The Handmaid's Tale: Liars

"Godspeed."

A big episode in which stuff happened. And some of it was pretty darned satisfying.

I should start with the Lawrences, who were at a breaking point. Last week's Ceremony pushed Eleanor over the edge, not that she was balancing all that well in the first place. She was actually holding a gun on Joseph and calling him a liar and a rapist, and June calmly and carefully succeeded in talking her down. Later, Joseph called June "Ice queen" since she is so clearly keeping everyone's shit together.

So Joseph decided he had to take action. After a night of shredding paperwork, the Lawrences ran for the Canadian border. Unfortunately, Gilead doesn't love Joseph anymore, so no new authorizations for him. Sadly, Joseph knew what that meant. He told June that he would try to get her a nice new Commander, keep her from ending up in the Colonies or at Jezebels. It does feel as if the Lawrences will end the season dead, doesn't it? Maybe it's just residual love for Bradley Whitford on The West Wing, but I don't want Joseph Lawrence dead. Even if he was the father of Gilead's economy.

June is determined to carry out her plan to get children out of Gilead, even though the leaders of the local Martha network think it's insane and won't help her. It is sort of insane, isn't it? I enjoyed that scene in the Underground-Railroad-like basement, where the Marthas interrogated June and Beth vouched for her, saying June always kept her cool. (Staying under control was definitely a theme in this episode.)

Later, Joseph and June went to Jezebels together so that June could sound out Billy the bartender and smuggler, offering him a whole lot of very expensive impressionist paintings to get kids out of Gilead on a cargo plane. And that's where it all went bad – June ran into George Winslow.

At first, she kept her cool. Like I said, definitely a theme in this episode. She told Winslow that Joseph Lawrence took her to Jezebels to act out so that she could later tell him tales that would turn him on. "You all seem to have your kinks." A good story and convincingly sick, like Winslow himself. Unfortunately, Winslow then decided to give June a memorable story to take back to Joseph.

That confrontation had me on the edge of my seat. I really did expect June to keep her cool, to let Winslow do terrible things to her, but no. Like Eleanor in the opening scene, June lost control and grabbed a makeshift weapon, stabbing Winslow repeatedly with a pen she is not allowed to write with. His last words were "My children." Which was the absolute worst thing to say to June if he was thinking she'd have mercy on him. The reason this deadly encounter worked dramatically was because I did not expect it. George Winslow is a very important man who'll be missed.

June was the recipient of some karma, because the Martha who came in to clean the room was one of the five that June saved. Those Marthas would have done Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction proud. I loved that clean-up scene that ended with Winslow's body burning in the furnace like the garbage he was. It was cringeworthy and delightful at the same time.


The B-plot, or possibly the A-plot – okay, the parallel plot – was the Waterfords taking their own road trip to the Canadian border. Much like the Lawrences, it didn't work out as planned. Or maybe it worked out just as Serena had planned. Did Serena just trade Fred for Nichole? I think she did.

Ah, the open road. The empty open road. Fred allowed Serena to drive, and the operative word there was "allowed" because it's always his choice, but she loved it anyway, smiling and laughing with joy to Chubby Checker. Fred and Serena talked about what their world would have been like without Gilead: her as a political pundit, and him possibly the "man behind the woman." They both seemed to blame themselves for their infertility. They even talked about giving up the rat race and living in the country, raising Nichole together after they succeeded in stealing her. I believe Serena once loved Fred, and their forbidden sexual encounter was her way of saying goodbye before he was arrested.

Will Fred go on trial in the International Criminal Court? I'd love to see that. If Serena did just trade Fred for Nichole, will the Canadian and/or American governments give her custody? That baby is still June's daughter, after all, and Luke is her husband. That's assuming Serena wasn't just arrested, too. Technically, she'd be considered a victim of Gilead just like every other woman, though. Wouldn't she?

The ending featured music with lyrics about the sun coming out and something good is going to happen. George Winslow's death and Fred Waterford's arrest are certainly good things. But Joseph Lawrence also gave June a gun and said, "They'll be coming for us." Will they? Or can they pull off this insane escape, instead?

Couldn't we have a win? Please let this season end with a win. Isn't it time we got one?

Bits:

— The Waterfords stayed at a country bed and breakfast where the family sat on the porch at night singing "Dona Nobis Pacem" by candlelight. It struck me that this is exactly what Fred and Serena once thought Gilead would turn out to be. It's not.

— The brief Serena/Rita scene felt like a goodbye. Another reason I thought Serena turned Fred in.

— The glass doors in the hotel room at Jezebels had black lines that looked like swastikas.

— The couple in the hallway didn't even notice that June had blood all over her. Maybe it's a common sight at Jezebels, beautiful young women covered with blood.

— No more rusted out factories? Come on, there's a lot of open countryside in the United States.

— Lots of darkness in this episode, and I mean actually photographed darkness. And lots of shots from above, especially as the Waterfords were driving. I always think of that as a suggestion that God is watching.

— In this week's hair report, June spent a lot of this episode with her hair down, both at Jezebels and at the Lawrence house. She's more June and less Ofjoseph every day.

— Was that Oprah on Radio Free America again?

Quotes:

Lawrence: "How many?"
June: "Fifty-two."
Lawrence: "I'm sorry?"
June: "Fifty-two kids. That you are gonna help save from this shitty place you created."
Lawrence: "You know how insane you sound right now? Part of the equation we overlooked was mental health, obviously."

Lawrence: "Maternal love, we overlooked that one, too. So many regrets."

Martha: "We could poison you. Dump your body in the river, make it look like suicide and no one would know. No one would ask."
June: "Fine. I'll ask. Will you grant me permission to rescue fifty-two kids from a lifetime of salvagings, torture and rape?"

Other Martha: "You jumped onto a train that was already moving and now you're Che fucking Guevara."

June: (to Lawrence) "Wouldn't it be funny if you actually turned out to be a hero?"

Serena: "I wrote my first book there."
Fred: "You were a good writer."
Serena: "How could you take that away from me?"

June: "I have money."
Billy: "You don't have enough."
June: "I have a house full of Picassos, Cezannes, Rembrandts, Pissarros... It's like living in the attic of MoMA."

I really enjoyed this one. Seeing Fred arrested alone made it a four out of four Picassos episode,

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

3 comments:

Sjusjun said...

Oh, the ending was so cathartic. The two players who wanted to have Lawrence gone are out of the picture. I wonder if this chaos at the top will open the way for Lawrence to make the right choice.

milostanfield said...

Anybody who yelled out (twice!) "Well it's about _______ time", raise your hand. Thought so. Especially the second one. I feel like I just watched a glacier finally drop two huge ass icebergs. Ahh.

Not 100% sure yet of Serena's motive re Canada and Fred, but that scene with Rita was, as you said Billie, definitely a goodbye, so she was def up to sumpin. Did Rita indicate that she knew? Have to rewatch. Serena seemed genuinely affectionate with the turd on the way up and genuinely concerned as they were arrested and separated, and it did not appear that she had collaborated with Mark. And separating arrestees is cop SOP. But she could not have gotten out of Gilead on her own so she had to bring Fred regardless. I would love to see her dump Mr. Fake Beard and redeem herself somehow. Either way, Serena and Nicole in the same country raises lots of new dramatic possibilities.

Seeing American flags on the arms of some of the people in the arrest scene gave me patriotic goosebumps. Yeah!

Two impressions from the driving scene: Serena has spent the whole show with her face in an open mouthed grimace. But love her or hate her, when that rare smile breaks out she is just so beautiful. And who would have thought that a mundane driver-shotgun swap could be so profound. This patriarchy fucks up everything down to the quantum level.

The ending song was Kate Bush singing "Cloudbusting" from her stupendous album "Hounds Of Love" (1985). Get this album! You won't be sorry. All of the songs played on this show would make a hella playlist.

"The sun's comin' out" (but the next ep's titled "Sacrifice". Oh Oh.)

Panda said...

It really is time for a full on win at this point, isn’t it? This show can be a frustrating watch by nature, but they’ve balanced the hopelessness of June’s situation with what what viewers might want to see quite well this season. Hopefully the show won’t drop the ball in these last two episodes.