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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Silence Sows the ‘Seeds’ of Rebellion

Season Two, Episode Five

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: ‘Seeds’
Courtesy of George Kraychyk

“Seeds,” the fifth episode in “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season Two, opens with a still-catatonic Offred burning the letters from Mayday, and all the heartbreaking stories of the women who so desperately want to be remembered. With that final nail in the coffin, it looks like June really is lost, burned up in the flames Offred hopes will purge any last trace of her and any previous insubordination. In an episode where death looms over the characters’ heads, “Seeds” hints at a new life not just within June’s body, but for the characters themselves.

Over in the Colonies, Janine copes with her new environment the same way she did as a handmaid: by trying to bring a lightness to an inherently dark place. When she spots a few dandelions while working, Janine jumps at the opportunity to make a wish, though of course, she can’t reveal what for: “I like them. They’re happy for everyone. They don’t care who you are.” For Emily, whose physical downward spiral as she begins to lose her teeth does little to assuage her despair, the beauty of the flowers does little to appease her growing frustration and panic at her inevitable fate. When Janine helps arrange a makeshift wedding for two workers, before one of them succumbs to the toxicity destroying her body, Emily snaps. “This place is hell! And covering it up in flowers doesn't change anything!” she berates Janine. “Gilead took your eye. They took my clit. Now we're cows being worked to death, and you're dressing up the slaughterhouse for them. That's the fucking problem!” And yet, Janine never loses her positive outlook: “Cows don't get married.”

The Colonies aren’t the only place where matrimonial vows are exchanged. Nick, too, makes a vow, though under very different circumstances. Sensing the underlying tension between Nick and June, Serena and Fred devise a plan to ensure that Nick will have much more on his plate to worry about than June. When Nick is awarded a promotion, the entire household makes their way to the “Prayvaganza,” during which Nick meets his new fiancee. And as Nick and his much younger bride are pronounced husband and wife, applause breaks out and abruptly cuts when the camera pans to June, the silence resonating to mirror her disbelief at the loss of the one person she had on her side.

For June, the silence extends far beyond the abruptly-cut audio. Her monotonous “Yes, Mrs Waterford” and “No, Mrs Waterford” intonations seem to be all the vocabulary she can muster up. June starts bleeding, a sign that her pregnancy isn’t going as well as Aunt Lydia insists it is. But still, she remains silent. When she starts swaying from blood loss, she insists she’s fine, continuing on in her silence. And when she starts bleeding profusely, the blood too plentiful to attribute it to spotting, she persists silently, waiting to die as she leans against her bedroom window until she falls out of it into the garden, where Nick finds her.

It would appear that as Janine’s optimism survives in the wasteland that is the Colonies, June finds her own sense of purpose in the white hospital room in which she is recovering. Much like her relatively simple punishment (in name only, of course) in the previous episode, June’s return to being the rebel we all missed also feels a bit hasty. From one scene to the next, she goes from suicidal to determined, her baby driving her to wake up from the stupor to which she had surrendered. “Now, you listen to me, 'kay? I will not let you grow up in this place. I won't do it. They do not own you. And they do not own what you will become,” she tells her child under the sheets. “I'm gonna get you out of here. I'm gonna get us out of here. I promise you. I promise.” With surveillance twice as tight, childbirth only months away, and Nick more indisposed to help June than ever, it remains to be seen how exactly June will pull this off. As Janine would say, “that’s up to God.”

—Staff writer Mila Gauvin II can be reached at mila.gauvin@thecrimson.com.

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