‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2, Episode 2 Recap: The Dreaded Colonies

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

  • Emily makes a new friend foe in the Colonies.

  • June adjusts to life in hiding, but it’s not all she’d hoped for.

  • Emily gets her revenge against Gilead in an unexpected way.

  • Janine and Emily reunite in the most hellish of places. 

Emily makes a new friend foe in the Colonies.

June adjusts to life in hiding, but it’s not all she’d hoped for.

Emily gets her revenge against Gilead in an unexpected way.

Janine and Emily reunite in the most hellish of places. 

Emily makes a new friend foe in the Colonies.

June adjusts to life in hiding, but it’s not all she’d hoped for.

Emily gets her revenge against Gilead in an unexpected way.

Janine and Emily reunite in the most hellish of places. 

Still reeling from the first episode of season two of The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, buckle up, because episode two has plenty more demented excitement in store. Let’s dive in, shall we?

june arrives at new home handmaid s tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

A New Normal

We open on June (Elisabeth Moss), who no longer has to go by Offred thanks to her grand escape in episode one. She’s being transported to a safe house in the back of yet another truck, holding her breath at every police siren and musing about Gilead: “Is this what freedom looks like? Even this much is dizzying…Wear the red dress, wear the wings, shut your mouth, be a good girl, roll over and spread your legs. Yes, ma’am. May the lord open.”

June arrives at an abandoned office building (the former location of The Boston Globe) that she’ll now call home. She asks the truck driver what she’s supposed to do now, but he’s as clueless as she is. Helicopters can be heard as he shuts the door to the warehouse and June runs further into the building for fear of being seen and captured.

alexis bledel working on colonies in handmaids tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

Welcome To The Colonies

Cut to the barren expanse of the Colonies, a toxic wasteland where unwomen (women who have failed Gilead and are no longer recognized as women) wear dreary blue-gray clothes and are forced to do grueling manual labor. In the bleak sea of blue-gray, we see Emily (Alexis Bledel)—she’s alive but has definitely seen better days. At the sound of a bell, Emily and her fellow unwomen kneel to pray.

Nearly at the point of passing out, Emily thinks back to her life before Gilead, when she was a college biochemistry professor. A female student asks a question in class and a male peer steps in to mansplain the answer, but Emily puts him in his place. After class, she tells the female student not to be deterred by insecure men. It seems like a meaningful conversation, but it’s one that ultimately costs Emily her teaching job when the student catches a glimpse of her phone background: a photo of her wife and child.

Later that afternoon, Emily’s boss (who’s also homosexual) informs her that her classes are being cut and she’s been relegated to the lab to “focus on her mitochondrial research.” The real reason? Her phone background (and same-sex marriage) doesn’t fly in almost-Gilead America. Taking away Emily’s teaching privileges because she’s a lesbian is basically the scared-straight mentality in action, or “scared back into the closet,” as she cleverly calls it. Either way, Emily says she’s not stepping down from teaching because no one puts Baby in a mitochondrial research corner. Amen.

Back at the Colonies, the unwomen finish their day’s work and head back to their dilapidated bunks. Emily makes rounds and helps ease her fellow subhumans into their slow and painful deaths, dead fingernails and all. She goes outside to cut mint for tea and sees a bus arrive with a former Commander’s wife (Marisa Tomei). Guess gender traitors and defiant handmaids aren’t the only sinners in Gilead’s eyes.

june nick fighting handmaid s tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

Home Sweet Home

Meanwhile, June explores her new home and finds personal effects strewn across the desks in the former Boston Globe bullpen. The desks remind her of pre-Gilead society, but she’s quickly brought back to reality when she comes face-to-face with a series of nooses and a wall pockmarked with bullet holes.

Suddenly, someone enters the building and June, wielding a hammer, hides. Luckily, it’s just Nick (Max Minghella), but he doesn’t have good news. He tells June she’ll likely have to reside in this “slaughterhouse” for weeks, but she refuses to accept it. Beyond frustrated, Nick says, “I’m trying to keep you alive—you and our baby. I’m helping you. I am risking my life to help you, and you’re being so f***ing stubborn.”

But June’s not picking up anything he’s putting down. She resolves to drive north to Maine and scoop up Hannah (Jordana Blake) along the way. She demands Nick’s keys, but once she gets in the car she realizes escape is not so easy. Defeated, June exits the car and eases her sorrow with some savage lovemaking.

emily hugs son and wife goodbye handmaid s tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

They Say A Woman Can Get Used To Anything, But…

Back at the Colonies, the new wife-cum-unwoman is having trouble adjusting to a life of shoveling toxic sludge (imagine that). After a long day of work, Emily takes pity on her and teaches her how to nurse her torn-up hands and kaput fingernails. They bond over their love of higher education, and Emily learns that the former wife was sent to the Colonies because she “committed a sin of the flesh.” Overcome by Emily’s compassion, the unwoman dishes on her affair: “I fell in love. Do you think that matters?...To God. I know it does. If it was love, he will forgive me, protect me, he will deliver me from this place.” Ah, so that explains her wildly inappropriate sunny disposition.

Emily gives the former Commander’s wife some antibiotics to protect her from the contaminated water. When she asks why she’s helping her, Emily explains, “A mistress was kind to me once.”

The vent sesh makes Emily think about her last days of freedom—ya know, before she was ceremonially raped and forced to do backbreaking work. After her boss told her about her demotion, he was hanged in the college courtyard for being a gender traitor. Fearing for her life, Emily knew she needed to flee the country before things got any worse. So she and her wife, a Canadian named Sylvia (Clea DuVall), pack their bags, grab their son and head for the Great White North. But when they get to the airport they learn same-sex marriage is no longer legal. And since Emily has viable ovaries and isn’t a Canadian citizen by marriage or birth, she’s not allowed to emigrate.

Emily’s instinct to protect her family kicks in and she sends them on their flight. Their goodbye is agonizing, especially because Emily has no idea what’s in store for her.

unwomen at the colonies handmaid s tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

Payback’s A Fickle Beast

Back at the Colonies, the new girl on the block falls ill. When Emily comes to check on her, it becomes clear that she didn’t give her antibiotics, but poison. *Gasp*

The former Commander’s wife can’t understand why Emily would betray her, until she kindly breaks it down: “Every month, you held a woman down while your husband raped her. Some things can’t be forgiven. It’ll take a few more hours.”

The icing on the revenge-flavored cake? When Emily coolly says, “You should die alone.”

Emily strings her up like a scarecrow the next morning, and the resident Guardian is furious, to say the least. She promises “there will be consequences,” which is basically Gilead’s catchphrase at this point.

june sitting at vigil handmaid s tale
George Kraychyk/Hulu

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

After the funeral/opportunity to instill more fear, a new bus of unwomen arrives at the Colonies and Emily sees Janine (Madeline Brewer). The former handmaids embrace but are immediately ripped apart…because this isn’t summer camp, it’s a death sentence.

Back in June’s confinement, she’s watching a Friends DVD box set. When her episode ends, she feels behooved to collect the personal belongings from the former Boston Globe employees’ desks and creates a candlelit vigil at the bullet-riddled bloodstained wall downstairs.

Oddly enough, she whispers a prayer: “God, by whose mercy the faithful departed have found rest, please send your holy angel to watch over this place. To Christ our Lord, amen.”

As the camera pulls back, we see a heartbreaking collage of Gilead’s crimes against humanity.

The Handmaid’s Tale season two, episode three hits Hulu next Wednesday, May 2. That’s plenty of time to watch videos of puppies, kittens and unicorns to ease our minds.


Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.