As tensions rise between Gilead and Canada over baby Nichole, June’s reckless obsession with seeing Hannah is really starting to rack up a body count.
Well, we’ve hit the middle part of this third season of "The Handmaid’s Tale" and it’s starting to feel like it. There are still stunningly beautiful moments and images captured, breathtaking acting performances and great moments, but is there really anything happening?
Okay, there are some things happening, but hardly enough to justify a full hour of television. And, as always, we’re left in the dark about the inner thoughts and motivations of many of the people. This time, though, that includes June who usually won’t stop narrating and telling us every one of her inner thoughts. This week, she was silent.
Maybe we didn’t want to get into her head as she did that thing again where she becomes so narrowly focused on some goal that she also becomes rather stupid and reckless with other people. It’s as if they are all tools to her getting what she wants, which doesn’t make her much better than the regime she’s fighting against.
Again, it was an opportunity to see Hannah, though she did not seem to have any master plan beyond just seeing her daughter yet again. There was no rescue plan in place and no real thought put into anything save getting to the place where Serena told her Hannah goes to school and what? Winging it again? Because that worked so well a few weeks ago when she stormed the McKenzie’s house all by herself.
Sometimes she’s so stupid that it’s frustrating. It’s perhaps more realistic, too, as we’ve never been given any indication that June is anything other than an average, ordinary woman thrust into an impossible situation. Could we say we’d do better?
The hour also checked in with the Waterfords, still enjoying the hospitality of the Winslows in D.C. But for all the scenes we spent together there, we learned essentially one thing. The same goes for our scenes back in Canada, though we got some nice character moments for both Emily and Moira, comparing war stories.
People Are Getting Hurt, June
We’re not sure that June really cares when she gets so single-minded, but there is a swath of people who’ve been hurt by her half-baked attempts to get Hannah back with zero plan how to facilitate that and then what to do if she ever does get her. Nevertheless, she was at it again.
After failing to convince the Lawrence’s Martha to help her, June decided to prey on Eleanor, who has only ever been kind to her. She is a sick woman and yet none of that mattered to June, who convince the Wife to join her on a grand adventure … by lying to her at first.
To Eleanor’s credit, she was on board with helping June out when she finally confessed that she had lied and where she was trying to get taken. Still, Eleanor was her champion, inasmuch as she can be with Guardians who were not the Parker June promised would be a friend. Unfortunately, Eleanor was not well enough to see it through, unraveling completely when she couldn’t find June.
It was in this way that she failed and hurt Eleanor, for her own selfish gains. And then there’s the McKenzie’s Martha, who gave her the name Parker. By the close of the episode, June and the other Handmaids were assisting in yet another mass hanging and it was this poor woman’s pleading eyes begging across the way to June that will haunt us for the next week.
This was a moment where we might have liked to see inside June’s mind, but based on what happened next, it might have been nothing more than a bubbling volcano.
She erupted when she realized afterward that it was her walking partner, Ofmatthew, who had turned her in. "I saw you at Loaves and Fishes talking to that Martha," Ofmatthew told her. "Aunt Lydia told me to watch you. To try and protect you."
There’s truth in that, because in her own twisted way Aunt Lydia does care about her girls, but June wasn’t hearing beyond the fact that Ofmatthew was to blame. Now, it doesn’t seem she’s all that concerned about the Martha that died — June was oddly stoic and resolute once she committed to participating. No, what devastated her was finding out that the McKenzies had relocated and no one knew where they were … and wither they go, there goes Hannah.
That’s all she really cares about. And we get that this is the main arc for this series, but aren’t we supposed to continue rooting for our hero?
Maybe that’s the whole point of the Canadian sequence. Sure, it touched a bit on the ongoing dispute between Canada and Gilead, but mostly it was about Moira and Emily comparing their battle scars from life in Gilead. They participated in an aggressive protest that got them all arrested when they accosted the Prime Minister and it was in jail that they really opened up.
The episode opened with a list of Emily’s "crimes" in Gilead, including stealing the car, running over the Guardian and stabbing Aunt Lydia in the back. She further confessed to Moira that she had killed a Wife via poison while in the Colonies.
"I killed a Commander," Moira then told her. "I didn’t have to, he was asleep. But I did it anyway."
A heavy exchange, and one that clearly weighed on both women. But then Moira asked if Emily had killed anyone since escaping Gilead. Look what they turned us into, was the essential message, with the caveat that we are not those people when we are not thrust into those impossible situations.
Soldiers do things in war that might seem unthinkable to many civilians. They do not then come home and continue to do those things. It does not necessarily change who they are as a person. It is still possible to be the good person you have always believed yourself to be, even if circumstances pushed you into some very dark places.
This was a message being drilled into our heads as viewers, even as we see June’s actions costing one woman her life and putting another through unnecessary stress and trauma. June doesn’t care because she’s still in this world, and this was perhaps our reminder that we should forgive her even as she’s being callous and awful to people.
Sure, you could argue that Eleanor is a Wife and thus deserves everything that’s coming to her, despite her illness. But that’s why it’s so important to remember the Martha that died. And this isn’t the first innocent life lost or maimed or worse because of June’s total disregard for anyone other than herself when she gets obsessive like this.
Political Child’s Play
The only other element really at play in the episode was the developments between Canada and Gilead over baby Nichole. Fred, through his televised appearances, had created a true international crisis … but also an opportunity.
And it’s an opportunity Commander Winslow is keen to exploit. "So much leverage comes from the child,” he told Fred early in the our. “With her back home…" Winslow let the thought linger intentionally, so he wouldn’t have to be the one to say it.
"You want me to keep her there?" Fred asked, filling in the silence. It’s always better to let the be the first to say it; makes it sound more reasonable to them, right?
"Just for a bit," Winslow tells him. There’s power in leverage, and Winslow is not in a hurry to give up this power. And it is this debate that led to Moira and Emily’s arrest in Canada as they called out the Prime Minister for even considering extraditing Nichole when she’s as much a refugee as the rest of them.
Props to the show for delving deeper into the political aspects of Gilead’s rise on a global scale as it adds a whole new layer of intrigue and uncertainty about this world. It’s not just about escaping Gilead, because it’s one of the most powerful nations on the planet.
And as we saw in D.C, and as June pointed out this week that the number of hangings seem to be increasing, Gilead is not done oppressing its own people, nor is it down flexing its might. Whose to say it might not want to expand its influence northward, or even beyond. They wouldn’t be the first nation with thoughts of conquest and global expansion.
Of course, June doesn’t care about all of that. Everyone in Gilead and Canada can die for all she cares (well almost) so long as she gets Hannah back, right? Isn’t that about how it works?
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