catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and remembers getting ready for a book release party with Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) during her first pregnancy. How drastically things have changed. But now’s not the time to reminisce, because suddenly Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) and the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) barge through the front door screaming her name.
But What Will the Neighbors Think?
Though no one answers their calls, the Waterfords see the open cabinets and know that Offred might still be there. Serena hears a creak above her and bounds up the stairs. She sees an open armoire and Offred’s clothes discarded in the bathroom. It infuriates her to think that she may have just lost her only chance at becoming a mother. So the blame game begins. “Maybe they weren’t here? They were. Now they’ve run off together, thanks to you,” Serena screeches at the Commander, holding Offred’s discarded cape.
But the Commander can’t wrap his mind around what has happened and insists that Offred would be grateful for his “kindness” and that Nick would never disobey him. But Serena points out that he raped Offred yesterday and that, oh, everyone hates him. Not to mention is the second time their pregnant handmaid has escaped, and their chances of getting out of this scot-free are slim to none. With the Waterfords distracted, Offred finds a shotgun and bullets. Uh-oh.
Serena really lays into the Commander, coldly saying, “I gave up everything for you and for the cause and I only ever wanted one thing in return. I wanted a baby…And because of your sick infatuation with that girl…” And that’s when the Commander snaps. He pushes her up against a wall and they argue with their faces inches from each other. Offred, meanwhile, points the gun at them through a window above, but even though she has a clear shot, she doesn’t have the guts to pull the trigger, and the Waterfords leave.
And that’s when Offred very inconveniently goes into labor.
These Aren’t Braxton-Hicks, Baby
Offred thinks back to when she made arrangements for her first pregnancy. Her mother, Holly (Cherry Jones), tries to get her to use a midwife instead of a licensed doctor (though she is, in fact, a doctor). June points out that it’s unlikely she’ll even be there for the birth because of how dedicated she is to her job. Her mom feigns surprise and June asks that she not make promises she can’t keep.
Back in present day, Offred heads back to the garage to make her grand escape, but, of course, the garage door doesn’t open. She repeatedly rams the car into the door, but the snow outside is so thick that it doesn’t budge. Furious, she stomps outside with a shovel to free the garage door but she slips and her water breaks. The baby is coming, now. So she begrudgingly heads back inside, lights a fire and braves contractions so intense that she passes out.
While she’s unconscious, she dreams of her first labor with Hannah, and how Luke and Moira (Samira Wiley) bickered over who made a cooler playlist. June asked for her mom, who was nowhere to be found.
When she comes to, she’s surrounded by blood. Frightened, she knows what she has to do and whispers to her baby, “I know I promised you. It’s gonna be OK.” She walks back outside, and keeled over in pain, fires four shots into the air as a call for help.
It’s Tissue Time
Later, her contractions continue as she tries to deliver the baby on her own. Yelling at the top of her lungs and dripping in sweat, a montage plays of her first labor, the labor simulations they practiced in the Red Center and Janine (Madeline Brewer) giving birth while handmaids sang, “Breathe, breathe, breath. Push, push, push.” And then, a beautiful little crying baby is there in her arms and she whispers, “Hello there.” (Anyone else low-key crying?)
Cradling her newborn, Offred thinks back to the first time she held Hannah in her arms and how her mother arrived just after her birth. So, she names her new baby Holly. “You have a big sister. Her name is Hannah and one day you’re gonna meet her,” she promises her.
As the emotional episode closes, Offred muses off camera somewhere: “I keep going with this limping and mutilated story because I want you to hear it. As I will hear yours too if I ever get the chance, if I meet you or if you escape, in the future or in heaven. By telling you anything at all, I’m believing in you. I believe you into being. Because I’m telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are.”
Car lights shine into the window, doors slam, and Offred whispers, “We did it, Holly,” before the end credits begin.
Was Offred telling her story to Hannah, Luke or perhaps another handmaid? We’ll just have to wait and see when The Handmaid’s Tale season two, episode 12 hits Hulu on Wednesday, July 4.