It’s time for that game again. The one where we add a lot of moments to an ongoing list that The Handmaid’s Tale just keeps on racking up. Said list is entitled “June Should Be Dead”. There’ll be quite a few more by the end of “Liars.”
Even the characters on the show seem to know it now. A lot of them are keeping their distance due to the intense plans that they all know should not work and the crazed look in her eye as she insists on taking even more idiotic risks to set them in motion. Even Commander Lawrence is asking June if she knows how insane she sounds at this point and that’s after his wife Eleanor has just been talked out of shooting him.
June herself manages to calm Eleanor down, no doubt in large part because she can relate to Eleanor’s instability. Just how much? June’s reasoning is not that shooting him would be wrong, but as much as she’d also like to kill Joseph, well, we can’t always do what we want. And now June needs him to transport the children she’s determined to smuggle out of Gilead to a better life. As least the Marthas who lead the Resistance are smart enough to point out just how little she knows about what she’s doing. “You jumped onto a train that was already moving and now you’re Che fucking Guevara,” one says.
It’s the kind of exchange that would hit much harder if The Handmaid’s Tale had bothered to explore it. There’s a reason the Marthas are the backbone of the fight against Gilead. Everything about them, from their wardrobe and the mostly unspoken, yet ironclad expectations they’re expected to conform to, are indications of just how much they’re overlooked and ignored. Yet they have more freedom of movement and their positions give them access to a remarkable amount of information. When one of them says they could poison June and make it look like a suicide without anyone knowing, it’s well within their power.
These complicated dynamics are exactly what The Handmaid’s Tale needs, but has little interest in providing. Instead, it would rather focus on Lawrence’s cowardice and now, his uselessness, since Gilead has thought up a few new requirements that prevents Lawrence from getting anyone out. It does lead to the show actually being a little fun for a few moments, when June tries to rectify this by heading to Jezebels to bribe someone into transporting the kids out. For those few brief moments, The Handmaid’s Tale flips the genres and becomes a noir, with June as the beautiful dame who walks into a bar. You know she’s trouble, but she has an offer you just don’t wanna refuse.
Yet The Handmaid’s Tale has never met a knife it couldn’t twist, so June sees Winslow there, the righteous man with the sweet wife and adorable stolen kids who’s the same brand of hypocrite. He demands sex from June, she repeats the usual phrases in her mind as she starts to surrender control of her body yet again. Until she doesn’t, and fights back for the first time, stabbing Winslow then braining him to death. It’s the Marthas who once again come to the rescue, getting her out, even though June doesn’t even bother to clean the blood off, openly staggering through the corridors with it all over her, yet somehow evading detection. Afterwards, the Marthas literally clean up her mess and dispose of the evidence in a shocking display of their power.
If only we got to see even a hint of how this clearly well-oiled machine worked. But the show seems to think we need to see more Waterford nonsense, as Fred and Serena practically have a fun getaway on their way to meet the American who can supposedly give them Nichole. Fred clearly enjoys the trappings of power, so him humoring Serena, not only going on this trip, letting her drive, and offering to give up all they’ve gained makes no sense. Why do we need to see them bonding more, even becoming intimate again? Why can’t we see more of people who are actually interesting, such as those Marthas, or those in Canada, such as Luke, Emily, or Moira?
Is this all supposed to build sympathy for these despicable people once the outcome of their journey hits? It’s nothing but deserved, and any sane person would be cheering for the consequences the Waterfords are finally forced to face. It’s the first of their storylines in quite a while I could get behind, if only it wasn’t so certain that the complicit, formidable Serena is once again going to be reduced to a woman so desperate to experience some semblance of motherhood that she would be willing to destroy anyone who kept her from attaining that goal.