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The Handmaid's Tale: Testimony

"Why can't we be as furious as we feel?"

Help groups are great. But talking it out might not be an effective way forward for everyone.

June began the episode by cutting her hair. While it was partly about her new freedom, and likely about not looking like a handmaid while testifying against Fred Waterford, cutting one's hair is also a traditional expression of grief. I'm thinking it was for her fellow handmaids that didn't make it.

Emily started out like Moira, trying to heal and move on, but that was difficult to do when "Aunt" Irene was sitting in their circle, confessing that she was the one that had turned in Emily and her lover, and begging for forgiveness. It opened up the quite valid question of what is forgivable. Aunt Irene was safely in Canada like an innocent refugee, not paying for her crimes, while Emily still can't move on with her teaching or her marriage.

So what is better for Emily? Seeing Aunt Irene dead by suicide, a deliberate echo of what happened to Emily's lover, made Emily feel wonderful. Why can't these women express their rage? Why indeed can't they be as furious as they feel? Like June, Emily is clearly too angry to forgive and move on. In order to truly heal, Emily might need to take action, to do something to actively take Gilead down.

(I kept thinking, June had Aunt Irene's address. Has June reached the level where she would kill an Aunt and make it look like suicide? No, not yet. She let Mrs. Lawrence die, but the circumstances weren't the same. And the logistics would have been too difficult. Right?)

The tension in the Luke/June/Moira household was thick. Luke insisted on attending the hearing against June's wishes because he thought, like the women in the help group, that knowing the worst and talking about it might help June heal, as well as himself. But no. The episode may have ended with June telling Luke the truth about the last time she saw Hannah, but June is still all about her rage.

At the ICC hearing, June absolutely fried Fred Waterford. You'd think a dry recitation of everything the Waterfords did to her would be repetitive, but as always, Elisabeth Moss brought it. Strikingly pale and wide-eyed, with shorn hair and black clothes, June was clear, factual, and didn't prevaricate, overexplain or spare herself. She didn't even remind the court that she had heroically freed 86 children from Gilead at the risk of her own life. And when Fred's attorney attacked her for committing adultery, June simply refused to take it at all.

Looking very wifey and pregnant, Serena decided to wear Gilead teal and stand by her man, after all. What can she possibly be thinking? Does she truly believe, like Fred does, that all of the horror and oppression in Gilead is justified by their rising birth rate? The demonstrating supporters with their "Free the Waterfords" signs made me hope that at any moment, shots would ring out, like they did once before. Sadly, no.

Meanwhile in Gilead, Aunt Lydia's injudicious use of her cattle prod has gotten her into some serious trouble. The sarcastic Joseph Lawrence dressing down a hyperventilating Aunt Lydia was an oddly delightful scene, probably because Ann Dowd and Bradley Whitford are both such talented actors playing unusually complicated roles.

Will Aunt Lydia be "terminated?" Would that be actual termination, as in execution? Probably not, since she and Lawrence have an alliance of sorts. The better question is if Aunt Lydia is finally breaking. Much like Serena Joy, we've often been tantalized by the possibility that Aunt Lydia will turn on Gilead, and what a powerful resistance ally she would be if she did.

I'm happy Janine is alive, but unhappy that she's in the same horrendous prison where June was tortured a few episodes ago, and possibly even in the same red stripe prison uniform. Unsurprisingly, Janine is more than ready to die; she's had enough. Aunt Lydia blamed June for everything, but Janine wasn't buying.

I genuinely believe that Aunt Lydia cares deeply about Janine. Maybe seeing Janine maltreated will be the final straw for Lydia.


June sitting on that huge bench all alone, no art, no color, wearing black, was stunning. Do they ever know how to photograph scenes like this. And I loved the bit with the Bible. "Not in this court."

While June was testifying about the Lawrences, I was hoping she didn't get Joseph Lawrence in trouble by telling the truth about their ceremony night.

Lawrence said that the latest batch of handmaids are mostly obedient and compliant because they're young and have known Gilead most of their lives. He didn't sound happy about it.

Serena Joy's teal dress for court had a little bow under the neck. It reminded me of how childish a lot of maternity clothes are, as if they're a denial of the existence of the belly.

Aunt Irene being seating in the middle of the former handmaids was a deliberate echo of early series scenes at the Red Center. I was almost expecting the handmaids to point at her and yell, "Your fault! Your fault!"

I once worked in a library that looked a lot like the one where the help group met.

This was the second episode directed by Elisabeth Moss. She's good, isn't she?

Luke told Mark Tuello about the lake house. I'd really like this season to culminate with Hannah's freedom, because it's already obvious to me that June will leave Canada to work with the Resistance to bring down Gilead.


June: "I'm not nervous or worried. Or scared. I can't fucking wait."

Moira: "Getting over trauma is a bumpy fucking road."

Lawrence: "It must be killing you that June won. Out of your reach, free as a bird. And singing like one, too."
Aunt Lydia: "Well, she will answer to God."
Lawrence: "We'll see. Maybe she'll just wrap that old goat around her little finger, too."

Lawrence: "I know you. You enjoy inflicting pain."
Aunt Lydia: (genuinely offended) "Why, that isn't true."
Lawrence: "I'm not judging. Everybody needs a hobby, I guess."

June: "Why the fuck do you think you deserve forgiveness?"
Aunt Irene: "We are all God's children."
June: "Bullshit. You people hide behind God every time it serves you."

Moira: "I think we're all better than the worst thing we've done."

June: "Why can't we be as furious as we feel? Don't we have that right?"

Another excellent episode. Four out of four bumpy roads,

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

1 comment:

  1. I’m also finding fascinating that every review I read has it’s own interpretation of the episode, and not always my own interpretation of this or that motivation / event. This show really stirs up what we’ve experienced of the world ourselves.


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