The Handmaid's Tale: Home

"I can't believe you're here."

What an incredibly satisfying episode. Nearly every bit of it was delicious, like a spectacular crème brûlée of freedom.

The song "At Last" was maybe a bit predictable, but I thought it was the perfect musical accompaniment to June walking into that gorgeous hotel as if she were in a dream, seeing women all around her living normal lives instead of cowering as uniformed slaves. Luke was, like, the best husband ever, especially when he stopped the "debrief" and took June out of the hotel and home against Mark Tuello's wishes. Plus, big huge points for him so easily referring to Nichole as his own daughter while doing so.

The strong opening was followed by one exceptional scene after another. The most emotional was June telling Luke about her brief, painful reunion with Hannah at the lake house right before Nichole was born. Notably left out was what just happened when June was tortured and they used Hannah to make her talk. Maybe it was too painful. And maybe she didn't want to upset Luke more than he already was. (Gold acting stars for Elisabeth Moss and O-T Fagbenle in that scene, by the way.)

The loss of Hannah was partially balanced by June's reunion with Nichole. It was pretty much perfect that Emily was the one to put Nichole in June's arms, a deliberate callback to June giving newborn Nichole to Emily pre-escape. Although it felt odd that June told baby Nichole how lucky she was to have Luke and Moira as parents. June also watched with an odd expression on her face while Luke and Moira double-team parented in the supermarket. Was this meant to suggest that June knew she wouldn't be around to raise Nichole herself, that she wasn't going to stay?


My favorite scene in an episode full of great ones was the four women, three handmaids and a martha, sharing a drink as they talked about oppression and freedom. (Janine, Alma and Brianna should have been there.) June asked them if they felt they deserved this freedom, as if she herself didn't feel that way. Although that might again have been guilt over Hannah.

June so needed to express her rage at Serena, and she did. It perfectly echoed that powerful scene in Gilead where Serena screamed, "Do you understand me?" at the helpless June. Serena was all humble and godly and asking forgiveness, but honestly, I just can't see anything that Serena has done that is in any way forgivable. I spent most of the first three seasons expecting Serena to change her path, even to lead the Resistance someday, and she chose the wrong way. Every. Single. Time.


Which is why I'm certain Serena will once again ally with Fred and find a way to return to Gilead. Serena may be deeply miserable on the inside, as June told Mark, but she clearly cannot come around to acknowledging what a huge Nazi-Germany-level clusterf--k that Gilead has turned out to be.

The opening shot in this episode was June in profile on the gangplank, surrounded by a halo of light. June has been so victimized and abused and shown such incredible strength that I can't help but feel for her.

But like all heroes, June is far from perfect. I almost don't want to acknowledge the intentionally rape-like thing that June did to Luke in bed. It's easy to theorize that she's been so traumatized by what she went through in Gilead that the only way she could achieve intimacy with him this first time was to be in complete control, that she needed to get some of her power back. As Moira said during the party, they're all screwed up about sex now. Will it affect their marriage? Guess we'll see.

The Handmaid's Tale always features amazing photography and the strategic use of color, and it really stood out this time. There were pops of handmaid red everywhere in the beautifully decorated hotel room, especially in the bizarre, unconventional art on the walls. June's red handmaid tag was visible on her ear in the early scenes. The supermarket looked very red and green; it was two women in red hijabs that sparked June's serious attack of PTSD. Later, June's clothing and Luke and Moira's house were in muted Wife green, and baby Nichole was in pink. A reminder that Gilead does still exist, that it's still a danger to all of them.


Bits:

— Was this the first episode to take place entirely in Canada?

— Some fans are saying that Fred could be Nichole's father, while I thought there was no question that she was Nick's. Will someone remind me if this has been addressed?

— Emily's wife is working late and they're not sharing a bedroom. Emily was saying it was all positive, but that didn't sound good to me.

— Oona's relief organization has indeed taken a hit because of June. At least Oona seems open to making things up with Moira.

— Luke continued as best husband ever during the party by letting the four women talk alone. Some men wouldn't have done that.

— What happened to the little blonde former handmaid who was living with Luke and Moira? Not important, I guess. Maybe she kept the apartment when they moved into that house.

— The shower scene with the horrible cuts and bruises emphasized that Elisabeth Moss looks a little heavier this season, which is the opposite of what we would expect to be happening to her character.

— Title musings: The meaning of "Home" is obvious, but that little house in Canada isn't home for June. Home is in the United States, which mostly no longer exists. That was probably the point.

Quotes:

Serena: "Does it satisfy you to hear someone from Gilead express misgivings?"
Mark: "Does it satisfy you to express them?"
Serena is still too defensive; she hasn't internalized her regret. I can see her snapping back to Gilead wife with no trouble at all.

Moira: "You want to go to the supermarket? You just got here. It could be overwhelming. Culture shock."
June: "I've been living in Gilead. All I want is culture shock."

June: "What happened to potato chips in the last seven years?"
Luke: "Oh, they made them healthy. I know, it's a travesty."
Is this the first time we've been told exactly how long it's been since June was captured?

Rita: "You made it. Praise effing be, you made it."
June crying as she hugged Rita made me cry, too.

June: "That was my fault."
Moira: "No, see that? Don't bring that Aunt Lydia shit in here. This is a Lydia-free zone, okay?"
Emily: "She can't get us here."

Oona: "We're not allowed back into Gilead. Or anywhere outside of Canada, for now."
Moira: "I'm sorry. Does it help that you brought in this, uh, major intelligence asset?"

Serena: "I prayed for this chance. And I humbly thank the Lord for your visit."
June: "You would. You never did give me credit for anything."

June: "Do you know why God made you pregnant? So that when He kills that baby inside your womb, you will feel a fraction of the pain that you caused us when you tore our children from our arms! Do you understand me? DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"
Just wow. Gold acting stars again for the two of them. And hey, I get it, but it's not the baby's fault. Real retribution would be June stealing Serena's baby. Except June would never do that.

An exceptional episode. Four out of four Lydia-free zones,

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

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