‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2 Finale Recap: Burning Down the House

*Warnings: Spoilers ahead*

  • Serena rallies the wives to call for change in Gilead following Eden’s death, and pays dearly for it.
  • Emily Ofjoseph stabs Aunt Lydia in the back...literally. 
  • The Commander struggles to regain control in his household and seeks Offred’s support. 
  • Rita and Nick present Offred with the chance to save herself and her baby…But will she take it?

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The Handmaid’s Tale season two finale And it’s going to leave you shook in three, two, one…

offred folds clothes handmaids tale
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Dust In The Wind

The episode opens on Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Rita (Amanda Brugel) gathering pieces of Eden’s (Sydney Sweeney) wife uniform from the clothesline in the wake of her cruel death. As she plucks articles of clothing off the line, Offred muses about her fate and reveals that Eden won’t even receive a grave: “Heretics don’t get to rest in peace. Here, they use them as animal feed…All we leave behind is the uniform: wife, handmaid, Martha, mother, daughter, girlfriend, queen, b**ch, criminal, sinner, heretic, prisoner.”

After there are no more relics left to collect, Rita and Offred go inside to fold and pack Eden’s clothes. They’re shocked, and Rita feels especially guilty for how she treated Nick’s (Max Minghella) late wife. “She was a child. I didn’t have a kind word for her…I treated her like sh*t,” she reflects before leaving the room. Offred one-ups the guilt level and says, “I slept with her husband,” but it doesn’t make Rita feel any better. She simply says she should have helped her and walks away.

As Offred continues to sort through Eden’s things, she finds a teddy bear, her wedding dress and then, a Bible. She rushes to Serena’s (Yvonne Strahovski) greenhouse, where she’s “discussing lilies” with Nicole. Offred shows Serena the Bible, which is covered in notes and drawings—further proof of Eden’s pious conviction. But that’s not how Serena sees it. “Looks like Eden was hiding a multitude of sins,” she coolly replies. Offred is outraged and, in a slew of expletives, tries to explain to Serena that if a girl that devout is dead, then there’s little hope for Nicole in Gilead.

“How are you going to keep her safe? Are you going to lock her up here like one of your orchids?” Offred yells.

“My daughter will be raised properly. She will understand the word of God and she will obey his word,” Serena responds. But as “proper” as Nicole might grow up to be, Offred points out that she’ll never be able to read his word. Fuming, Serena orders her to leave, and Offred looks at her with pity in her eyes.

rita and nick smile handmaids tale copy
George Kraychyk/Hulu

So Many Transgressions

Later, the Waterfords hold a wake and Eden’s father apologizes profusely to Nick and the Commander for the misdeeds of his daughter. While Nick is understanding and gentle with him, the Commander calls, welcoming Eden into their household, “A grave mistake, it turns out, to be repaid with sin and deception.” Eden’s dad is gutted and says he’s “ashamed,” so Serena tries to add some levity to the situation by telling him how fondly Eden spoke of the family farm. Rita can no longer hold it together and has to excuse herself to keep from crying. 

The Commander says he hopes Eden’s sister has learned from her “transgressions,” and ever faithful to Gilead, Eden’s dad says, “She was home when Eden arrived home with that boy. We called the authorities immediately.”

The Commander praises his faith and says it reflects well on their already tarnished family. But Offred is so shocked, she interrupts to make sure she heard him right. Yep, he turned in his own daughter, and the Commander is all about it. She catches Serena’s eye to make sure the impact of this statement resonates.

Serena, Eden’s dad and Nick sadly shuffle out of the room, but the Commander lingers behind with Offred. He closes the door and she can’t contain her rage anymore. “What are you going to do when they come for your daughter?” Offred asks. He doesn’t answer at first but then slaps her and tells her to mind her tone. She hits him back with vigor (Yes!) and he grabs her face and creepily says Bible verses before stalking out. 

Later Rita and Offred joke about the fact that Offred backhanded the Commander as they ice her face. Nick walks in and Rita begins to leave to give them some privacy, but not before saying, “Your girlfriend is a badass.” Nick remains quiet in his sadness, and sensing what might help, Offred leads him into Nicole’s room so he can hold her. They laugh with joy and cuddle as they gaze upon their daughter. Offred then tells him she loves him. It’s almost like they’re a real family—if only for a moment.

commander waterford talks to serena handmaids tale
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Girls Just Wanna Have Rights

The next day, Offred, Janine (Madeline Brewer), Emily Ofjoseph (Alexis Bledel) and another handmaid walk along the river and chat about Eden. Janine asks the others if they think Eden and Isaac (Rohan Mead) are together in heaven, and when Offred points out that they should be together here on Earth, she frustratingly calls her out for always saying “the bad stuff.” Offred tells the other women about the book she found in Eden’s belongings and they call her brave before Ofjoseph changes the subject and says she has her first ceremony tonight. The gals all gab about how awkward the ceremony is and poke fun at the Gilead jargon they’re supposed to say in an instance like this.

But that’s not all that’s on her mind. Ofjoseph then opens up and says she keeps thinking about her son, Oliver. His seventh birthday is next week, and the girls imagine baking a cake and celebrating his birthday with tequila. (If only.) She’s grateful for the support and surprisingly glad to be back in Gilead with her crew. To each their own…

Later, Ofjoseph hears music downstairs as she mentally prepares herself for her ceremony. She looks into the study and seeing no one there, grabs a knife from the kitchen and settles onto her knees in front of the fireplace. Commander Lawrence shuffles in with papers and yells for the Martha, but she appears to have gone out for the evening. He complains that it’s difficult to motivate employees without salaries, then notices Ofjoseph is on her knees and tells her to get up. He has no intention of going through with the ceremony and she’s shocked, but more confused. Perhaps he’s not so bad after all, at least in the grand scheme of things.

Meanwhile, Serena and Naomi (Ever Caradine) fawn over their babies and talk about the exciting milestones to come. Serena asks Naomi if she worries about their girls’ future and, shocked, she replies “I put my faith in Gilead.” But as they descend the staircase to join the other wives, Naomi admits she’s fearful of raising a girl in Gilead and that others are, too. They propose to meet with the women who share their worries.

True to her word, Serena visits the Commanders cabinet with dozens of other wives and proposes an amendment to the Gilead constitution. They want their daughters to be able to read the Bible, which Commander Warren Putnam (Stephen Kunken) calls a “radical idea.” She assures it’s one offered with the utmost respect, but Commander Waterford is visibly angry and brushes the matter off, promising to “discuss the issue seriously.” Unsatisfied, Serena pulls out Eden’s Bible and begins to read from it (the biggest no-no). The Commanders scoff and several wives leave in protest.

Afterward, the Commander meets them in the hall and says while they appreciate their interest in their work, there’s a lot to consider. Serena presses him for an answer, but he merely thanks them all again. When the wives leave, Serena asks what the others said and adds, “I did this for Nicole. I did this to set an example for our daughter.” He replies, “So you have,” and two Guardians emerge to take her away. She screams and cries, but the Commander just walks away.

emily and aunt lydia face off handmaids tale
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Knife: Meet Back

The next morning, Aunt Lydia pops in to visit Ofjoseph and says she heard their first ceremony went, “splendidly.” Noticing that Ofjoseph isn’t in a talking mood, she pointedly calls her Emily, then tries a less positive tone. “I hope you appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given in this house. God is truly merciful. He offers redemption even to the most perverse and degenerate among his flock,” she admonishes. And when Ofjoseph still doesn’t answer, she turns to leave and says, “It’s like I cut out your tongue,” under her breath.

That’s the last straw for Ofjoseph as she lunges at Aunt Lydia and violently stabs her in the back with a knife. Aunt Lydia tumbles down the stairs and Ofjoseph smiles as she moans in pain. She then proceeds to kick Aunt Lydia down the stairs to really drive her point home. The Martha comes in and orders the Commander to call an ambulance. “Dear, Lord. What have you done?” she says scathingly before shutting Ofjoseph in a room. She’s euphoric for a moment until she sees herself in the mirror and realizes that she’ll never see her son again. She breaks down sobbing in the corner.

Later that night, Commander Lawrence enters the room and ushers her out to his car while his wife hysterically says her goodbyes. He blasts “Walking on Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox as they drive, calls it an “exciting day” and dances with the windshield wipers. (Yep, it’s as weird as it sounds.) It all becomes too much for Ofjoseph, and she begs him to turn it off.

offred approaches serena handmaids tale

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Later, a battered Serena and a remarkably calm Commander Waterford arrive back home. Offred lets them in and notices Serena is acting strangely. “We had a difficult day, but all will be well,” the Commander tells Offred before he sets Serena’s wedding ring on the nightstand and leaves to fetch her tea. Offred sees an opportunity and asks Serena what happened. She unwraps her left hand and reveals that half of her pinky has been cut off. “I tried,” she says dejectedly.

Offred sits with her and holds her hand before heading to the kitchen to give the Commander a piece of her mind. He’s yelling for Rita when Offred enters the kitchen and asks her to help him find the damn tea. He asks where Rita is and when she says she doesn’t know, he whispers, “God send me an obedient woman.” She doesn’t try and hide her disdain. He goes on to rationalize what happened to Serena, saying, “We all have our roles to play. Serena needed to be reminded of hers.” 

Instead of apologizing to his wife, Commander Waterford looks for absolution by way of Offred and says that if she keeps on being an “obedient handmaid” he can bend the rules and let her stay in his house with her baby. “We could try again. For a boy this time. It’d be fun,” he offers as she scowls at him in disgust. Her response? “Go f**k yourself, Fred.” And that’s when he promises more visits with Hannah (Jordana Blake) as long as she behaves “properly.”

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Burning Down The House

That evening, Offred is burping Nicole when she sees a fire across the street. Rita suddenly rushes in and tells her that she and Nicole can escape if they leave immediately. Rita tells her to walk past the gray house and promises someone will find her. As Offred exits the house, her eyes meet with Nick’s one last time. 

Commander Waterford sees the fire and asks Rita what’s going on, but she plays dumb. Sensing something must be wrong, he sprints upstairs and is horrified to find that Nicole and Offred are missing. Before they left, however, Offred took a moment to write, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum,” on the wall like the badass she is. Nick appears in the doorway of Offred’s room and, panicked, Commander Waterford tells him to put together a search party. He tries to rush out of the room, but Nick blocks his way and says, “It’s too dangerous out there,” while flashing his gun.  

Just as Offred is about to walk out of the compound, Serena spots her and asks what she’s doing. She implores Offred to give her baby back but she tries to reason with her, saying, “I can get her out. I can get her out of here. She cannot grow up here…You know she can’t. I know that you love her so much. I do. I’ve seen it. You can do this.” Serena is devastated but she knows it’s the right decision. She asks to hold her one last time so she can say goodbye. She blesses the baby and says some Bible verses before kissing her forehead and giving her back.

Before running away with the Martha, Offred praises Serena, and suddenly they’re off. Through an orchestrated ballet of Martha handoffs and flashlight signals, she’s led to an open field and told to wait. She pulls a photo of Hannah out and painfully remembers singing to her and hearing her little laugh. Nicole Holly stirs and she shows her the photo. “This is your sister, Hannah. Isn’t she pretty? Maybe you’ll meet her one day. You’re gonna meet her one day.” She folds the photo into Holly’s swaddle as a car pulls up and flashes its lights at her.

And that’s when arguably the biggest twist of the season unfolds: The car is carrying none other than Ofjoseph Emily and Commander Lawrence. He says “Godspeed” and tells her to get out and hitch a ride with Offred June. She’s understandably confused and when she asks what’s happening, the Commander says, “I’m getting myself in deep s**t.” June tells her that they’re both getting out of Gilead, finally. A Guardian’s car pulls up, Emily gets in, and the Commander says, “Have a nice life. Don’t get caught. Keep away from drugs,” before riding away. But instead of getting in the Guardian’s getaway car with Emily, June hands her the baby and says, “Call her Nicole. Tell her I love her.” She slams the door closed and pats it twice to signal that it can pull away. (OK, that was the biggest twist of the season.) As the car drives away, she pulls her hood on and the look on her face says she’s out for blood.

We’re not saying we’re happy the season is over, but we’re gonna need a couple months to process what the hell just happened. Luckily, The Handmaid’s Tale was already renewed for season three. The question is, when will it return to Hulu and why would June possibly want to stay in Gilead? So. Many. Feels.

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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.