The Handmaid's Tale: Under His Eye

Sorry I'm late. I kept putting off writing about this episode. Never a good sign.

Maybe it was because the episode began and ended with the increasing number of gutwrenching hangings – five just this week, according to June. They're like the Fenway Park scene at the beginning of season two but worse, because they're real. That red rope looked obscene somehow, with a slight touch of the ridiculous. It looked at first as if the handmaids were playing tug of war. I'm sure that was intentional. Not sure why.

June's pious walking partner, Ofmatthew, is having a difficult pregnancy this time; June showed her some sympathy early on when Ofmatthew felt sick at the hanging. Not so much at the end of the episode when June discovered that Ofmatthew is Aunt Lydia's spy, watching over June and "protecting her from herself." I wish I could say I was surprised.

Why was June so careless in Loaves and Fishes when she contacted the MacKenzie's unfortunate Martha, who was hung before she even got a character name of her own? (Her terrified face at the gallows made me cry.) And yes, I'm a mom, I get June's desperation, but talking Eleanor Lawrence into going for a casual walk to Hannah's school was monumentally stupid and reckless.

Because even seeing Hannah, much less grabbing her somehow, was impossible. High walls with barbed wire, watch towers, guardians with machine guns, and how come those guardians didn't see June scouting the perimeter? Her red cloak is highly visible on purpose – as she has said, like blood on snow. And of course, now that Ofmatthew has tattled to Aunt Lydia, the MacKenzies took Hannah out of that school and left Boston entirely. Hannah is now lost to June, possibly forever.

Eleanor Lawrence is clearly an ally and she did her best, but she's bipolar and has no filter and the way she was carrying on because she couldn't have a tour of the school only brought more attention on herself and June. Endangering Eleanor is certainly not going to make Commander Lawrence happy, since he adores her and is very protective of her. I'm surprised Lawrence didn't blow his stack at June, or worse. June could lose her cushy non-rape set-up at the Lawrences so easily, and wind up at the end of a rope herself.

Losing it with Ofmatthew, screaming "You fucking bitch!" wasn't wise or careful of June, either. June has plot armor. Let's face it, any handmaid that did what June got away with in this episode would be in the Colonies, or worse.

Checking in with DC's new power couple

Am I supposed to care about Serena's marriage? I so do not. Unless the ups and downs of the Waterfords will eventually lead to them to the Resistance, but is that even a possibility any more? I thought that was where Serena was going, but not if she's dancing romantically with the husband who freaking had her freaking finger cut freaking off.

Seriously, though, maybe I'm just thinking about Footloose, but why would Gilead allow dancing at all, much less something as sexy and suggestive as a tango? I was even under the impression that Fred and Serena couldn't have sex because they couldn't procreate. The Wives at the dance were joking about guardians as sex objects, or was it the waiters? I'm confused, and if I'm confused, the writers didn't do their jobs very well.

Olivia Winslow showed Serena an available home as yet "unrestored," meaning there was still stuff left from the family that used to live there. Shoes and coats by the door, photos of a mom and dad and their three kids, how could anyone look at that house and not feel for that family? I think Serena felt something. Olivia, not so much.

Meanwhile in Canada

The continuing story in Canada usually makes me feel a little better, gives me a little hope. Not this time.

Emily was interviewed by the Swiss mediator Lena about the incredibly violent things she did while she was a freaking slave and being held captive and raped against her will and nearly worked into a grave at a death camp, and can you tell this made me angry? Does the world really not know what is going on in Gilead? Sylvia's face was shocked and angry and fortunately, supportive.

And I loved Emily and Moira doing some serious bonding at the café. They may not know the same lesbian hangouts in Boston, but they certainly have PTSD and the worst of handmaid experiences in common. I liked how they tied the hangings and June to Emily and Moira and their murders, the Wife in the Colonies, the Commander at Jezebels. All of these women have been forced to kill. Look what they've turned us into.

But the thing is, the second time I watched this episode, all I could think of was where it had to be going. Emily went with Moira to protest the Minister of Border Security who wouldn't declare Gilead refugees safe from deportation. High Commander Winslow and Fred Waterford were talking about negotiating an extradition treaty with Canada not just for baby Nichole, but for "the others."

Emily and Moira are technically criminals, and omigod. They're going to be extradited back to Gilead, aren't they? I can't think of anything worse that could happen on this show, and the worst possible things happen on this show. Seriously, it might be too much for me. The Handmaid's Tale is hard enough to watch as it is.

Bits:

— I always enjoy the scenes in Loaves and Fishes. This time the announcement was that bee tokens can now be used for both bee pollen and honey. The handmaids were noticing the new mouth coverings, but apparently June hasn't shared what they're for.

— Was June actually hinting to Ofmatthew that she thought about abortion when she became pregnant with Nichole? That was another thing June did in this episode that made me crazy. Too reckless. What was she thinking?

— Naomi Putnam referred to June as a "ripe handmaid." Like a peach or an avocado. I remember Serena referring to them as apples, too.

— The Lawrences didn't have children of their own because of Eleanor's condition, because they were always "adjusting her dosage."

— What is the point of a school for girls if they can never read and write, anyway?

— Ofmatthew is played by Ashleigh LaThrop, who is also in The 100 this season. She must be doing a great job because I despise her and feel sorry for her at the same time.

— I want Emily and Syl and Oliver and Moira and Luke and Erin and Nichole to hightail it somewhere, right the heck now. Would they be safe in what's left of the United States, Alaska and Hawaii?

Quotes:

June: "Fruit cocktail? Really?"
Alma: "I'm crappy at improv."

Serena: "Who lived here before?"
Olivia: "I think they were Baptists."

June: "Where's the Commander?"
Beth: "I don't know. In some commander place doing commander things?"

Eleanor: (to the baby) "We thought you were gonna die. But you didn't."

Moira: (to Emily) "How can we not have any gay in common? Jeez, I'm pretty sure that this is the first time this has ever happened in all of lesbian history."

Emily: "I killed a Wife. In the Colonies. I poisoned her. I'm not sorry."
Moira: "I killed a Commander. I didn't have to, he was asleep, but I did it anyway."
Emily: "Look what they've turned us into."
Moira: "You killed anybody since you've been out?"
Emily: "No. You?"
Moira: "Nope. So I think we're good."

The images that stayed with me were that long, improbably red rope, and Serena and Fred improbably doing the tango. The common key word there is "improbable." Two out of four red ropes, perhaps? What did you guys think?

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

8 comments:

Mark Cermak said...

You write amazing reviews for this show,Billie, and I have to admit to better understanding the episodes after read them. Your ability to highlight moments with such passion, and reveal moments that I overlooked or missed is very insightful.

As far as your comment about the plot armor of June, the only reasonable conclusion I can make about that is this: (1) June is the only Handmaid that has confronted every one of her adversaries with the reality of their own ways, meaning that they all know that she is right about the evil that they are not only doing, but also likely feel about themselves in some corner of there existence, and (2) every one of her adversaries know how smart and intelligent she is, and, being the sadistic people they are, probably get some arousal out her "outburts" of stupidity. A stretch, I agree. But that's the best I can determine at this point.

Anyway, keep up the incredible job your doing writing about this show. Reading your reviews of it are as enjoyable as watching the show.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, thank you so much for your comment. I've been feeling a bit down about things this week and sometimes I feel like I'm writing into a vacuum. You made my day.

Anonymous said...

The Handmaid's Tale is the kind of show that really shouldn't try to go for a long six or seven season run. A third season was already stretching it, in my opinion, but up until this episode, it felt like the right choice because it looked like they were moving the story forward (something that was missing during season 2).

This episode makes me fear they are trying to stretch it for at least another season. It looks like the story isn't moving forward after all, it was just moving around in circles.

I hope I'm wrong, we'll see in the next couple episodes. If only there could have been a big drop in viewer numbers for this season, to convince the powers not to renew this show in time for them to write a proper ending.

Don't get me wrong, I love watching it all. Every episode is so beautifully made and all the actors do a great job. If I didn't love the show, I'd just stop watching it. It's because I love it that I want them to end it soon.

Billie Doux said...

Anonymous, I totally agree. If this show keeps getting artificially extended, and more and more shocking for the sake of shock, it will lose its impact.

Mark Cermak said...

Very well stated, Anonymous, and I agree. I do think this show needs a conclusion...and some sense of redemption.

Raya said...

Exellent points, Anonymous.
This episode really had me questioning whether the writers know where they're going.

June's plot armor has been bothering me for a while, but now it's really getting ridiculous.

There's no way Aunt Lydia could report the "threat" on the MacKenzie family without involving June. If not her, someone should have made the connection. Didn't anybody notice that crazy lady who just happened to visit that specific school on that specific day? Maybe Commander Lawrence protected June in order to protect Eleanor, but I'm getting tired of assuming that every plot contrievance should be answered by "must be Commander Lawrence".

I'm starting to think that the only reason they introduced Lawrence was so that they could have June do whatever she wanted without facing consequences. At first he felt mysterious and intriguing, and I was really interested in understanding his motives, but now... I don't know. He feels like a walking plot device.

Emily and Moira are technically criminals, and omigod. They're going to be extradited back to Gilead, aren't they? [...] Seriously, it might be too much for me.
Yeah, I'm not sure I would keep watching if they did that.
Moslty because it would mean that the writers have nothing in mind for the show and just want to do what the Walking Dead did: put the characters in the same situations over and over, with no escape, no hope, and with shock for the sake of it.

Thanks for the review, Billie. I totally inderstand why you had trouble getting down to it. This episode was a mess.

Billie Doux said...

Raya, I was thinking about The Walking Dead, too.

Sjusjun said...

I don’t think she only has plot armor. June has been on tv. She’s supposed to be a willing part of a perfect family, doing her ‘godgiven’ duty. They can’t just disappear her now. She’s become part of the image of Gilead. At least that’s my take on it :)