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The Handmaid's Tale: Nightshade

"Gilead makes it really hard to be good."

Now see, the smart thing for June to have done was... hide until she could move on to the next safehouse. Not distill a deadly dose of nightshade and distribute it to a bunch of partying Commanders. But these days, June refuses to do the safe thing. She was even smiling as she added the poison to the bottles as if it was the funnest thing ever.

They often show the women of Gilead from above as if God is watching them. This time, June and Mrs. Keyes looked up at nightshade growing on the rafters, as if it were what God wanted. And maybe taking down Commanders is the right call because June was bound to be caught anyway.

June is now in custody. Nick's custody. It seemed likely that she was thinking seriously of killing herself with that gun before she decided to trust him. As we were reminded, there are good men in Gilead. Few and far between, but Nick is one of them. Hopefully. Nick asked where the handmaids were, so they're not at the farm, right? Please tell me they left and took little Mrs. Keyes with them.

Meanwhile in Canada, Rita with a last name (Blue) and dressed like a person spoke at an Angels' Flight fundraiser! June has inadvertently started a movement. I really liked that they didn't just go, oh, 86 kids are free now, the end. Certainly a lot of them would have been reunited with family members, but some would be problematic. (Resemblance to the separated families at the border was completely intentional, I'm sure.)



And of course, there would be Gilead kids who would miss their homes and former parents, no matter how they got there. Bringing Rita in to act as a Martha bit of home for young Asher was a smart move. Moira may be unhappy with her current role but wow, she's good at it.

Is it wrong of me to ship Moira and Emily just a bit while still rooting for Emily to repair her marriage? And hey, are we going to see Clea DuVall again?

It almost feels like the Waterfords are superfluous to the story at this point, but, shocker, Serena is pregnant? I've been assuming that Serena couldn't, which was why she and Fred were issued handmaids. Is it just that medical science in Gilead is terrible, like everything else?

Serena constantly pingpongs. She jumps to defend Gilead but she wanted freedom and baby Nichole enough to leave. She's the same with Fred. Is Fred the father? He's the logical candidate after their forbidden tryst on the road last season. And while it's clear that Mark Tuello is into Serena, he seemed upset that she was pregnant. I wonder if this pregnancy was a way to get Serena and Fred back together again?

The direction in this episode kept making me think about what the photography symbolized. Serena and Fred are in a detainment center that appears to be underground with interior courtyards. They can see sunlight and greenery, but only enclosed by a cement wall, suggesting that the characters can't see past what is containing them – not just in a physical sense, but emotionally as well.

The opening shot was a pull back to June looking out through a hole in the barn. That circle of light surrounded by darkness is imagery they use a great deal on this show. (And then we saw the pigs eating the leg of the late and unlamented Guardian Pogue. Very Handmaid's Tale.)

Bookendingly (is that a word?), the episode concluded with the black-garbed guardians in the night surrounding June, with their flashlights aimed directly at her. June is the light. Message received.

Bits:

— The small amounts of nightshade Mrs. Keyes gave him explained why Commander Keyes was helpless and befuddled. And the berries taste good in a crumble.

— The news about Angels' Flight hasn't hit Gilead, but unhappy citizens have heard it through the grapevine and it has inspired many acts of rebellion. We are Mayday, as June said. She can't do it alone.

— The Jezebels' Aunt Wendy called the very slim Daisy a piggy. A little callback to the previous episode.

— Daisy was played by Laura Vandervoort, who played Supergirl in Smallville. I honestly didn't recognize her at first, although she is certainly still beautiful. It was probably the setting. Or maybe the hoodie.

— Fred expressed disdain for airport chapels and said it was making God small. I sort of see it as making God more accessible.

— Too bad that David the Guardian died because he refused to leave June. There are good men in Gilead and he was one of them.

— This week's wonderful musical interlude was "Suffragette City" by David Bowie, played during the poisoning scene. That song is from my favorite album of all time, Ziggy Stardust.

— Title musings: The meaning of "Nightshade" is obvious, but it is also a nice double entendre. Plus a callback to the chapter title "Night" from both the original book and the episode titles earlier in this series.

Quotes:

Rita: "Gilead has a way of bringing out the worst in people. But in June, it brought out the best."

Daisy: "I thought you'd be taller, the handmaid that killed Commander Winslow. Where'd you get the knife?"
June: "It was a pen."
The Boston Jezebels paid for what June did to Winslow. That's sad.

Mrs. Keyes: "Maybe there are no good men in Gilead."
June: "I think there are good men everywhere. Even here. It's just complicated, you know? Gilead makes it really hard to be good."

Janine: "Red Leader, standing by."
I love Janine.

June: (to Daisy) "We're the ones we've been waiting for. It's what my mom used to say."

Daisy: "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

Nick: "I'm trying to keep you alive."
I hope so. As I've said in my reviews more than once, Nick is difficult to figure out.

I'll be posting my review of the third episode soon, definitely before the fourth drops. Three out of four circles of light,

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

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