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Tearjerker / The Handmaid's Tale

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    Season 1 
  • Emily and June passing St. Paul's Cathedral, June noting this is where her daughter was baptized. Emily speaks on how St. Patrick's in New York has been demolished, the two just sadly accepting this change.
  • Janine watching her daughter get ceremonially handed to the Wife, knowing that this is as far as she'll be involved in her child's life, aside from nursing.
    • While nursing, singing "Three Little Birds," and breaking down.
    Everything's gonna be all right...
  • The scene that follows Emily/Ofglen and the Martha she was caught with getting sentenced. Both of them are loaded into a van, handcuffed and gagged, heading to the Martha's execution. Both of them sob, hold hands, and cling to one another wordlessly before the van stops, the guards force them apart, and Emily's forced to watch her lover be hanged and is left alone to sob in the back of the van as it takes her to "Redemption".
  • The manner in which the children of Gilead are revealed to the Ambassador for show and the Handmaids, many of them mothers, trying very hard not to look for their children's faces. Knowing that the Handmaids could get trafficked to other countries adds to the horror as it appears the Handmaids were trying to get last glimpses of their children.
  • June finally breaking and telling the Mexican Ambassador everything and begging for help, and the response being that the Ambassador won’t help. And not only that, but she will continue to pursue a trade deal to obtain Handmaids in exchange for crops. June’s rage and disgust for the other woman is best shown by scornfully admonishing her for trafficking people.
    June: What are you going to trade us for, what? Fucking chocolate? We're human beings. How can you do that?
    • Immediately after this though the Ambassador's aide reveals in private that not only is June’s husband alive, but he is willing to help get a message to him from June. It's tearjerking in a good way that finally there's a scrap of hope for her.
  • The American flag in Little America having blank stars representing the states currently occupied by Gilead, and filled white stars representing the remaining free states in the union.
  • June seeing just how Moira is beaten down at Jezebels.
  • The absolutely gut-wrenching Wham Shot of the fate of the previous Offred. The show cuts straight from Nick in Jezebel's to Rita's screams of horror. Nick runs in and the camera cuts straight to the previous Offred hanging from the ceiling. When Nick cuts her down and tries to check her pulse, Rita lets out a heartbroken "no" before bursting into tears as she realizes it's too late.
  • Janine on the bridge, preparing to jump to her death with her daughter. June tries to talk her down, taking about how the regime will be over one day and they'll go dancing and drinking. Janine enjoys this thought, but then: "Who'd want to dance with me?" She suggests to June that she could join her in her suicide, but June has her own daughter to think of and find, and in the end Janine hands over her own daughter so that she has a chance to grow up — and blithely turns and jumps. And she doesn't die.
  • Moira making it across the Canadian border, yet feeling a numb hollowness when when she reaches her destination because she had no family waiting for her. But then Tears of Joy when she discovers that Luke has been trying to keep tabs on her survival and she feels truly found.
  • Serena Joy brings Offred out to see her daughter Hannah at another house... from a distance, since she's locked in the car. It's utterly agonizing, and she's desperate pleading for them to let her out, trying to get her daughter's attention, but no one listens. To make matters worse, Serena threatens Hannah if Offred does anything to endanger "her" baby, leading to Offred's epic, angry rant against her.
  • Janine pleading with the Handmaids to be gentle with her stoning. Even when the Handmaids stick up for her and drop their stones, they know they can't take Janine to permanent safety and have to leave Janine to the mercy of Aunt Lydia.
  • June's flashback to a nurse taking her newborn daughter to have her first bath. They walk into the nursery... and all the cradles are empty. When she asks where the other babies are, she's told that two are in the intensive care unit and the rest are dead.
  • The scene of Emily/Ofsteven playing with the dog when the Wife of her new Commander comes out to talk to her. The Wife offhandedly mentions that she feels like she may be sick and that they might cancel the ceremony that night. Emily’s answer of "You can’t get sick every month" implies that this is not the first time the Wife has done this. She seems to be trying to protect Emily the only way she knows how. Emily, on the other hand, has resigned herself to her fate. The almost motherly gesture of the Wife touching her shoulder afterwards really sells the heartache of the moment.
    • Until, you know, you remember that this woman is holding Emily down while her husband rapes her. Then it gets tearjerking in a different way.
  • The Missing Person/Missing Woman posters on the walls of the refugee centre in Toronto. There are enough to cover every wall of every corridor, going all the way up to the ceiling. The sheer magnitude is what kicks you.
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    Season 2 
  • In the Before, Emily's conversation with a colleague who tells her to erase the phone photo of her wife and child. She is understandably flummoxed and it seems her colleague is an insensitive bureaucrat... until you realize he's not speaking to her as a bureaucrat but as a gay man living in fear and trying to advise his friend out of danger.
    • After that Emily and her family attempt to escape to Canada, only to find out that their marriage is no longer valid therefore she does not have dual citizenship from getting married to her Canadian wife and cannot cross the border. All Emily can do is urge her family to go on without her, play with their young son one last time before they board the plane, and tearfully hold and stare at their invalidated marriage certificate.
  • Offred and the chained pregnant handmaid sharing a knowing glance. It seems they both want to do something for their respective plight.
  • The downward spiral Offred/June suffers in "Other Woman" when she is flung back into the Waterfords' household, learns that people have died and been harmed in response to her escape, Mayday has been silent, and even the hopeful message by the last Offred has been wiped out. June ultimately descends into the madness of accepting herself as Offred.
    • When Nick finally gets a chance to speak to June and apologise about what happened, she shrugs him off with a comment about the weather like a good handmaid.
    • Alma assures Offred that much of the things, such as Ofglen's Tongue Trauma, aren't really her fault. But Alma adds, "At least not that part," implying that Alma begrudges Offred for escaping and starting a chain of events leading to Mayday's silence. Indeed Gilead has poisoned everyone.
    • Poor Rita also seems stunned by Offred's return, as if she lost all hope that things in Gilead could change for the better. And despite all hopes that Rita could pass forward the Handmaids' letters to Mayday in the first season finale, turns out, Rita couldn't, and she begrudgingly gives it back to Offred.
  • The line-up of nervous looking teenage brides, showing how far and wide Gilead's toxicity is reaching.
    • Rita in particular is trying to make mental gymnastics to rationalize the circumstances and it seems she wants to talk to Offred about how strange it is but can't find the vocabulary to express it.
  • Offred crying for genuinely believing that Serena Joy's shred of decency could come through after forming some reciprocal kinship. But Serena Joy is too far absorbed into her class status.
  • The second Ofglen's suicide attack on the Handmaid center. While she really savors her final moments, it's depressing that after her Tongue Trauma she felt she had little to live for and throw her life on the line for her Handmaids.
    • The moment when she sadly gazes at her fellow Handmaids, and shows them the detonator so they have a chance to run. Fortunately, they all do — leaving their friend behind so she can take out Gilead's higher-ups.
    • Also, we still don't know her real name, and it's unknown if she ever told any of the other Handmaids. Does anyone know the name of this hero?
  • The episode "After" finally gives us second Ofglen's name Lilli, though it's told to the audience and Offred's contemplates the tragedy that she never got to know her name.
  • Offred's voiceover, "It was nice working for you [Serena Joy] too," showing that she still pines back for the temporal kinship with one of her very captors.
  • Eden's frightened nearly-tearful expression when Nick firmly tells her to not meddle in his stuff when she discovers the postcards from Handmaids, even though, 1) it was likely an innocent discovery and could not have known its significance and 2) she probably couldn't read it and 3) even if she sensed its significance, Nick did Kick the Dog move by reprimanding her instead of finding a way to gently explain it in a way that wouldn't get him in trouble.
  • Janine holding her dying baby Charlotte and removing her medical mask and gloves to make skin-to-skin contact with her child. At first, it seems the show would go with the novel's direction and Charlotte would die... but in a surprisingly uplifting moment, Janine's skin-to-skin care was implied to help nurse the child back to health.
  • Serena rather callously telling June that as soon as the baby is born, June will be leaving the house. June tearfully tries to argue that handmaids usually stay until the baby is weaned, but Serena just tells her "I think we've both had enough of each other, don't you?"
  • Many of the protestors surrounding the Waterfords holding up pictures of their loved ones trapped in Gilead drives home just how many families this regime ripped apart. Not helped by this is Fred's blasé reaction to them, especially to Luke who actually runs up to Waterford and rightfully tells him "you rape my wife".
  • Although she's very much made her own bed and — as the end of the episode shows — is content to lie in it, Serena's treatment when she visits Canada in "Smart Power". The Canadian welcoming party treat her with a mixture of pity and contempt. A mother with a young daughter is visibly disgusted by her, and refuses to share an elevator with her. When the Mayday Letters are published and the Waterfords get kicked out of Canada, a woman scornfully tells her that she doesn't know how Serena lives with herself, and that it's sad what Gilead has done to her.
  • After Aunt Lydia agrees to be a sort-of-godmother/protector over June's child, she tells June that she was godmother to her sister's child...only for the child to die four days after he was born. It's clear that Aunt Lydia still holds a lot of grief over his death.
  • The entirety of the reunion scene between June and Hannah. From Hannah's initial fear and anger towards June, to June giving her as much advice as she can in the 10 minutes they have, to them both sobbing when they're forcibly separated again, the entire scene pulls at the heartstrings.
    • During the reunion, Hannah is cold and withdrawn towards June, asking her mother why she didn't try harder to find her.
    • The devastating part is that Hannah's reaction is Truth in Television. Considering the family separation occurring in America, separated children cannot process that there is a whole system to blame rather than the parents, who were stolen from them.
  • The ending of Eden's story. After June unwittingly tells her to take love where she can find it, she runs away with Isaac. Of course they're caught, and despite Nick (and really everyone else) begging them to repent their sins so that Eden at least will be spared, they refuse to deny their love for each other and are executed for adultery by being drowned in a swimming pool. In front of an audience that includes Eden's family.
    • Worse than that, in the finale we learn that Eden's father turned her in. He says "we called the authorities" but we do not hear from Eden's mother at all, so it seems like her father was more than willing to send her to a probable death.
  • In the finale, we learn that Eden kept some secrets from the household, including a well-read Bible, full of notes she had made to better understand God. It breaks June's heart, and spurs Serena to attempt to push an amendment to the law that forbids women from reading. Eden rebelling in her own, small way seems to motivate both June and Serena to reject Gilead entirely.
  • Rita bemoaning how cold she has been to Eden.
  • Serena tries to organize the Wives and makes a presentation in front of all the Commanders to give them that right back, and illustrates her point by reading from Eden's Bible. Immediately after, she is dragged away by Guardians and has her finger amputated for her "crime". By the time she gets home, she's clearly broken and utterly betrayed, to the point she allows June to escape with baby Nicole/Holly because she has finally realized that Gilead is not safe for girls of any age. Even though Serena is by no means a good person, her despair at her husband's treatment of her and being separated from Nicole is hard to watch.
    • The fact that all of the other Wives walked off the podium as Serena starts reading out of The Bible out of fear of getting the same retaliation. While they may not lose a finger for reading like Serena they could still be punished by their husbands with other methods.
  • Serena trying to stop June from escaping with Holly/Nicole. Serena doesn't actually harm or threaten June like most viewers would expect her to, but actually cries and begs June not to run off with the baby before tearfully complying after June reminds her that Holly Nicole cannot grow up in a place that is cruel to women. Regardless of people's opinions of Serena that was still another well-acted Sympathy for the Devil moment within the show especially when you remember how badly Serena wanted a baby.
  • The Bittersweet Ending of "The Word". June keeps her promise that her baby won't grow up in Gilead, but she has to give up her chance at freedom to save her other daughter Hannah and hands baby Holly/Nicole over to Emily before she runs off. Emily calling after June as she makes her way to freedom without her is just sad.
    Season 3 
  • After June is returned to the Waterfords, Serena angrily confronts June for handing over Holly to Emily, to which June angrily responds that Gilead took away Hannah 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!

  • Emily safely crosses the border to Canada. She's almost shell-shocked by how different her treatment is by the Canadians compared to Gilead's medieval medicine. She gets to see women doctors, is recommended a psychologist to process her trauma and a surgeon to reconstruct her clitoris, and is never separated from the baby. She's given a standing ovation when she arrives at the hospital, with genuine admiration on the faces of a lot of the gathered crowd. Instead of heartening Emily, it only seems to unsettle her.
    • Perhaps the most tear-inducing moment? When Emily finally gathers the courage to call her wife after everything she's been through and her wife stops traffic downtown just to talk to her again.
    • Episode 4 is even more tear jerk-y: Emily goes to visit her wife Sylvia at her house and finds that not only has she worked to make sure their son Oliver remembered her growing up, but that he was so excited for her visit he begged to stay home from school. He later asks Emily to read a bedtime story, which leaves both of them in tears.
  • Janine asking Naomi Putnam to hold her (that is, Janine's) daughter - Mrs. Putnam is gentle and overrides Commander Putnam's refusal, only for the baby to begin to cry when Janine holds her. The little girl doesn't even remember the mother who saved her life.
  • Aunt Lydia's backstory. Once upon a time, she was a gentle, compassionate teacher who was willing to put aside even her own disapproval on religious grounds in favor of being kind. Her downfall, in short, came from her belief that this very laxness was a corrupting influence, and she doubled down ferociously. She ultimately couldn't and wouldn't escape the fierce hold her religious indoctrination had on her, and in a tragic turn of irony, sold her soul.
  • Despite not needing to, June apologizing to Luke for her affair with Nick, in order to let him know that the baby was made out of love as well to explain she needed to build a life to survive in Gilead.
  • Eleanor's story. In the Before, she wanted a baby badly. But her struggles with bipolar disorder affected those plans. Now in Gilead, she has no access to medication. She still pictures what her child could have been but she understands how brutal Gilead is.
  • Ofandy's birth resulting in an Unbaby, a stillborn. June feels relief for child being spared from Gilead. Ofandy looks devastated as she can only be embraced by her Handmaids.
  • June finding Janine's file and learning that her son (whom she had before Gilead) died in a car accident four years ago, and later telling Janine that his family was transferred to California, letting her believe that he lives on the beach now.
  • June finds Eleanor has overdosed on her sleeping pills and will likely die without help. Twofold Tearjerker in that Eleanor dies from her overdose, and June lets it happen, showing her hardening from the madness inflicted on her by Gilead.
  • At the end of the season, a planeload of children refugees arrives in Canada. One of the children is immediately reunited with her father and both are reduced to tears during their embrace. Luke, watching them, then gets a Hope Spot that Hannah is on board, only to realize that she is not on the plane.
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