The Handmaid’s Tale is never a light show, but “God Bless the Child” is a particularly heavy one — with each of its primary storylines reaching a devastating climax. Let’s break down the biggest moments.
Baby Angela — and Janine — are back
Janine makes her first big appearance of season 3 in “God Bless the Child,” and it’s well-timed: The baptism of Baby Angela, whose life Janine nearly took off the bridge in one of last year’s most devastating moments. She even gets to be an honored guest, as the biological mother of the child, along with other handmaids who’ve delivered on their assigned role — including June. First, they enter the church in a massive ceremony, with Commanders, wives, and handmaids alike seated in designated areas. The episode contrasts this huge event with June’s intimate baptism for Hannah from before Gilead, for which her mother (guest star Cherry Jones), Luke, and Moira were present. The handmaids are then invited to the reception, where they’re under the watchful eye of Aunt Lydia — still regaining her strength, and evidently still mentally shaken up from her attack last season.
June and Serena continue to make progress
TV’s most complicated relationship takes another step in the right direction this week. Serena is absent from the actual baptism, with one chilling shot of Fred sitting next to an empty seat making that crystal-clear, but she does show up to the reception for Angela’s Gilead mother, Naomi. When she arrives, she asks June if she’s missed anything, and says she didn’t want to be a distraction at the church. June reminds her of her potential influence once more, building on their big conversation from the previous episode: “They respect you.”
Later, Fred tries to get June to help him win Serena back. She challenges him to consider what he wants and ultimately suggests he give her more of a voice — “behind the scenes, of course” — even if it means departing from Gilead policy. Fred is more than receptive. And so later, when June takes this development to Serena (still at the reception), it’s an important moment of June really taking charge in their dynamic. “The commander wants to reconcile,” June tells Serena. “I made a suggestion: more freedom. As Mrs. Waterford, you have influence, access, power.” She concludes, “Wear the dress. Pull the strings.” As ever, this being a conversation between June and Serena, things end vague and a little unsettling. But Serena definitely “moves the point,” as June suggests, near the episode’s end. She tells her the school Hannah likely attends — and that she’ll likely be playing outside there around lunch. It’s Serena’s most selflessly transgressive moment in the show to date.
Emily and Sylvia try to find their rhythm
After their tearful reunion back from episode 1, we now see how Emily is adjusting to “normal” life in Canada, having been reunited with her wife, Sylvia (Clea DuVall). Emily is still reeling from her trauma. She comes out of the subway surrounded by bustle, and that alone rattles her, waiting a few seconds before Sylvia appears to pick her up. Back at the home, Emily looks through family photos — particularly of her son, Oliver, whom she hasn’t seen since returning — and tries talking to Sylvia, acknowledging the awkwardness between them. “Who cares?” Sylvia says.
She then reveals Oliver is on his way home; Emily asks, heartbreakingly, if he remembers her. She’s guided into his room, where she sees photos of her with him and a drawing of her as a superhero. (“That’s you fighting to get back home,” Sylvia tells her.) When Oliver arrives, Emily appears overjoyed at the sight of him; they don’t hug but share a loving understanding. With a quiet joy, she says, “He’s so big.” Things, of course, get more difficult: Oliver asks Emily to read him a bedtime story, and she tries, but can’t get through it without sobbing. He reads it for her. And later that night, she tells Sylvia she’s going to go to the hotel to recoup — but first, she’ll stay with her for a little while.
Lydia and Janine’s relationship reaches a breaking point
Bringing Janine to Naomi’s reception was always a risky proposition. Less considered, likely, was Lydia’s volatility, having just been betrayed by a handmaid she thought she was close to. And so when Naomi brings Baby Angela downstairs to mingle with the guests a little bit, things quickly spiral out of control. Almost possessed by the sight of her, Janine glides toward Naomi and Angela, beaming. She asks if she can hold her, ignoring June’s attempts to stop her. June looks on, terrified; Lydia considers intervening before June discovers her. And Naomi gives her the baby to hold — Angela cries, but it’s a sweet moment, and Janine returns it without hassle.
Then, she says she could deliver a brother or sister — asking, effectively, to return as their handmaid. Shouting transpires, but Lydia completely breaks down. Just moments earlier, they’d shared a lovely moment together, with Lydia and Janine saying they were both glad the former agreed to save the latter from the Colonies. (This was after Lydia expressed regret for doing the same for Emily.) But now, Lydia turns vicious — feeling another sense of betrayal. She beats Janine with her stick, brutally and repeatedly, knocking her to the ground. Everyone watches in shock; Angela cries in horror. Finally, June intervenes, tackling them and leaving the room for Janine to be escorted away. But the damage is done. Lydia apologizes profusely, tries to say more but can’t, and walks out slowly. She breaks down in tears when sitting alone in another room.
The climactic video
“God Bless the Child” ends on a terrifyingly foreboding note. June is at the reception at night, outside of another room where an Eye, Commander Putnam, Fred, and Serena are watching a video. June appears and they motion for her to come over and watch. It’s a clip of a protest, with people standing with Chicago, which we’d learned earlier this season was falling to Gilead. In the clip, Luke is holding Baby Nichole — whom a tearful Serena recognizes intimately. They ask June if they recognize the man. She says yes. They ask if it’s Luke. She says yes. And she leaves the room while Serena — turned back to Fred’s side, perhaps — watches the clip over again. June sits against the wall outside and cries, tears of joy and anger and fear, all at once.