The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11 Review: Holly

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Serena Joy and Fred Waterford did most of the talking during The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11, and their time on screen was sparse.

What they managed to say in such a short amount of time clarified things for those unsure whether Fred's motivations to reunite June with her daughter, Hannah, were pure or malicious.

Their words also proved June's forethought in gathering Godparents for her daughter before her birth was a very sound decision indeed.

You Must Be Kidding - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11

Picking up exactly where The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 10 left off, June was all alone at the big estate.

I'm sorry there is so much pain in this story. I'm sorry it's in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire, pulled apart by force, but there is nothing I can do to change it. I've tried to put some of the good things in as well.

June

That left Elisabeth Moss to carry the episode virtually by herself, and as always, she did a remarkable job carrying June through the phases of someone both determined to escape for the sake of her baby and ultimately determined to be saved for the same reason.

The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 has done a deft job at reminding us the role mothers play in their children's lives and that not every woman is prepared to be a mother no matter how much she may believe the opposite to be true.

A mother in the true sense of the word would do whatever she could to protect the safety of her child. 

Related: Carissa's Corner: Saving Shows, Best of 2018, and Checking In with Readers

We are witness to it and how the definition of safety changes under the circumstances through all of June's actions. She has never fled and gone in search of Hannah because she knows the pain it would cause her daughter to see and unsee her again and again without having some control over the situation.

At the estate, June went from wanting to flee and take off for Canada, we can assume, preparing with a small satchel for her journey, to the realization she would have to stay at the house and give birth.

And once she realized what it would be like to give birth alone, recalling all of the terrors and triumphs of giving birth to Hannah, June reached out for help because the baby needed medical care to survive, and survival in this world is paramount above all else if they're to take down Gilead.

Taking Up Arms  - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11

As frightening as it is to imagine her child in the arms of the Waterfords, at least she knows there is some kindness in that house, however cracked it may be. When left to their own devices, their argument at the estate while searching for June was about June.

Serena Joy: Fred! Maybe they weren't here? Well, they were. Now they've run off together thanks to you!
Fred: There must be some other explanation.
Serena Joy: Like what?
Fred: Nick wouldn't be disloyal. I let Offred see her daughter. She would have been grateful.
Serena Joy: How could you be so stupid? They hate you! She's always hated you. She keeps running away from you!
Fred: Me?! If you'd shown that girl one ounce of kindness, she would never have left!
Serena Joy: Kindness? You raped her yesterday.
Fred: That was YOUR idea! I did this to fix your mess.
Serena Joy: You sent her out here with the father of her baby to see her daughter. What did you think was going to happen? That she was going to go home and thank you? You are such a fucking idiot.
Fred: Fuck. When did you become such a fucking bitch?!

It was fitting that June had trained down on the Waterfords a shotgun she could have used at any moment while the two argued. She didn't need it as they're their own worst enemies.

Looking for June - The Handmaid's Tale

Before thinking about the baby or June or any of it, Serena Joy thought about herself. Any progress she made while Fred was gone has disappeared, and she's so locked up in her own mind and the direness of her life that she failed to think about the pregnant woman she was seeking ready to give birth.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 10 Review: The Last Ceremony

Instead, she was making comments about not leaving without "my baby," failing to see in herself how poorly she will ever be able to care for a child when she always puts herself first.

Fred would likely make a better father than Serena Joy a mother because he at least allows himself to feel something for others, even if his mind is shattered by the power of controlling Gilead and stifled by his marriage to Serena Joy.

Serena Joy: To have a pregnant handmaid run away once is bad enough, but twice? They'll say we're part of the resistance.
Fred: I'll handle it.
Serena Joy: You'll handle it. Just like you handled this? They'll put us on the wall!
Fred: Yeah, maybe they'll hang us side by side. Just my fuckin' luck.

They got to feeling so sorry for themselves that it was downright comical. I wouldn't have killed them if I were June either strictly for their entertainment value. To be in her position hearing them whine so about their lives must have made it difficult to remain silent.

But when Serena Joy started about giving up her life in return for a child, it did bring up questions about what that really meant. Were any of the top guns thinking about building a society, or were they only thinking about themselves?

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 9 Review: Smart Power

With the hierarchy such that it is, it sounds more like the unhappy wealthy claiming piousness to solve their problems and oppress everyone else while they lived according to their dreams. As much as I want Gilead destroyed, I'd also like to learn more about the process of creating it.

There were a lot of moments in "Holly" that made it whole. 

June's frustration trying to get the car out of the garage while screaming "Mother F—ker!" at the top of her lungs as she pounded it against the door was a visceral experience, but not as much as that of June giving birth.

But before we get there, another great moment was the dog howling, giving June the idea to howl, as well, with the use of the shotgun. It was a clever mimicking of nature.

Remembering Hannah's Birth - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11

And it was about as wild as natures gets for June giving birth in that estate. Without electricity, in front of a roaring fire, it was almost primal. She thought of all the things she went through during her pregnancy with Hannah, including thinking a spot her mom chose wasn't safe enough. The irony.

June had always wanted to be close to her mother, and having her at Hannah's birth was very important to her. Without her there, she felt alone, even with the love of Luke and Moira at her side. 

June: Look, I know you and I know your work is important to you.
Mom: And what? I think it's more important than you?
June: Just don't make promises you can't keep. K? Not about this.

This time, June was filled with their memories and mostly that of her mother. Her mother wasn't always around, and June thought it meant she wasn't loved. June knows now how unrelated the two are, especially as she gives birth to a child who is marked for another family.

Her love for Holly no matter how far apart they are driven will never subside.

Holly. Your name is Holly, and you have a big sister, Hannah, and one day you're going to meet her.

June

Once again, June was one of the lucky ones. She got to spend some precious time alone with her child before having to give it over to the world where they live now. 

If not for Fred trying to show some kindness to a woman he cares for in a bizarre way, she might have had to go through with the Ceremony, sharing her sacred moment with a lot of other people, strangers. Instead, she has a story about the birth of her daughter other handmaids don't possess.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 8 Review: Women's Work

And without putting forth any effort to be duplicitous, June took from Serena Joy her chance to revel in the garbage Ceremony of her bogus friends bathing her with ceremonial rites to which she has no right. 

June's birth was all her own.

It won't last, as the sound of tires crunching on the snow were one of the last sounds we heard as June cradled her newborn. 

What did you think of this focused installment of The Handmaid's Tale? Don't forget to read the recap, which can be found by clicking the link above in the first paragraph. I'm ready for your take in the comments!

Holly Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (32 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 11 Quotes

Serena Joy: Fred! Maybe they weren't here? Well, they were. Now they've run off together thanks to you!
Fred: There must be some other explanation.
Serena Joy: Like what?
Fred: Nick wouldn't be disloyal. I let Offred see her daughter. She would have been grateful.
Serena Joy: How could you be so stupid? They hate you! She's always hated you. She keeps running away from you!
Fred: Me?! If you'd shown that girl one ounce of kindness, she would never have left!
Serena Joy: Kindness? You raped her yesterday.
Fred: That was YOUR idea! I did this to fix your mess.
Serena Joy: You sent her out here with the father of her baby to see her daughter. What did you think was going to happen? That she was going to go home and thank you? You are such a fucking idiot.
Fred: Fuck. When did you become such a fucking bitch?!

I'm sorry there is so much pain in this story. I'm sorry it's in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire, pulled apart by force, but there is nothing I can do to change it. I've tried to put some of the good things in as well.

June