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Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of The Handmaid's Tale. If you haven't seen "After", look away!
Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale has been going full tilt, showing more insane cruelty from within Gilead. Every Wednesday provides a new harrowing episode, with fans still eager for more emotional punishment. While "After" still had some very anxiety-ridden sequences, ultimately it ends on a surprisingly hopeful turn. And it's all thanks to the terrifying terrorist act brought on by Oflgen #2 last week.
The bombing of the new Handmaid facility claimed a ton of lives-- innocent and guilty. "After" opens with a Handmaid Funeral, with the surviving girls in uncharacteristic black uniforms. We learn that the bombing killed 31 Handmaids (and 26 Commanders), with Aunt Lydia memorializing the girls with their Gilead-issued names. And names are also where the episode ended, and provided one of the first happy cry moments in Handmaid's Tale herstory.
Since so many Handmaids perished during Ofglen's attack, Gilead brought back some of the former Handmaids from The Colonies. This is the saving grace that Janine and Emily needed, as they're finally taken out of the toxic fields and will presumably be able to recover from their exposure. While Janine had hope all along, Emily was far for realistic, certain that she would work and get sick until she died.
Emily is probably the show's fan favorite, as the original Ofglen proved there was still a strong, independent woman under the red garbs. She suffered horribly throughout Season 1, suffering genital mutilation after she was found having an affair with a Martha. Seeing her back in the red garments and reunited with June is something fans had been hoping for for well over a season, and it finally happened. June introduces herself, and the other girls follow suit, finally meeting with their given names for the first time. Praised be.
Aside from Janine and Emily's return to Gilead, "After" also showed a fascinating new dynamic within the Waterford household. With Fred recovering from his injuries and Commander Cushing vying for more power and martial law, it was up to the women and Nick to make a stand. With June's warning, Serena and Nick joined forces to forge documents and have Cushing charged with crimes, and therefore sent away. It was intense to see the three of them watch that creep get taken away, and Serena's rise to power is only continuing to grow. The final scene of the episode saw she and June pick up pen and paper to get Gilead "back to normal", allowing their rivalry and partnership to grow in a fascinating way.
Finally, "After" is the first episode of the season to include all of the characters and settings. While Moira and Luke are still isolated in New America, the Colonies storyline was wrapped up. At least for now.