The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13 Review: The Word

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Just like her name implied, the breaking of Eden also awakened many more in the crap world of Gilead.

Before her death on The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12, it seemed like Eden might be a catalyst for something dark. Instead, her death poured light onto the unlikeliest of places as revealed on The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13.

It's only a small corner of a much larger universe, but it is an important corner of Gilead that has come alive as a result of Eden's death. It will not be easy for all to fall back into line unless the Kool-Aid is a lot stronger going forward or there are a lot of lives lost to keep the flow of information under control.

Understanding The Word - The Handmaid's Tale

The latter scenario has already been tested, though, and it didn't work.

That much is apparent from the incredible line of Martha's who have formed their own Mayday type organization after the collapse of the original. At the start of The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, Rita wasn't up for taking risks. 

Rita hadn't done anything with the letters June left behind while she was carted off for her punishment for her misdeeds not knowing if she'd ever return to the Waterford household again, let alone Gilead. 

But there have been so many events in Gilead leading to this awakening and changing the course of people's thinking about the place where they live or the place they have built, depending on who they are in the pecking order.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 12 Review: Postpartum

The bombing of the Rachel and Leah center when nobody was off limits and hanging in the streets cut deeply through the community. It must have been what rallied the Marthas to work together to protect their own and those they love.

Our Martha, Rita, was thinking poorly of herself and her inability to see through Eden's teen angst. So said we all, right? Teens are tough nuts, and they can fall just about anywhere. Eden was willing to give forced love a try, but when it didn't work, she took the other option.

The poor girl was all about love. Weren't we all at her age? The founders of Gilead and now everyone else who is living under their bizarre structure has forgotten what it's like to be 15 because they've stripped girlhood away just like everything else.

Serena Joy: It seems like Eden was hiding a multitude of sins.
June: What sins?
Serena Joy: What?
June: What sins was she hiding? Serena?
Serena Joy: She wasn't strong enough.
June: She was fifteen years old.
Serena Joy: Yes, she was fifteen years old. She should have been smarter.
June: She was trying to understand God! For fuck's sake, Serena, she was trying to read the fucking bible!
Serena Joy: Don't use that language around my daughter!
June: How are you going to keep her safe? How are you going to keep her safe?! What are you going to do? Are you going to lock her up here like an orchid?
Serena Joy: My daughter will be raised appropriately. She will understand the word of God and she will obey his word.
June: She cannot READ his word!!

After the small epiphany between June and Serena Joy during "Postpartum," their rapport continued and was needed during "The Word." It's a shame it took Eden's death for Serena to recall what she'd shared with June, but between that event and the baby, she was willing to listen to what another mother had to say.

It's Time for Change - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

Serena and June are both intelligent women, and once Serena allowed the realization that Eden wasn't allowed to read the Word of God she was supposed to live by and that her daughter would never even have the opportunity to learn to read that word, she opened her thoughts on the subject to other wives.

It's hard to have a come to Jesus moment if you can't understand Jesus in his entirety. If women can't read and men have no desire to interact with children, who is supposed to impart the wisdom of the Bible upon the generation of kids to come? 

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

You have to wonder if anyone thought about that while they wrote out all their garbage laws and regulations. Maybe they planned on a 52,000-page picture Bible. That would be a treat.

Frankly, it's surprising Naomi felt the same as Serena, but it was a nice, if brief, scene of solidarity the wives showed each other as they supported Serena when she addressed the men. If there's a name for the board they have, it matters not. They're just a group of men. They can call themselves whatever they want.

Men is all they are. 

Serena Joy: As faithful servants, it is our lawful duty to ensure our children live by laws of scripture. Holy scripture is a miracle. It is a gift given by him to all of humanity. We believe that our sons and daughters should be taught to read it.
Commander Putnam: That is a radical proposal, Mrs. Waterford.
Serena Joy: Offered with the deepest respect and the love that I have for my daughter and for all the daughters in Gilead.
Commander Waterford: Thank you. We will certainly discuss the issue seriously.

Thank You for Coming - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

The deception that followed seemed to me to be all Fred. 

The look in his eyes as Serena dared to pick up Eden's bible and read from it could have burned that bible in her clutch. Fred was embarrassed to be married to the woman whose own thoughts spawned Gilead.

Without Serena, there would be no Gilead, and it is firmly my hope that she gets her feet under her to tear it asunder. The crazed look on Fred's face as he thanked the women for coming by as if they dropped by for coffee instead of their plea to allow their children to read the Word of God screamed hatred.

It didn't scream hatred for Serena, but for all women, something he already displayed when he started slapping around the embittered (badass) June for comparing Eden and Nicole after she learned it was Eden's father who turned her in for her death march.

June: What are you going to do when they come for your daughter?
Fred: Mind your tongue. The mouth of a woman is a deep pit. He that falls therein will suffer and find the misery of all men. All of you.

Things didn't get any better between June and the commandeering ass when he needed her help to make a cup of tea for the woman whose finger he just chopped off.

What a useless tool.

A Battle of Wills - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

Fred: God send me an obedient woman.
June: You let them do that to Serena?
Fred: We all have new roles to play. Serena needed to be reminded of hers. [June doesn't need to respond because her face does it for her.] An obedient handmaid might be able to stay in this house. How does that sound?
June: It's not allowed.
Fred: Well, rules can be bent a high-ranking commander. You can stay here with your baby. We can try again ... for a boy this time. It could be fun.
June: Go fuck yourself, Fred.
Fred: I might even be able to arrange for visits with Hannah as long as you behave properly. Think about it.

He's a passive-aggressive abuser who can't see how manipulative he is and that's why it's so easy to think he might be an OK guy some of the time. He does something nice for June by arranging a meeting with Hannah, so he doesn't feel so guilty later when he treats her like crap.

His level of treatment might not seem as severe as what we've seen from Serena, but it's at Fred's hands that Gilead runs, so his abuse is constant, and he makes no attempt to stop it. Instead, he pushes it through to greater levels if it will make him look better to the others in charge, and there is no kindness in a selfish man.

A man we discovered wasn't selfish after his hand created the economic structure of Gilead and even the tortuous colonies is Joseph Lawrence. 

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

With only one episode to make a determination, he could have gone either way. The signs pointed to a laid back hippie-style commander who might have been going with the flow of some professor-like challenge when creating Gilead. Maybe he was high. I'm open for suggestions.

As Emily worried over her first Ceremony with Joseph, she needn't have gone to the trouble. Who guessed it was up to the handmaid to know when the Ceremony took place, where to prepare it and how to get ready? I sure didn't. It wasn't a traditional Ceremony by any means, so you'd think the two would have chatted about it.

Apparently not. Still, when Aunt Lydia showed up, he said it went splendidly. But Aunt Lydia wasn't keen on Emily.

Shoe Stomping  Emily - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

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. It's like I cut out your tongue!

Aunt Lydia

That's right. I say Aunt Lydia "wasn't keen" because there is a possibility she will succumb to Boot-Stomping Emily and never be seen again. That's something, right? 

Another Commander would have driven a problem child like Emily over to the local pool for a well-weighted swim or a vacation at the colonies all by himself, but not Joseph.

Joseph: It's an insane day. You must be SO proud of yourself. Do you like music? Who doesn't like music? [Walking on Broken Glass comes on the car stereo, and Joseph dances in the front seat]
Emily: Can you turn this off?
Joseph: So, not a music fan.

There were no photos of it, of course, but June and Nick had their first and only moment together with Holly (now Nicole) before all hell broke loose in Gilead. It was very sweet. A lot of people don't find one great love in their lives, but June has found two and several great friends, to boot.

A Family - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

It was adorable watching June put Holly into Nick's arms. It's just what he needed after the death of Eden. He felt responsible for her life, but he is responsible for Holly's life.

The same could be said for Rita. Not that she is responsible, but that she stepped up because she felt responsible in some way for what happened to Eden. When a child can stand proud for something she believes in and die for that belief, it pushes your ass into gear.

There were a lot of gears in motion that night in Gilead. 

No Need to Go Underground - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

Rita: Come, we can get you out, you and the baby, but you have to go right now. Go, get your shoes.
June: What? Who's we?
Rita: Friends. Marthas. Go!

Whether it's Mayday or a new group in action, they are extensive and well coordinated. That was easy to see later when there was a pull back on the city to the accidents and fires blazing across the horizon.

But the route to get June and Holly out was complex and (wo)manned so there wasn't a single spot where she was on her own. It was brilliant. We know there were a number of Marthas involved, as well as Nick, the driver, whoever started the fires and created the accidents, plus Joseph.

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

Serena wouldn't have stood a chance keeping her hands on Holly, but she didn't want to after what she'd suffered. She no longer trusts Fred, either. She may not trust her improperly built society anymore. We'll have to wait around to find out about that one.

But we do know that June trusts Serena. When she handed Serena their daughter, Serena could have bolted to the house or called out for help. June knew she wouldn't. Their fate is sealed together now if they want to protect that girl. I believe they do.

I also believe they will all meet again. Somewhere. After all, June's betting her girl's name on it.

Call her Nicole. Tell her I love her.


During June's travels, her fate for the season became evident as she thought about Hannah. And from a plot contrivance standpoint, June must remain in Gilead to lead the underground. She cannot leave, or the show will take on a flavor far too different than what we have now.

The Decision - The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 13

Things are going to be vastly different when the show returns. Emily will be in Little America, not only reunited with her family but undoubtedly leading the charge to change things in Gilead. That will change the dynamic of the show once again, as the more people who go there, the more time will be spent there.

After Nick handled his gun while ensuring Fred would not be leaving the house, it seems unlikely Nick or June will remain at the Waterfords. Then again, Fred was once a wanted man. Maybe they'll blackmail him into doing what they want in some way, so the little family remains intact while June tries to get pregnant again.

Related: The Handmaid's Tale Renewed for Season 3 at Hulu

Whether that's for real or for the sake of Gilead doesn't matter. Another option would be that June and Nick scoot on over to Joseph's house. He has a spot open for a handmaid, and he does like 'em feisty. 

There are a lot of directions for a show with a functioning resistance to go and with players that are alive and well at the end of the season. Nobody is in jeopardy, and there is a spark of light so long as June can find her way to safety under cover of night. 

What did you think of the finale? What surprised you and to what are you clinging as we now wait for The Handmaid's Tale Season 3? Was it more hopeful than you expected? Let's talk!!

The Word Review

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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 13 Quotes

June: What are you going to do when they come for your daughter?
Fred: Mind your tongue. The mouth of a woman is a deep pit. He that falls therein will suffer and find the misery of all men. All of you.

Call her Nicole. Tell her I love her.