Thursday 20 June 2019

The Handmaid's Tale – At least there's still hope when I'm here.

The Handmaid's Tale: 3x04 Bless the Child. 

Of all the heartbreaking moments in this episode, the one that got to me the most was between Emily and her little family, only at the beginning of recovery. Their son – brilliant, gentle, kind – who likely barely remembers his mother, considering how many years have passed – asks her to read to him about dinosaurs, and hesitantly, slowly, she does, until the weight of the moment gets too much and instead, her son reads to her. She is a stranger in this apartment, she is looking at pictures of a childhood she had no part in, pictures that do not contain her, and her wife and son love her so much, in spite of having no way of even remotely comprehending what she has been through. And still, there’s a chance that none of this will work out precisely because her trauma must be so incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t suffered through it. She says she will move into a hotel, or maybe, for now, stay a little. And maybe they will hug when they are both ready. 

Emily’s son recognises her and loves her because he has been raised to do so – elsewhere, the horrible consequences of Gilead’s adoption program become obvious when Janine’s daughter no longer recognises her mother. At a party for children born in Gilead, one hosted by the Putnams, they extend their happiness to the community, with the usual strict distinction between men and women, wives and handmaids, but when Mrs Putnam tries to extend that grace to Janine (perhaps remembering what horrors her one-handed husband has put their former handmaid through), baby Angela only cries. It used to be that Janine was the only one who could hold her and soothe her, but now, a few months later, without the Putnams involving her, Angela has forgotten. It’s a horrible moment for June as well, who has lost both of her children, even if she is in the process of finding a way to save Hannah. 

That process is well on its way when she realises a new in – Commander Waterford is vulnerable because his newly returned wife is very hesitant to take part in the social events that a wife is expected to be seen at, and has very little interest in saving their marriage. June sees all the wheels, and inserts herself into the situation, first hinting to the Commander that the way to save his marriage is to give Serena more freedom to express herself, and then telling Serena that she should use that freedom to work towards everyone else’s. It’s a dangerous play, considering what the Waterfords have done to June in the past, and her short moment of triumph – when Serena tells her where Hannah’s school likely is, and when she may glimpse her, or maybe get a chance to steal her away – is short-lived, when shortly after, some guardians deliver an iPad with a video of Luke and Nicole protesting over the border. Considering how much of a symbol baby Nicole has become, like a thorn in the side of Gilead, it’s obvious that the regime has plans to return her to the fold. So, just as June has a glimpse into saving Hannah, her other daughter, thought safely over the border, is right back in danger. 

Random notes: 

I take back what I said about not wanting to see Emily again, if only so that I can make myself believe that everything from here on out is free of sadness. Alexis Bledel and Clea DuVall make this episode. 

Because it’s hard to see Janine once again suffer, only a little bit about how this mutilated, hurt version of Aunt Lydia has lost the plot and more importantly, lost the ability to read the room. She punishes Janine for transgressing by beating her close to death right in front of the honoured guests and baby Angela, and it’s only when June wraps herself over Janine, and tell her to stop, that she realises that this behaviour isn’t wanted, that she is coming dangerously close to the wall herself here. 

June has a short second where she feels sorry for her walking partner, who reveals that she has born and given away three children, but that fades quickly once that partner gloats about how good it is to remain quiet and peaceful in the face of Gilead. 

There’s a whole subplot here about how Luke and June had Hannah baptised after her miraculous birth, against the will of the mother and along with the cynical comments of godmother Moira – and that leads right into Moira and Luke across the border, having Nicole baptised. I suppose, something about reclaiming religion from Gilead and what Gilead has made religion into (June is religious on the show), but I’m 100% not the person to either understand or write about that. 

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