Each week Lex & Max will discuss the latest episode of The Handmaids Tale, season two
Our discussion of episodes 1&2 can be found here
Synopsis: June reflects on her relationship with her mother as she navigates her way through Gilead; Moira tries to cope with the trauma she endured – from IMDB
Max: As I watched this episode I actually though, “Lexie might like this one!” It was certainly a nice reprieve after the harshness of the first two. It was definitely nice to see June thriving, adapting to a new – if lonely – lifestyle, and not be subjected to constant torture and hardships. I like that she has something resembling normalcy with Nick for the time being, too.
Lex: Yes, it was good to see June having positive experiences after last week’s torment. Even her little memorial in the printing plant feels like a comforting reminder of life rather than a gruesome memento mori.
Max: I thought the flashbacks were refreshing, too, as they went further back than we had seen for a while – specifically seeing June as a child. I know you really wanted to see more character development, so giving us a glimpse into how June was raised must have been exciting for you, too!
Lex: The mother stuff was great. Aside from the first flashback the writers kept the political platitudes at the door for the most part. In the second flashback, June’s mother undercuts June’s accomplishments in front of her activist friends. I thought that was poignant: the way June felt dismissed when she was identified as not being engaged in “important” work. It highlighted the ways women will judge each other for their choices, and how we alienate each other this way.
Max: I really felt for June in those moments. She seemed genuinely excited about her work and the advances she was making within the company, so to see her so brazenly dismissed by her mom was really tough. The contrast between her struggles in present day and the normalcy that she longed for even back then made it even more poignant, I thought.
Lex: I enjoyed the bit where June stands in front of the truck and demands not to be abandoned in that weird shack. It demonstrated feminine resilience and strength without resorting to political platitudes. The show is at its worst when it’s telling and not showing so I’m glad to see they’re able to access some genuine emotion this way. It’s easily the most powerful scene for me thus far.
Max: I loved the storyline this week that took June into a whole new world, but I was also cautious. It’s often ‘two steps up, one step back’ on this show, so I had a crushing feeling that something was going to go wrong at any moment. Her standing in front of the van was indeed a very powerful scene. I feel like, at this point, June knows that she has nothing left to lose. She feels awful for having left her daughter behind, she’s carrying a child, has no real prospects for the future, but she continues to fight. She’s incredibly brave (or stupid)
Lex: It was good to see some world-building in the form of the Economen neighbourhood. We also learned that if you were ‘good’ ie. god-fearing and penitent before Gilead, you were permitted to live a semi-normal life. The Econopeople are under constant surveillance and surrounded by armed guards but it’s still better than a stint in The Red Centre.
Max: I loved this, too. It’s been nice to see the world outside of June’s original purview, first with the colonies and now with how other families are living. It was really crushing to see her interact with the little boy, though. Especially given that she was feeling quite awful already about the fact that she felt like she was leaving her own daughter behind.
Lex: This episode dwelt on motherhood quite a bit, and specifically how sometimes motherhood means you have to make impossible decisions. When June is stumbling through the woods she flashes back to the time when she ran through similar woods with her daughter Hannah. In the present she struggles with accepting that she must leave Hannah behind. The New York Times said that scene was “like watching [June] drown” and I couldn’t disagree more.
She wasn’t drowning, she was pushing through, and confronting the underworld of her memory. It was the only way forward. Considering what we see at the end I’m hoping that these displays of courage will play the narrative in ways that involve us seeing less torture next episode. Or maybe I’m totally wrong and the Commander and Serena Joy will be so overjoyed at her return that everything will be fake lovely for awhile.
Of course I hated the ending of ‘Baggage’. So much work. How many times can we watch these poor people get dragged to hell before we stop caring.
Max: I felt like the ending was inevitable. I swear I wish I could somehow record my internal dialogue while I watch this show – it’s a series of perceived triumphs and then reminding myself not to get too excited. I thought the prospect of June getting out was exciting but implausible. I thought, there’s no way we’re simply leaving behind the world of Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, and I couldn’t see how that would continue with June, Emily, and Janine all removed from it. Still, it was a crushing blow when the shots rang out and they were dragged from the plane. Like I said last week, every win seems to come at a cost: June had 2 months of peace at the Boston Globe Building, believed that she was free… and now she’s almost certainly going to pay a very, very big price for her actions.