Previously on The Handmaid’s Tale, “Unwomen”
June has spent two months on the lam in her new digs at the Boston Globe. The irony is not lost on the audience as we learn about her previous career as the assistant editor at a small publishing company. Now she has sought refuge in the walls of the now defunct public press. June works out, and cherishes the stolen moments she has with Nick as he pays the occasional conjugal visit. Her time at the Boston Globe comes to an end when she’s transported to another safe house. A MassDOT storage facility is a brief respite until her transport reveals her new safe house isn’t safe. He attempts to leave her there and she insists he helps her. Putting his life at risk he reluctantly agrees and June is again someone else’s burden. June takes the final leg of her ill-fated journey to Little America, making her way to the airstrip where she and another refugee are ambushed. The flicker of June’s hope for escape is swiftly extinguished.
Moira, Luke, and Erin have settled into a routine. Moira works at the intake center; Erin may be in the throes of depression (who can blame her) and Luke is… being. It’s not clear if he is working or worrying the days away. The tiny bit of levity we get from the episode comes from this trio trying to move forward, but all being shackled to the ever-present horrors beyond the Canadian border. During a quiet moment Erin says “Blessed be the Fruit Loops.” and a much needed laughed is shared between the three. Moira finds herself in conflict when after hooking up with a young woman at a bar, with little hesitation she identifies herself as Ruby. Three quick scenes show that life is not all sunshine and roses for those who escaped Gilead. The Little America is a place where you can become lost in your own mind, wracked with guilt for those left behind and haunted by the absence of information on the state of your loved ones.
My frustrations with June’s character continue to grow as she reveals more about herself in this episode. During June’s attempt to escape we are given more glimpses into her life BG (before Gilead). She was raised by a feminist activist single mother who introduced June to the perils of being a woman very early in life. Surprising no one, her mom (portrayed perfectly by Cherry Jones), did not offer her blessing for June’s marriage and she was never satisfied with what she perceived as June’s passive station in life. She never met the social justice expectations of her mother. Moira was building a site for a lesbian collective and she saw June as someone who was “just editing other people’s work.”
June carried this weight of disappointment with her even as she was being processed at the Handmaid Center, where she discovers her mother had been sent to the colonies. Scene after scene featured close-ups of a tearful June. Many of the tears she shed this week were because of guilt as she reflected on her role as a parent and her strained relationship with her own mother.
I empathize with her being pregnant and on the run, but she is also being selfish and putting others at risk. She makes several missteps. She gets too comfortable at the Boston Globe. She created an altar for the fallen handmaids and a CSI board to piece together the timeline of how Gilead came to power. She also left all this intact when she was set to flee with the delivery driver sent to retrieve her as a package. And when she left the home of the bakery delivery person she did so in the light of day; there was no real stealth to her escape. Additionally, she placed an unwanted burden on a Black man who’d volunteered to transport her to the air strip when the MassDOT location had been compromised; this reeked of desperation and thoughtlessness.
There is emphasis on him being Black because he is the first Black male character who isn’t Luke who had lines of dialogue. He fiddled around with his safety belt long enough for her to Norma Rae herself in front of the van. He was putting his life at risk to help her and she placed him in an even more dangerous situation by imploring his help. Even when she is in his home interacting with his son and wife, she seems even more oblivious to the dangers they may face by just having her there. During the final moments of the episode when June finally exhales and embraces the idea of freedom, I felt truly sorry for her because I knew she wasn’t destined to escape.
This episode while layered was also plodding, the tense moments linger a fraction too long and I would have liked more time with Luke, Moira and Erin.
A few thoughts
- They murdered the pilot at the air field; no judge, no jury just a swift execution. I cannot imagine what may happen to the other delivery persons that aided her escape.
- I must reiterate Jasmin’s point on racial issues being absent from the show. Three episodes into season two and The Handmaid’s Tale has yet to even acknowledge race as a factor in how people are caste in this new world. The showrunners stated they will be addressing race to some degree this season; and while the show excels at concise storytelling, I am concerned as to how they will handle a very important component to life in Gilead as a person of color.
- From what we have been shown, there are no photos of the handmaids. How did the task force know they had the right person? I’m interested in the inner workings of this network of informants.
- Assuming Offred will be returned home, in what ways will she face the repercussions of her absence?
The Handmaid's Tale S2E3 Review Score
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, O-T Fagbenle, Samira Wiley, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel