latest on decider

What’s Streaming on Amazon Prime Video Tonight: ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ + More
What’s Streaming on Amazon Prime Video Tonight: ‘Our Kind of...
Hulu Nabs Rights To Classic T.G.I.F. Line Up, Announces Harlots Season 2, Original Barbie Documentary at Summer 2017 TCA
Hulu Nabs Rights To Classic T.G.I.F. Line Up, Announces Harlots Season 2,...
The 20 New Netflix Originals Available To Stream In August
The 20 New Netflix Originals Available To Stream In August
Showtime Announces A Donald Trump Show From Stephen Colbert
Showtime Announces A Donald Trump Show From Stephen Colbert
Angelina Jolie Cast Her Netflix Original By Tempting Orphans With Money
Angelina Jolie Cast Her Netflix Original By Tempting Orphans With Money
Today in TV History: 'So You Think You Can Dance' Got Lady Gaga to Throw a Shoe
Today in TV History: 'So You Think You Can Dance' Got Lady Gaga to Throw a...
Get Ready for a Showtime Pilot from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Get Ready for a Showtime Pilot from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Did You Know Film Sets Hire “Rape Choreographers”?
Did You Know Film Sets Hire “Rape Choreographers”?
10 Bisexual Film and TV Characters that Influenced 'Atomic Blonde'
10 Bisexual Film and TV Characters that Influenced 'Atomic Blonde'
When Is ‘Ozark’ Season 2 Coming Out?
When Is ‘Ozark’ Season 2 Coming Out?
The Emmy Awards Have A Dramedy Problem
The Emmy Awards Have A Dramedy Problem
Amazon Moves Closer To Becoming A Full Film Studio With Latest Woody Allen Project
Amazon Moves Closer To Becoming A Full Film Studio With Latest Woody Allen...

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Episode 6 Recap: Behind Every Dystopia, There’s A Complicit Woman

Where to Stream

The Handmaid's Tale

Once upon a time, Serena Joy’s life was fun.

Not now, obviously. Not at the beginning of The Handmaid’s Tale, Episode 6, “A Woman’s Place,” as the Handmaids are all washing blood off the wall where abortionists and gay men and priests and rebellious women are hung. They’re cleaning Gilead up because, as one other Handmaid tells June (Elisabeth Moss), a trade delegation from Mexico will be coming to the Waterfords’ house tonight.

June, meanwhile, is preoccupied by her affair with Nick (Max Minghella). She’s begun to feel some of her power over Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), lingering in her room as though it is her domain after Serena Joy lectures her on “speaking wisely” if their guests speak to her.

Photo: Hulu

As Serena Joy tries to reassure the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) that the guests “are having dinner in the home of a very important Commander,” he brushes her off. (He’s correct. They’re not nervous. As the Commander later notes, they regard all this as though they’re at a freak show.) She recalls the early days of their marriage when they raced to have mid-afternoon sex before her conference call at four.

June is indeed called to talk with the delegation. She’s shocked to find that the Mexican ambassador is a woman – she originally assumes the ambassador is her male assistant. As Janine (Madeline Brewer) says earlier in the episode, “I guess you get used to things being one way.”

The Mexican ambassador, Mrs. Castillo (Zabryna Guevara) – who is wearing a conservative pantsuit that nonetheless seems shocking compared to the puritanical wardrobes of the women in Gilead — very gently asks June if she is happy. It’s a good question. Unfortunately, it’s a question she asks while June is surrounded by Nick, The Commander, and various other high ranking men from Gilead. She looks to Nick and says that she “has found happiness.”

Over appetizers with the wives of the Commanders, Commander Waterford describes how well their crops are growing, especially their oranges. Mrs. Castillo says that the same can’t be said in her country, and that many crops are having difficulties adjusting to the changing weather patterns.

Photo: Hulu

The Ambassador asks how “the silent half of the room” – meaning the wives – are enjoying Gilead. Serena Joy says she is “blessed to have a husband and a home to care for and follow.” Mrs. Castillo replies that “one should never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness.” She reveals that she’s quoting from Serena Joy’s book about the importance of “domestic feminism”. She asks Serena Joy if she ever imagined a society like this. She replies, “a society that has reduced its carbon emissions by 78% in three years?”

“A society where women can no longer read your book,” Mrs. Costillo fires back. “Or anything at all.”

And yet, from flashbacks, we see that Serena Joy did imagine almost exactly this, alongside the Commander. We see him come home to her frustrated that work is not going well. She informs him that they’re going out as “there’s no problem that movie popcorn can’t solve.” As they sit in the movie theater, Serena Joy talks to the Commander about her idea for her next book about the importance of reproduction for the social good. The Commander tells her it’s a great idea. As they sit there the Commander gets a message that the committee he’s working with has agreed to blow up congress. They clutch hands hopefully, and Serena Joy looks around at the audience and whispers, “We’re saving them”. We. They’re horrible people, but they’re a team.

Not so much now, when the Commander retires to his study with June after the meeting with the Mexicans, which did not go as well as he hoped. June doesn’t care about whether or not they seemed to respect Gilead enough, because, of course she doesn’t, she is a prisoner in this nightmare world. The Commander is angry that she seems bored, and reminds her that “it is privilege to be in here.” June lets him kiss her, and then brushes her teeth so hard she bleeds into the sink.

Serena Joy, meanwhile, would love to be in there, but when she tries to talk to the Commander about the party for the next day, he brushes her off and says he’s sure she’ll make it look nice.

Photo: Hulu

Which she does. Largely by telling the Aunt bringing the Handmaids to sit at the party not to include any of the damaged ones. By that she means the ones that have been beaten severely enough to leave marks, or had their eyes plucked out. As you might imagine, this is very hard on Janine, who desperately wants to go to the party, but Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) promises her a whole tray of desserts.

This is, it seems, the trade-off for freedom. Women get their eyes plucked out here, but they’ve got oranges and desserts, so the Commanders can at least tell themselves everything is fine.

Serena Joy waits outside the ballroom and recalls the last time she was in this building. She was waiting to present notes for the revolution to the committee the Commander was working with. They wouldn’t let her inside the meeting. The Commander tells her as much, and he promises, “I won’t give up trying. You should be a part of these decisions.” After Serena goes home another man from the meeting joins the Commander outside and says, “This is our fault. We gave them more than they could handle… We let them forget their real purpose. We won’t let that happen again.”

Serena Joy looks furious recalling this. But tonight, she gets to speak. The same Commander who talked a woman’s “real purpose” looks at her as though she is a talking dog when she rises at her table to speak, but still, she speaks. She talks about the all the Handmaids have done for Gilead. And then she has the Aunts lead in the children born to the country. They are all adorable, and the Mexican ambassadors, who, given the infertility epidemic, have surely not seen so many children assembled in ages, run to play with them. It’s the ultimate party trick.

And for a moment, as everyone stands around playing with the kids, things don’t look so bad in Gilead. People aren’t starving. Everyone at the party is beautifully dressed. In this scene it’s easy to think for a moment that, well, perhaps it was worth it after all.

June even rolls her eyes when another Handmaid asks her if she heard about any trade proceedings and says, “What does it matter how many oranges we trade with Mexico?” That prompts the other Handmaid to reply, “Don’t be an idiot. Gilead only has one thing to trade that anyone wants. Red tags.”

They’re not even people anymore. They’re trade products.

Photo: Hulu

The next morning, June is alone with Mrs. Costillo and her assistant as she’s about to go out on her walk. The ambassador gives her some chocolate and thanks her for reassuring her yesterday. June informs her that she lied to her. They’re beaten. They have their fingers and hands cut off for reading. She explains to them that they’re slaves.

The ambassador tells her that she is so sorry.

“Don’t be sorry,” says June, “do something.”

And Mrs. Costillo… can’t. She explains that in her city, they have not seen a live birth in years. “My country is dying,” she explains. “Mine is already dead,” June replies.

Then the Commander swoops in to take her to Serena Joy, presumably to give her some chocolate, as the camera pans back to Serena Joy throwing away the copy of her book in Gilead.

Game of Thrones

Pop-Up Newsletter

Stay up to date with news, recaps, theories & more with our weekly, season-long email.

By clicking above you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Don't miss our other great newsletters:

There isn’t enough chocolate in the world to make up for the unhappiness of these women.

But then, there’s some hope. As June is left alone with the ambassador’s assistant he tells her that her husband is still alive. He made it to Canada after all. In the few seconds they have together, June writes him a note.

Jennifer Wright is the author of It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Break-Ups in History and Get Well Soon: The Worst Plagues in History. 

Stream The Handmaid's Tale, Episode 6, "A Woman's Place" on Hulu

Decider

Get the Newsletter.

Sign up for news, stories, offers, and more, all from Decider's Webby Award-nominated newsletter.

By clicking above you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

X