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For the book

  • The fact that Offred, whether she survived or not, was able to leave a record of her time in the Republic of Gilead. Even if know-it-all professors are skeptical of her accounts, she was able to reclaim something that Gilead took from women: a voice.
  • The Epilogue reveals a few things: that the Gilead regime had ended and a new world was brought up, one where women regained their rights e.g. Professor Maryann Crescent Moon.
    • Similarly, the names of the professors and their respective universities also imply that Native Americans/indigenous Canadians have regained power, and developing nations like India have survived. In short, non-white groups have survived and the white-supremacist Gilead regime has not.
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  • In the movie: Kate/Offred ends up killing the Commander with Mayday later rescuing her. She was true to her word that no one would take her baby or control her, and the shots of the battle between Gilead and the Rebels is nothing short of amazing.
  • In the book and especially the TV series, Ofglen is extremely brave. No matter what happens, she's determined to go down swinging.

For the TV series

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    Season 1 
  • Offred spitting out the bite of the cookie Serena condescendingly gave her.
  • This exchange from the TV series, which leads to Offred being clubbed in the head and electrocuted.
    Aunt Lydia: Remember your scripture; blessed are the meek.
    Offred: "And blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." I remember.
  • After Serena Joy banishes Offred to her room for more than thirteen days, Offred tries to suck up to Serena Joy to be let out. When this fails, Offred, after learning that her predecessor committed suicide, emotionally manipulates Fred, and succeeds. It's one of Offred's few personal victories, and Serena Joy can't do anything but glare at her as she goes out on her errands.
  • Offred carving her own message in the wall of her closet, indicating that she wants the next Handmaid, the next Offred, to remember her.
  • There's something subtly awesome about the fact that, in the TV series, we get to learn the Handmaid's names. No matter what the Commanders and Wives call them, these women are all individuals with their own stories and names, and Gilead can't take that from them.
  • In A Woman's Place, Offred makes the decision to tell the Mexican ambassador exactly how awful the life of a Handmaid in Gilead is, fully aware of the terrible risk she's taking, and under the belief that the ambassador's attendant may be a supporter of the Gilead regime. After all the effort Gilead goes through to take away women's voices (and the extremely unconvincing charade they've put up to downplay this fact in front of the ambassador,) Offred is at long last able to use that voice to undermine it.
  • Moira's escape from Jezebel's is fantastically uplifting, especially after seeing how defeated she seemed after reuniting with June.
  • On a day out, Emily finally has enough and races into a car. She's ordered out but instead starts it up and drives around, the first woman to do this in years. The crowd is shocked as the Handmaids watch, all clearly doing their best not to openly cheer Emily on.
    • When a soldier is knocked back, Emily stays in the car. She looks to Offred who gives the slightest nod. Emily proceeds to run the fallen officer over with the car, blood spraying everywhere. She's arrested but clearly is happy to have struck out at last.
  • Serena Joy's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Fred, after she finds out about his secret meetings with Offred, whilst he blames her for his infidelities. She also doesn't hesitate to tell him that Offred's pregnant, but the baby isn't his and will never be due to his stupidity and sterility.
  • Offred telling off Serena Joy after Serena not only takes her to where her and Luke's daughter is being held and doesn't allow Offred to see her, but also threatens her life if anything happens to Offred's unborn child or if Offred steps out of line.
    Offred: What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you? How can you do this? You're deranged. You're...you're...you're fucking evil. You know that? You are a goddamn motherfucking monster! Fucking heartless, sadistic, motherfucking evil CUNT! Fuck you, Serena! You are gonna burn in goddamn motherfucking hell, you crazy, evil bitch!
  • After Commander Putnam is brought forward to the Commanders for his extramarital affairs with Janine and promises to run away to Canada with Janine, which lead to her Bungled Suicide, one of them reveals to Commander Waterford and the others that Mrs. Putnam came forward and asked that he received the harshest punishment possible, which the viewer then discovers is that he gets his left hand surgically removed. It's grim, but it's also satisfying to know that even the Commanders can't always get away with their unspeakable behaviour.
  • When the Handmaids are commanded to stone Janine, none of them likes it. Led by Offred and likely inspired by the Second Oglen's outburst, they refuse to, despite being warned there will be punishment for this. And the handmaids' Power Walk afterward.
  • As Offred's being taken away by either The Eyes or Mayday, The Commander and Serena are losing their minds and constantly asking where their pregnant and abused Handmaid is being taken to, only to be ignored. Serena angrily confronts Offred, only to be met with a silent and defiant smirk. Offred has no idea if she's being saved or being punished, but after everything she's been through at the Waterford house, she's going with a smile on her face.
    Season 2 
  • The Season 2 premiere has this little, glorious Call-Back: Serena Joy comes in to see June when she's getting a gynecological exam, and angrily tells her not to screw around again. June, knowing she's nigh untouchable by Gilead and by her respective Wife, just snarls, "Don't get upset, Serena. It's bad for the baby," in a magnificent Ironic Echo to what Serena Joy had frostily told June during her powerless Freak Out at the end of Season 1.
  • The final scene of the Season 2 premiere: After Nick comes through and helps June escape, she burns her handmaid clothes, cuts off her hair, and even slices off the top of her ear to get rid of the tag injected there. Throughout it all, Elizabeth Moss fully sells the weight of the liberation and we end with another narration describing all her physical attributes, ending with "I am free."
  • Emily watching as the Wife in the Colonies dies a slow death by her poison. She tells the Wife, no, she let women get raped and doesn't deserve forgiveness or compassion for that.
  • The only good feeling one can get from watching Other Women is after seeing the Commander's Wives fetishize being pregnant and act like they are giving birth rather than their handmaids (who are there), is seeing Aunt Lydia scold Serena for smoking because "it's bad for the baby". Ohhh Burn.
  • After Offred gets captured and sent back to the Waterfords and has her spirit crushed in numerous ways, eventually she throws herself out of a window in a suicide attempt. When she wakes in the hospital, she realizes her baby is still alive despite her attempt and heavy vaginal bleeding. Her baby’s will to live reinvigorates June’s fighting spirit and she promises to make sure her baby doesn’t grow up in Gilead.
  • At the end of "First Blood," Ofglen suicide bombs a meeting of the entire upper government of Gilead, just like the way they took out the American government by an armed coup.
  • Serena Joy takes control during her husband's absence to restore peace. She even asks for June's help in achieving this.
  • Newly energized by getting Serena on her side, June starts a chain of the Handmaids all telling each other their real names, the first small step that could lead to a whole revolution.
  • June savoring the feel of a pen, finally feeling that she can wield an amount of power over Gilead. The visual click is also a tribute to the late Ofglen.
  • Several from "Smart Power":
    • The Canadians in general for barely concealing their disgust at the visiting party from Gilead.
    • When the Waterfords arrive in Canada, the welcoming party includes Deputy Minister Kevin McConnell who pointedly notes he used to enjoy visiting the United States with his husband. Fred tries to dispel the awkwardness by saying that Gilead anticipates that tourism will be a key part of their economy and hopes they both will visit, to which Kevin counters, "When we feel welcome."
    • Serena is handed a schedule of activities that doesn't include any words, just pictures. A rather understated Take That! at how Gilead treats its women.
    • Serena speaks with Mark, an ambassador from the real American government. He offers her a better life outside of Gilead, and notes that scientists believe that the infertility crisis isn't because of female infertility, but because of male sterility, leading to this exchange:
      Serena: I have a child on the way.
      Mark: That's not your child.
      Serena: You don't know what you're talking about.
      Mark: I'm sorry. I meant no offense.
      Serena: If you had done better research, you would know that I would never betray my country.
    • Luke taking a photograph of himself, June, and Hannah before Gilead and confronting Waterford. He's clearly ready to kill Waterford right on the spot for what he's done to June. Pity the police stopped him.
    Luke: Hey, Waterford! Waterford! You fucking piece of shit!
    Waterford: Commander Waterford if you don't mind. And you are?
    Luke: Luke Bankole. You raped my wife.
    • Nick gets the Jezebel letters into Luke's hands during a negotiation with the Canadian government. He and Moira make them all public, resulting in a massive public outcry and the Canadians immediately cutting off the entire deal, with McConnell taking special pleasure in telling the Waterfords they're no longer welcome in the country. Then Moira gets off a parting shot by shoving a sign with her real name at them on their way out, leaving Fred greatly unsettled to know she successfully escaped.
      • Before Serena Joy leaves, a woman contemptuously tells her "I don't know how you live with yourself. It's sad, what they've done to you."
    • A small one for Janine who tells Isaac "suck my dick" after he keeps telling her to be quiet when she and June are talking. Unfortunately, it ends with her getting hit across the face but not bad for somebody who's been broken into accepting the Gilead regime.
    • "I know I should accept the reality of you being born here. But fuck that."
  • June finding the strength to parent Hannah when they're suddenly reunited for 10 minutes. Instead of becoming mad or upset when Hannah pulls away from her, June allows her to be angry and validates it. She tells Hannah to obey her new parents and enjoy her life while reminding her that she and Luke love her. Despite everything Gilead has put her through, June's maternal instincts are still intact.
  • Oprah Winfrey's cameo as a radio broadcaster from the real America, telling both the remaining Americans and the Gilead traitors that they're still out there and are fighting to take their country back. This gives June a new determination that allows her to make it through the birthing process alone.
  • Eden and Isaac choosing to Face Death with Dignity, rather than renounce their sins and go back to being obedient citizens of Gilead. Eden, in particular, deserves mention. This is a fifteen year old girl about to be executed via drowning (which is not a quick and merciful way to go), and she doesn't cry, plead, or beg. She simply looks at the man she loves, and recites a famous bit of scripture... and, unlike most of Gilead, she doesn't take it out of context for her own agenda. When Eden cites the Bible, she gets it right.
    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

  • In The Word, Emily stabs and viciously attacks Aunt Lydia. After two seasons of Lydia going consequence-free from her actions, it's deeply satisfying seeing the shit kicked out of her.
  • Offred's retaliation slap to Commander Waterford. He so desperately deserved it.
    • Rita's comment to Offred and Nick while patching her up afterwards: "Your girlfriend's bad-ass!"
    • After Waterford's smarmy suggestion that Offred could stay in the house without Serena Joy and try for another male child...
    "Go fuck yourself, Fred."
  • When Fred attempts to intervene in Offred and Holly's escape, Nick confronts him and holds him off, coolly telling him that it's "safer inside." When Fred attempts to protest, Nick reveals the gun on his belt, and Fred backs off, realizing that he's not the one in charge, both because of the gun and the fact that Nick is an Eye.
  • Before June escapes she takes the time to carve "nolites te bastardes carborundorum" on the wall of her bedroom in big letters for Fred to find when he goes looking for her and the baby.
  • Serena Joy gathers the Wives and makes a passionate plea to the Commanders to allow women to read the bible. At the end of her speech, she bravely opens Eden's bible and reads a passage about the importance of the word. It demonstrates genuine faith, incredible bravery and her remorse at what happened to Eden. Her actions have dire consequences for herself, but it was still one of the greatest things she did on the show.
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    Season 3 
  • The beginning of Season 3 has Serena Joy telling Fred, flat out, that she allowed June and Holly to escape. When he asks why, she delivers the most vicious glare at him and has a perfect reminder for what he'd done to her earlier on:
  • When June is returned to the Waterfords, Serena angrily confronts June about handing over Holly to Emily, to which June just as angrily retorts that Gilead took June's first daughter from her:
    Serena: You gave her to a murderer! You killed my baby! You've killed my baby! How could you take her away from me?
    June: 'Cause I have another daughter! You chased us in the woods, and you hunted us down with dogs. And when you pulled her away, she screamed! My baby screamed for her mother! And I hope this feels like that!
  • After Serena's attempt to work within the rules resulting in her husband betraying her and cutting her finger off, she moves toward outright rebellion by burning their house down, starting with the bed where June was violated. As she's escorted out, June gets a vicious smile.
    June: Lord Jesus, be revealed from Heaven, with His mighty angels. In flaming fire, thou shalt take vengeance. Burn, motherfucker, burn.
  • After June's attempt to smuggle a Chemist to the Resistance blows up in her face, Lawrence seems to go out of his way to verbally berate her intelligence and ability to effectively run a resistance cell, much less her understanding of how he [Lawrence] doesn't have the power to "save them all" as June claims he can. He allows June to save five people out of hundreds. June puts together a crew worthy of a true Resistance movement.
  • When Aunt Lydia starts viciously beating Janine for asking to become the Putnams’ Handmaid’s again, June throws herself in the way, very much aware that even if Lydia refrains from hitting her too, such a public act of defiance may well mean her execution. Luckily, even the upper echelon of Gilead see it as a Moral Event Horizon, and Lydia is left to pathetically apologize for the scene and run away weeping.
  • Luke's Armour Piercing Shut Up, Hannibal! response to Serena's insistence every child deserves to know their story. Her husband raped June, whether he knows about her actively participating in the rape by holding June down during it or not, he knows she, at least, knew it was happening, and she and Fred are both guilty of supporting the society that keeps June and other women prisoners. No matter how much she 'loves' the child conceived during June's time as a sex slave (June and Nick's consensual sexual relationship doesn't change the fact June was forced to get pregnant under threat of horrible things), she will never be anything but a monster in any truthful story Holly Nicole hears involving her.
  • The other Handmaids all teaming up to give Ofmatthew hell for getting Hannah taken away, showing just how respected June has become in their community that without question they'll turn on anyone who hurts her. (Although it's clear they had disliked Ofmatthew before).
  • A small one in Ofmatthew's final rampage: the person she finally decides to shoot is not June. It's Aunt Lydia. Underneath all of that brainwashing the woman knew who her real oppessors were and hated them.
  • After Lawrence is finally forced to go through with the ceremony with June due to government supervision, June looks Fred in the eye and says "At least it wasn't you." He actually seems hit hard by it.
  • June sends out a message for any Marthas willing to assist in evacuating Gilead's children. The typical signal for agreement is a basket of muffins...and she ends up with the whole table covered with them as apparently every Martha in town is on board.
  • June is spotted by Commander Winslow at Jezebel's while arranging for the children's transport, and he decides to take a turn with her himself. June retreats back to her usual Madness Mantra of being outside her body and treating it like nothing more than a job...but then suddenly decides she's had enough of this shit and fights back hard against one of the highest ranking members of the Gilead government. And finally she manages an exceptionally fitting end to the man when she stabs him over and over with the pen that created so many horrible laws against women, eventually getting his lung and leaving him to pathetically crawl toward her and beg to live for his children's sake. But of course this is the exact wrong thing to say to June, who finishes him off by bashing his brains in with a statue. And the kicker is that the Martha who finds the scene is one of the women she freed at the start of the season and helps her escape, after which the whole staff is happy to erase every piece of evidence and dispose of the body in the incinerator.
    • This same episode features a fantastic gambit by Tuello and Serena to lure Fred into Canada and charge the son of a bitch with every single crime he's done under international law. The kicker is that a soldier holds Fred at gunpoint; from the look on his face, he feels as helpless as the women he's tortured, and it's cathartic as hell.
    • Special mention has to go to the use of "Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush as a soundtrack for the body disposal scene. A lot of viewers have stated it increased the Catharsis Factor for them.
  • Luke and Moira get to see the Waterfords brought low as they deliver Nicole for an agreed hour-long visit. Moira gives Serena a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how no amount of good deeds will erase the bad things she did and she's the real "gender traitor" (and she then suffers the indignity of being reminded her deal with Tuello includes not being allowed to call herself Nicole's mother), while Luke just punches Fred in the face and shouts that they're not done as the guards drag him out.
  • The season finale, as to be expected, has a number of these:
    • Fred, of all people, gets one when he makes sure that Serena is implicated for her role in forcing Nick to have sex with June. Even if Fred's reasoning was to make sure she went down with him, it's satisfying to see her finally get what's coming to her.
      • In addition, Tuello refers to June as 'June Osborne' when stating the charges. Serena, however, uses 'Offred' when trying to use the defense June and Nick were in a relationship. This is true, and it's implied Tuello does believe/already knew this. Except, them having a consensual sexual relationship doesn't make her threatening June with the colonies and potentially exerting her status over Nick and/or using his desire to protect June from the harm she could do to June to get them to conceive a baby any less coercive. Or to quote Tuello, "It's still rape."
    • June being implicitly stated to be the leader of the resistance in Boston. She more or less asserts authority over Lawrence and is given respect by all of the Marthas and Handmaids working with her. Not bad for a woman in Gilead.
    • June enacting her plan to get kids out. Not only does it work without a hitch (with Rita making it to safety as well), June shows that she's not lost the Action Girl chops she had when she took down High Commander Winslow by managing to get a Guardian at gunpoint and ultimately killing him once she gets what she needs out of him. And she does all this with a bullet in her back.
    • After June shows she truly is willing to die for the mission by going on a solo attack against the Guardians to distract them from the kids, the other Handmaids and Marthas join her in what's essentially the particicution being turned against the government, throwing stones at them while all the kids are snuck onto the plane just feet away.

Meta

  • The show practically sweeping the 2017 Emmys, winning 8 awards out of 13 nominations (across 11 categories), and taking every category it was up for on the main telecast. Further achievements included:
    • The show winning Best Drama Series in what was considered (at least according to odds at Gold Derby) to be a slight upset against Stranger Things, which had won 5 Emmys at the Creative Arts Ceremony (including Casting). Margaret Atwood herself joined the crew onstage for the Best Drama win, to great applause from the audience.
    • The fact that the Series win made Hulu the first ever streaming platform to win either Drama Series or Comedy Series in Emmy history, when, until then, it appeared that the honor might go to either Netflix (which had House of Cards (US), Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, The Crown, Master of None, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in contention over the years) or Amazon (which had Transparent).
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    • Elisabeth Moss finally (in the eyes of many) winning the Primteime Emmy after years of coming up short for Mad Men and Top of the Lake. Her wins for Drama Lead Actress and Drama Series were her 8th and 9th career nominations. In her acceptance speech, she thanked her mother for teaching her to be a "fucking badass".
    • Ann Dowd winning Supporting Actress for a Drama Series (another surprise, as the race was seen to be between Thandie Newton in Westworld and Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things), giving Dowd her first bit of industry recognition in over 30 years of work.
    • Reed Morano's victory for Drama Directing making her the first woman to win the category since Mimi Leder for ER in 1995.
    • Alexis Bledel's win for Drama Guest Actress helped to solidify the sense of She Really Can Act that had built around her performance. Additionally, it meant that the show had managed to take all three female acting prizes in the Drama categories.
    • Showrunner Bruce Miller finishing out the Drama Series speech by encouraging everyone to pursue further activism against things they see as wrong.
      Miller: Go home. Get to work. We have a lot of things to fight for.
  • The fact that Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, and Alexis Bledel got nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2018 Emmys.
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