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The Handmaid's Tale: Chicago

"Handmaids always walk in twos, remember?"

What was the underlying theme of this uneven episode? Were they going for buddy movie?

The ending, with Moira and June in the street staring at each other, was surprising and exceptionally cool. But that coolness was offset by the fact that they didn't tell us what happened to Janine. How can I enjoy Moira finding June while worrying about Janine? Did June just get Janine killed? Who thinks Janine should have stayed behind with Steven, no matter how much of a jerk he is?

I did enjoy the refugee trappings. There is something compelling about apocalyptic landscapes, deserted streets festooned with barbed wire, ragged people sleeping on mattresses in huge, bombed out industrial spaces. (Where did they film this? Is there an end-of-the-world movie being filmed in Toronto right now?) I particularly liked the dinosaur skeleton sitting in the middle of a room obviously symbolizing the extinction of human beings as June and Janine traded their laundered handmaid cloaks for a Cubs cap.

While June actively wants to participate in the Resistance, I get why Janine wanted to just slip back into her old role and have a baby that she could actually keep this time, poor thing. Even though there was a woman active as part of Steven's crew, the rest were men, June and Janine were referred to as "fresh meat," and a guy named Brad was scoping June out as his possible future honey. At least Brad turned out to be cool. Not all men are evil, or users.

Which makes this a good place to segue to Joseph Lawrence and Nick Blaine.

Nick was very unhappy that he had to bomb the insurgents before the faked ceasefire, but he has lost control of Lawrence, if he ever had it in the first place. Lawrence really believes that possibly killing June is now the "cost of doing business." I have no doubt that Lawrence genuinely cares about June, but she is not his first priority – saving the world is why he helped found Gilead in the first place, and he didn't hesitate to inveigle his way back into power. That sure looked like a lot of braid that just reappeared on Lawrence's shoulder.

The buddy movie theme seemed to apply less to Lawrence's relationship with Nick, and more to Aunt Lydia, who refused to be put out to pasture. All Aunt Lydia wants to do with her life is train handmaids. Does she really see this horror as a calling? Good God, why?  Lawrence's response to Lydia's blackmail was droll, like he found it amusing, even as he took quite seriously his chance to ally with Lydia and blackmail the other Commanders. I am totally intrigued about where this particular partnership is going.

That scene in the rain where Lydia was telling the new handmaids that they would never walk alone again was so sad. All those young faces under those white caps were a deliberate reminder of our original cohort of handmaids, most of whom are dead. Lydia telling Lawrence that she wanted to discipline June herself made me shudder because it feels like it will happen, like it's inevitable. I don't want it to be inevitable. This show keeps skirting on the edge of losing me.


— I really thought Steven was going to die in this one. Now I wonder if we'll ever see him again.

— June was determined to join the Nighthawks, a resistance group. But for me, this is Nighthawks. I kept picturing it whenever June mentioned it.

— Seriously, is this the end of Janine? I really hope it's not. Even though she and June had such an effective goodbye scene, followed by a lovely, heartfelt reunion scene. I'm not sure where they can go with Janine as a character from here. I just don't want this to be the end for her.

— During the opener, June was fantasizing about Luke, not Nick. Interesting.


Commander Calhoun: "I don't recall. Have they been recaptured? Or re-recaptured, I should say?"
Lawrence: "Not yet. May God bless our endeavors."
That made me start counting on my fingers the number of times June has been recaptured, and thinking that re-re-re-capture feels inevitable. Because you know June won't go to Canada.

Lawrence: "A ceasefire might help June. I'm trying to do the right thing here."
Nick: "If she was near the border, I'd know about it."
Lawrence: "Oh, that's sweet. Would your heart glow or something?"
Nick: "That's funny."

Lawrence: (to Lydia) "Something's different about you. Did you change your hair?"
Laugh out loud.

June: "That baby's gonna be really lucky to have you."
Janine: "And those rebels are so lucky to have you."

Janine: "Just something to remember me by."
June: "How could I forget you?" (laughs and cries)
Janine: "Who could forget the girl with one eye?"
June: "I think you're beautiful."
Janine: "You, too."

June: "What are you doing here?"
Janine: "I feel safer when we're together. Handmaids always walk in twos, remember?"

This is the sort of episode I always find it difficult to rate; it was uneven but it ended with something huge. Two and a half out of four Cubs caps?

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

1 comment:

  1. The fact that Aunt Lydia has accumulated a large stash of blackmail material on Commanders is the first sign I've seen that they might incorporate some ideas from the Testaments into the show. There's no way the Aunt Lydia of the show would use the material the way "book" Aunt Lydia did...but Lawrence might.

    I wonder if Hannah might ultimately (end of season 6?) play the role Nicole did in the testaments, since Nicole certainly will not be old enough.


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