The Protest Signs On 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 2 Episode 9 Hold A Lot Of Significance
The plot of The Handmaid's Tale Season 1 centered around Offred getting involved with a mysterious rebellion named Mayday, which wanted her to find a way to smuggle a package out of Gilead. Try as she might, Offred couldn't get the package out of the country, finally opening it herself only to discover it contained hundreds of letters from handmaids, telling their individual stories. That package has been hanging around as a loose plot thread until this week, when it finally exploded, inspiring the protest signs on The Handmaid's Tale seen at the end of the episode as the Waterfords leave Canada. Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 follow.
When Offred is taken away at the end of Season 1, the package is left in her quarters, hidden away in the bathroom. After she returns from her failed escape, she finds them again and panics. Aunt Lydia is watching her practically every minute, and she tries to rid herself of them in terror. When she emotionally breaks at Lydia's ruthless emotional gaslighting, she begins to burn them. But Nick finds her and takes the package for safe keeping.
And there it's sat, a ticking time bomb, waiting for his new wife Eden to find (which she did last week.) Being an obedient wife, she doesn't read them. But Nick freaks out anyway, knowing this incriminating item has been seen by someone seemingly to young not to tell people.
Perhaps then it's not surprising Nick packed them up and took them to Canada. I am not convinced he brought them with the clear idea to release them to the public, as much as he simply couldn't risk leaving them behind. But when Luke leaps out of the crowd, holding a sign with June and Hannah and himself as a family and begins screaming at Waterford, Nick's face is instructive. He's horrified to realize June's husband is still alive and desperately trying to find her.
That's why he heads out, searching the nearby bars until he finds Luke. Even though Luke freaks out at first and attacks him, by the end of the conversation the two have bonded. Nick passes on the letters, having brought them as much to give Luke something from June as it is committing an act of rebellion far beyond anything he's done before.
The irony is that both Luke and Moira don't see the power behind these letters at first, each of which begins "My name is," highlighting the power of handmaid's given names in a world that insists on calling them "Of ___." Moira seems mad it's not a weapon. But their roommate, Erin recognizes it is a weapon, a weapon of words, and starts gathering them up.
By morning, they've been up on the internet for hours, and the reaction from the public has been bigger than a two-ton bomb.
The Canadian government quickly scuttles any more talk of normalizing relations with Gilead and all but toss Waterford out on his ear. This after yesterday, when the Commander thought he might even get Canada to return "runway illegals," aka Handmaid refugees. "We believe the women," he's told, as the women in the delegation look at Serena Joy with disgust and fury.
The drive to the airport is slow, as hundreds upon hundreds of demonstrators surround their car with signs declaring "MY NAME IS." Many of them, viewers assume, were former handmaids who were once given Of____ names but escaped. Moira is among them, not only holding up her sign but pushing her way to the front of the crowd to stare directly into Waterford's eyes.
It is not altogether clear if Waterford recognizes Moira from that night at Jezebel's. But this might be a bad move. If he does realize he recognizes her and remembers she and June were close, will he start putting the pieces together? Will Nick's idiot wife Eden mention the letters when she hears the gossip? How soon will the Waterford family start tearing each other apart for fear of Gilead's punishment?