The Handmaid’s Tale had arguably made up for a season’s worth of punishing plot twists — all of which reshuffled the cards on its characters only to have them arrive right back where they started, or in positions even more dire than before — with the end of last week’s episode “The Last Ceremony.” And, the series’ eleventh episode, “Holly,” is worth every suspenseful second of its 50-minute runtime.
Spoilers for Episode 11 of The Handmaid’s Tale follow below.
“Holly” is a welcome follow-up to the earlier events of “The Last Ceremony,” which saw the Waterfords brutally rape June in a ritualized attempt to induce labor, if for no other reason than June herself hears them acknowledge the barbarity of the act. Further, June appears momentarily freed from the oppressive captivity of their home, a plot device that made most of the second season a riveting watch. But with the arrival of Holly, the episode’s namesake, June is faced with yet another painful separation.
Who Is Holly on Handmaid’s Tale?
Following her reunion with Hannah — an apparent olive branch extended by Fred after he seemingly realises what he’s done — it feels particularly poignant that June spends much of the show’s eleventh episode pursuing a means of escape to protect her second child. Her condition and a lack of orientation provides little opportunity in the way of an on-foot escape. A garage door blocked by a wall of snow thwarts her chances of stealing a car. And after finding a shotgun, June seemingly weighs a double murder of her rapist and his wife upon their momentary reappearance. She doesn’t shoot.
She does, however, use the gun to signal for help, an understandable albeit frustrating turn of events prompted by her labor. After what one can safely assume was a period of excruciating delivery, June gives birth to a baby girl, whom she names Holly as a tribute to her mother.
What Happens to Offred Now?
“Holly” is filled with vignettes of June’s past life in the months and days leading up to the birth of Hannah, culminating with June surrounded by her loved ones (Moira and the elder Holly included) at the hospital immediately following Hannah’s delivery. It’s an affecting parallel to the birth of the June’s new daughter, for which the scene is lonely, painful, dirty, and helpless.
“Your name is Holly,” June whispers through tears to the newborn. “You have a big sister. Her name is Hannah. And one day, you’re gonna meet her.”
Whether this promise holds water seems as unlikely as June’s previous promise to Holly that she’d be raised outside of Gilead, or that she herself would even be present. As a car pulls up outside the home — no doubt neighbors or officials alerted to the earlier sound of a gunshot — it’s perhaps safer to assume June will again find herself in the clutches of Gilead.
June sees apparent near-escapes throughout Season 2, only to have them foiled — an admittedly exasperating cycle of catch and release. However, should June indeed find finally her freedom, it may be worth sticking around to see it. After all, with news of her husband and Moira having safely arrived in Canada and now two daughters to protect, she’s got more motivation than ever.