The Handmaid's Tale is not as in-your-face brutal this season as it was in the first one. So far there's been nothing on par with the visceral images of "Birth Day." Instead, it's all been mental breaks, like Emily's murder of the Wife out in the Colonies. This week continued that mental breaking down, this time of June, when she's taken to see a hanged man. Fans are trying to figure out who was hanged in The Handmaid's Tale that Aunt Lydia took her to see on their walk. Warning: Spoilers for The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 follow.
When June is returned to Gilead after her escape plan fails, it still not clear exactly how she was found. Aunt Lydia isn't forthcoming when she's chained up in the Red Center. When she arrives at the Waterford's house, they insist the explanation is that Offred and their baby were "kidnapped." (It's the face-saving story they can live with.) Since face-saving seems to be the order of the day, Waterford's claim they tracked her down seems suspect. Did he, or were they just lucky?
The answer doesn't come until the walk with Aunt Lydia after the baby shower. June's bravery in the face of her escape means that she's been acting out since arriving, vomiting up her vitamin shakes, revealing to the other Wives that Serena Joy isn't aware of the baby's progress, and even talking about "her own shower" in the before times.
Aunt Lydia's job is to put a stop to that. But she's not just there to keep June in line, but Serena Joy as well. She pushes Serena Joy to accept Offred back, assuring her the Handmaid would behave soon enough. As for June, it was time to show her what her escape had wroth.
The hanged man's face was covered, but from the details Aunt Lydia shared, it was obviously Omar, the kindly driver of the bread truck who she convinced to take her with him from the way stop after the safe house was compromised. The Waterfords had tracked her. They might not have found the rebel Martha in the house, or tracked things back to Nick. But they'd found enough of the rest that Mayday has sworn off helping Handmaids ever again.
Worse, not only was Omar hanged, but his wife, who it turns out was actually the mother of their son, has now taken into Handmaid service. June realizes her failed escape just forced another woman to spend the rest of her life being raped by Commanders.
What Aunt Lydia did not know is that June was already in what one might call "brainweasel" mode since her return. Her memories of Luke's first wife, the one he left her for, had come crashing back, as she wondered if her failed escape was somehow punishment for those trespasses.
All the guilt she'd felt back then about falling in love and having a child with a man who'd been married was already mixed up with the news Mayday had gone silent, no more Handmaids would escape because of her. OfGlen had lost her tongue. Alma was disfigured for life. And now this: Omar dead because of her. Another woman spending her life in sexual slavery, because of her. A child now orphaned, because of her.
At her lowest point, Aunt Lydia offers June a way to reconcile this pain. Those trespasses were June's fault. June kidnapped Offred and the baby. June was responsible for these deaths. Offred was innocent, Offred was a good girl. Offred could be forgiven. She just had to let go of June and become Offred.
Standing there under Omar's swinging body, June broke. The next time we see her there's an unwell light in her eyes as she begs the Waterfords to keep her. (Serena would not, but she's not being given a choice. Captain Waterford needs his household back together to keep his position in front of his bosses.) Serena in her own way breaks too, sneaking into Offred's room at night and talking crazily to the baby in her belly while she thinks Offred is asleep. Both women have knuckled under to this terrible world. Aunt Lydia has won.