Warning: Spoilers from the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale below!
Last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale saw Janine try to commit suicide, a reaction to her commander lying to her about running away together to be a family and being torn away from her daughter, among other things. She survived her jump into icy waters, but faced a terrible consequence: being stoned to death…by her peers.
At a Salvaging like that in the season premiere, Aunt Lydia tells the handmaids that there’s no greater miracle than a child and no greater sin than hurting a child, and so she orders them to stone Janine to death for endangering her daughter when she stood up on a bridge, about to jump with her child in hand. (She handed her daughter to Offred before she leapt.)
“I know how difficult this is girls, I do, but God gives us blessings and he gives us challenges,” Aunt Lydia says, tearfully. “The price of his love is sometimes high, but it must be paid.” She then says they all know what to do, and to begin when she blows the whistle. Janine just asks that they don’t throw too hard.
But, they don’t stone her.
Ofglen objects, and is beaten as a result. Aunt Lydia insists that they all are to do their duty, and blows the whistle. But, the women stand there, holding their rocks. Aunt Lydia yells “girls!” over and over again, trying to compel them to carry out the act, but everyone remains in place.
Then, Offred — who is now pregnant — steps into the circle of handmaids surrounding Janine. A man points a gun at her, and Aunt Lydia tells him no, that the girls are her responsibility. Offred and Aunt Lydia, who is now right in front of our hero, stare at one another. Offred lifts the rock in front of her, and drops it to the ground.
In effect, she turned that painful memory from when she first arrived to this hell hole into something powerful — and inspired those around her. Following in her lead, her peers drop their stones and say, “I’m sorry, Aunt Lydia.” Aunt Lydia tells them all to go home, and tells Offred that there will be consequences. But Offred, just with a look, seems content.
She, and her peers, stood up for Janine, for themselves. They know that even the tiniest bit of resistance can means serious consequences — and punishment. (You’ll recall when Offred’s feet were whipped when she attempted to run away, and that’s just one of many examples.) Nonetheless, they fought back — and they won.
If only briefly, the women who have been abused all season long stood up together, as a unified group — and it was so incredibly moving to see them finally have the power.
By episode’s end, a black van arrives to take Offred away. Nick tells her, “Just go with it. Trust me.” It’s ambiguous what will happen to her from there, but she is ready for whatever is heading her way. In that sense, she has power too — and we couldn’t be happier about it, or more excited for Season 2.