“There’s so much wrong about it. I just felt horrible.”
Fair warning: This article contains spoilers for episode 10 of the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale (and drops some heavy-handed hints about what’s to come later, too).
Rape has always been part of The Handmaid’s Tale, ever since the very first episode. After all, the monthly Ceremony might be considered a ‘conception ritual’, but, given that Handmaids have little to no choice in taking part, it is a form of ritualised rape.
In The Last Ceremony, though, the horror of this ritual is hammered home.
Thanks to her pregnancy, June (Elisabeth Moss) has been protected from physical violence for much of the season. However, when the Handmaid goes into false labour, it triggers something truly evil in Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who meets with her husband, Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and demand that he help her induce June into labour “the natural way.”
Whilst a chilling sentiment, it doesn’t become clear what that way is until June is called into the Waterford’s bedroom (preceded by Rita promising June “I’ll tell the baby about you”).
Once the door is closed, Serena and Fred force June onto the bed as she screams at them to stop. As Serena holds her down, though, and Fred begins unbuckling his trousers, June quickly realises that there’s no way to prevent what is happening to her.
It is at this point that the voice in June’s head repeats her sentiments about the traditional Ceremony: “You treat it like a job… [and] that makes it bearable.”
Then, in a deathly whisper, June tells us: “I’m not here.”
It is an undeniably traumatic scene for viewers at home. However, Strahovski has now admitted that she found the scene incredibly difficult to film, too.
“That was one of the most horrific scenes,” the Serena Joy actress told E! News. “There’s so much wrong about it. I just felt horrible.”
Strahovski continued: “As a woman, I never thought that I’d be considered the rapist in a scene with another person. It just was so horrific in that sense when I was looking at it in that way. It just highlights Serena’s evilness. I mean, that’s got to be probably the most horrific thing that she’s done on the series so far.”
Addressing what the scene tells us about her character, Strahovski added: “For Serena, that moment was about getting what she so desperately wanted.
“She wants the child, she wants it now, she’s sick of the back and forth with Offred, she’s sick of her being cheeky and mischievous and she’s just sick of being her own lonely island and not having anybody. I think the only thing she thinks is going to make it better is having a baby and making the baby grow up to be someone who is on her team and on her side so she has someone that she can confide in and be a friend, you know? In that sense, it’s a very selfish thought process.”
Episode 10 ended with with Commander Waterford, seemingly overcome with guilt, allowing June to see the daughter that was ripped away from her at the start of the series. However, after an all too brief encounter with her little girl, a heavily pregnant June was left stranded at an abandoned mansion after Nick (Max Minghella), her escort, was discovered and taken away by police forces.
Once again, pregnant Offred is missing from the Waterford household. This time, though, it seems as if the cards are entirely in their hands.