The Handmaid’s Tale: 3x08 Unfit.
Janene: You’re being so mean.
June: She got someone executed, she doesn’t feel sorry about it, she should have kept her fucking mouth shut.
Janene: She was just doing what Aunt Lydia told her to do.
June: Oh, I know.
I feel like there is a stark contrast between what this season of The Handmaid’s Tale has done with the Handmaids and how June has been developing ever since sending Nichole across the border with Emily. The Handmaids seem more like a unit – where they used to be isolated, incapable of sharing information or emotions, they seem to have carved more and more space out for themselves to talk openly – but at the same time June has separated herself from the others. Her interest in the other Handmaids is limited to how useful they could be to her, but there is no emotional closeness or intimacy, which is particularly painful considering how close we know she used to be to Moira. And this loneliness seems to be driving June insane to an extent, made even worse by the fact that Hannah and the Mackenzies have disappeared and are out of her reach now.
Loneliness and isolation are the themes in this episode, and the cruelty that June feels that her walking partner’s betrayal of the Mackenzie’s Martha warrants. To June, Natalie deserves nothing but the worst, because she hasn’t just betrayed the idea that all of Gilead’s values are wrong, but also destroyed all of her hope of saving Hannah. She turns Aunt Lydia against Natalie with what she knows about her doubts about the pregnancy, and does so in a moment where she knows that Natalie is weak, and needs companionship more than anything else to mentally cope. And June is starting to enjoy the suffering she is causing, which is hard to watch considering that the only person she is making suffer here is someone with just as little power as she has.
Unfit is a difficult episode to watch, and not just because of the way it ends in horror when Natalie snaps (and the way she does it – pure desperation – is so different from how Emily did). It shows us how Aunt Lydia’s loneliness back in the day created the monster, how it paired up with her religious fanaticism to justify taking children away from mothers, how that happened just at the right time where the idea that working women and non-religious women are unfit to be good mothers met the emergence of Gilead where that idea became a moral policy. She sneaked her way into the life of Noelle and Ryan, a mother and child she was tasked to help, and then, once she was romantically rebuffed, she struck out at the woman she blamed for her disappointment. She took her son away from her by harnessing the power of the state, and found a Gilead all too ready to agree with her judgement that a woman who does not go to church and who dates married men is not fit to be a mother. Aunt Lydia and Gilead are a perfect match, as both have built an identity on the hatred of women, and a twisted idea of who deserves to be a parent. It is indeed an acquired taste to see others suffer.
Ofandy (perhaps the Handmaid with the worst name ever) loses her child, and we get a look of behind the scenes, where the Aunt assign Handmaids to households like matchmakers from hell.
Poor Janene once again becomes the unwitting victim of violence here, even though throughout this season she’s been the polar opposite to June’s cruelty. I hope that one day, her suffering will end.
June’s cruelty pairs up nicely with what she perceived to be her new power: she cannot be hurt, because her television appearances are necessary for Gilead’s negotiations with Canada. But Aunt Lydia is already plotting to have her removed from the unconventional Lawrence household.
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