Wednesday 9 June 2021

The Handmaid’s Tale – I guess everything from here on out is a milestone.

The Handmaid’s Tale: 4x07 Home.

My name is June Osborn. I am a citizen of the United States. I am seeking asylum in the country of Canada.

June arrives in Canada and seeks asylum. Her first moments look starkly different from Moira’s and Emily’s, because she is a person of interest beyond what they were  - she is famous as the woman who has helped Gilead’s children escape, and she is connected to Serena and Fred. Instead of going to a refugee centre, she is housed in a luxurious hotel room, lovingly welcomed by her husband and her best friend. Everyone has a very clear expectation of what she will want to do next: slowly reintegrate into society, not going too fast, considering the culture shock of leaving Gilead. But June doesn’t want to go slow, she is eager to rebuild her life. Luke is going slow with her as well, he is patient, gentle, missing the moments where June reveals that she knows where she wants to be. 

The episode is gentle with June as well, which is how the moments where the trauma reemerges hit even harder. In a supermarket, symbols trigger traumatic memories. During the dinner party with Emily, Moira and Rita, June hears from them, and especially Emily, how difficult it has been to reintegrate and return to normality. Emily is still with her partner but the relationship is suffering because of her sexual trauma, she feels guilty for not being fixed yet, and it doesn’t matter how much the others reassure her that she has every right to take her time, that they have all done horrible things to escape, it doesn’t really seem to lend. June observes, asks them if they too feel guilty for being the ones who have escaped, if they feel like they deserve to be here, and then turns the conversation to Serena Joy. 

Serena, who is lurking, because Mark knows what it would mean for his plan if June tells the truth about his star witness against Fred. It hasn’t been explicitly stated before how much June’s escape endangers his case – he wants to prosecute Gilead by prosecuting the Commander, and it is inconvenient that Serena has always been his co-conspirator, and from June’s perspective, one of the main reasons for her suffering. When June tells Luke about having seen Hannah, with his eyes lighting up at every detail about their precious lost daughter, it becomes obvious how much they both have suffered, and how much their suffering is a stand-in for the suffering of every parent in Gilead that has been robbed of their child. It’s an unforgivable crime, and so it is inevitable that when Mark delivers June to Serena’s prison cell, she will not receive the redemption she is asking for because she fears for the health of her child. 

Serena: I believe that the lord brought you here so that I could make amends. 

June: I brought myself here so that I could tell you how much I hate you. You don’t deserve to make amends to anyone. The only thing that you deserve is a life full of suffering and shame. You have destroyed my life, my family, my friends, my country and my child. There is no one less worthy of redemption than you.

It’s one of the most intense scenes in a relationship that has been filled with so much violence and suffering, except now the inherent unevenness of their power is reversed. June is furious, raging, and Serena is desperate to feel like she deserves the child. June rejects any hope she has of being forgiven for her deeds, and therefore any hope that the trial will go her way. As June warns Mark (who has in the past seemed like has been drawn into Serena’s gravity well) that Serena will do anything to get her way, that she can make people prey, Serena goes and sees her husband, who is so very eager for both of them to be on the same side. 

Random notes: 

A perfect mood setting, Etta James’ At Last playing as June takes her first steps into the starkly different Canadian landscape, disoriented, with jumbled feelings. 

Moira doesn’t fix things with Oona but she does receive permission to call her. I guess the question here is if Oona can trust someone who has put her best friend over her and her career, or if she comprehends how essential June is to Moira, and that this can exist alongside what Moira says is an intention to have a forever with her. Which I think is one of the themes of the episode, where Luke is patiently standing on the outside, not quite capable to truly comprehend what June has experienced, but giving her the space to process it, and where Emily’s partner, off-screen, is doing the same, but with a sense that perhaps the distance will at some stage become terminal. 

This also fits in with how deeply uncomfortable it is when June fucks Luke, desperate to be in full control of the situation and not really asking him for consent at any stage. 

Too bad that Clea DuVall is busy doing other things these days, it would have been so good to have Emily's perspective of reintegration more central in this season, instead of only getting glimpses of her life on the margins of the story. 

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