The Handmaid's Tale: Mary and Martha

"Women like you are like children, asking for too much, taking whatever you want, damn the consequences."

Can I say again how terrific Bradley Whitford is, and what a great addition to this series? Even if I don't like his character?

The Lawrence house is a study in contrasts: the ugly, dark wallpaper and antique furniture clashing with the large canvases of unframed abstract art. And Commander Joseph Lawrence is a lot like his house. While he isn't subjecting his new Handmaid to ceremonial rape, he's also not a part of the Resistance. He spouted a number of sexist comments in this episode, like when he walked into a Marthas meeting in the kitchen and called it a "hen party."

Even though the Marthas don't trust the Handmaids, June actively inserted herself into a Martha operation, smuggling out Alison, a former high school chemistry teacher who will soon be a bomber. This is really the first time we got an extensive look at how the Marthas live. Like the Handmaids, they're also oppressed sinners. "God bless our labors" and "Through work we're cleansed" sounded a lot like "Blessed be the fruit" and "May the Lord open." June told the Marthas that she wasn't afraid of hard work, but she probably didn't think she'd wind up burying a body in the garden all by herself.

Commander Lawrence was immediately aware of the operation and wanted nothing to do with it, but then seemed to accept it because June was telling him the truth. Unfortunately, Cora, the Martha with one eye like Janine, kept lying to Lawrence and in the end, he sent her away, who knows where. Let's hope it wasn't to her death. The other Martha, Beth, was luckier and got to stay.

Brief segue. Did you notice that Beth was Nick's former girlfriend, the cook at Jezebels who made him pasta? Beth and June talked about Jezebels and the fact that they both knew Moira, but Nick's name didn't come up. It'll be interesting when it does. (This is TV, so you know it will.)

Commander Lawrence appears to adore his wife Eleanor, who is not as fragile as she initially seemed to be. When the Martha operation was in jeopardy, Eleanor jumped in and distracted the Guardians before she ordered Cora to clean up the blood on the ugly wallpaper, and June to go down to the very Underground Railroad basement to help the Martha who was shot. Later, Eleanor was gardening right where the body was buried. That couldn't be a coincidence. It's interesting that Eleanor appears to be Resistance while her husband is not. I think a lot of this series is about women saving themselves from oppression, not being rescued by men. I like that message.


Aunt Lydia was back, and she doesn't like the Lawrences at all, which doesn't bode well for their survival. I spent some time in my last review talking about how unlikely it was that June wasn't executed. Turns out that if it had been up to Aunt Lydia, June would have been hung on the Wall. Here, June was perfectly kind and considerate toward Aunt Lydia, and got a cattle prod in the stomach for her trouble. I love Ann Dowd's work with that character. You gotta hate her.

Meanwhile in Canada

Emily is in emotional limbo, going to doctor appointments and continuing to hang out with Moira, Luke and Erin. Moira is right that reunions often don't end up as happily ever after. I can imagine how difficult it would be to adjust to real life again after a few years as a Handmaid in Gilead, not to mention her brief imprisonment in the Colonies. Her doctor mentioned clitoral reconstruction; I didn't know they could do that, but isn't it wonderful? The mention that Emily has higher cholesterol than she should was such a perfect little contrast between Gilead and Little America. Something like high cholesterol matters again.

A visit to the optometrist and a pair of new glasses that she wasn't allowed to have in Gilead seemed to be what finally made Emily call her wife. I hope we continue to get Emily's story, and more scenes with the wonderful Clea Duvall.

Finally, I really felt for Luke this time. He desperately wants June and Hannah back, but instead he got Emily and Nichole. Is Luke legally Nichole's father? She's his wife's baby, after all, and I doubt that Fred and Serena have anything resembling parental rights in Canada.

I never really thought about it before, but Luke is something of a househusband. He did the cooking while June chose the menu. And now he's raising June's baby.

Bits:

— The U.S. is losing Chicago to Gilead, or so the gossip goes. Governments like Gilead tend to lie to their people, though.

— Does the Loaves and Fishes food market seem emptier than before?

— One of the Marthas (was it Beth?) mentioned Breaking Bad because Alison was a chemistry teacher about to become a bomber.

— June, Beth and Alison walking through the dry cleaning district looked ghetto-like, with lines of people walking past hanging bodies.

— June has a terrible new pious walking partner, Ofmatthew, who is pretty much what June initially thought Emily was but wasn't. She saw Janine in the distance, and Alma at the market. Life goes on, even in Gilead.

Quotes:

June: "I pretend I'm a tree. And I wait."

Ofmatthew: "I can't imagine what came over Ofjoseph."
June: (innocently) "I am Ofjoseph." (to herself) "Now who's the pious little shit?"
This is a callback to when June met Oflgen the second, the suicide bomber.

Aunt Lydia: "Everything is in hand, Commander Lawrence. Ofjoseph was seen gossiping at Loaves and Fishes. That simply will not do."
Lawrence: "Spare the rod, spoil the Handmaid, yeah?"
(later)
Lawrence: "I wonder what the voltage is on those things?"

Beth: "That must have been some blowjob."
June: "Red Center special."

June: (in a Martha uniform) "Strange to finally be invisible. One of the reasons they chose red was the opposite. We're easy to catch because we're easy to see. Like blood on snow."

Ofmatthew: "They should take an eye when they catch her. Maybe her ears, too."
June: "Did you hear Ofjohn died?
Ofmatthew: "Yes. Poor angel. Traffic accident."
June: "Her walking partner snapped. Pushed her in front of a bus."
(Ofmatthew looks apprehensively at the bus passing by)
June: "God rest her soul."
Laugh out loud. Except it isn't really funny.

Three out of four new walking partners,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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