This is a very evil episode of television. It pretends to be hopeful, but ultimately ends up being a total punch in the gut.
During those final ten minutes, I actually believed The Handmaid’s Tale would give us a happy ending. I believed that after all the darkness, torture and rape, that June would actually succeed in escaping to Canada and the show’s status quo would evolve into something different (perhaps it would focus on June building an army to take down Gillead). Of course I couldn’t be more wrong, because the hour’s final minutes are harrowing in their cynicism as June finds herself recaptured. The only comfort here is that she’s pregnant, so that (hopefully) protects her from any physical punishment. Unfortunately, Aunt Lydia is adept at psychological punishment as well so I’m terrified to see what the show will cook up next.
Omar and Family
Welcome to our first look at the Econopeople – Gillead’s middle class. I love it when a show decides to expand its mythology (the Econopeople were certainly a part of Margaret Atwood’s novel), and does so with such finesse. There isn’t a lot of exposition here, but we certainly understand that they are on the other lower spectrum of society, tasked with basic jobs and attending church. In addition, these women are allowed to keep their children whereas women such as June (who committed adultery), are forced into being handmaids. The cinematography in this hour does a splendid job of bringing their dreary lives to screen. Watching June disguise herself and blend in seamlessly into the crowds of grey is marvelous to see. Moreover, the entire sequence starting with June leaving the house, through the train, running through the woods, and then finally the airport as the sun rises is breathtaking. This show needs to win all the awards in the world (and hey, it did last year).
Baggage is also notable for introducing us to June’s mother Holly played by the ever-brilliant Cherry Jones. Holly is an outspoken feminist who routinely criticized her daughter for not living up to her potential, and who ultimately found herself in the Colonies. Although I doubt this is Jones’ last appearance on the show, it was still impactful to watch June come to terms with forgiving her mother, and begging her daughter to forgive her for (unsuccessfully) leaving. All of the plot twists in the world wouldn’t land if the show didn’t have a living, beating heart, and Baggage is packed with emotion and gravitas.
The Other Side
Unfortunately, Moira’s adventures aren’t nearly as engrossing. While it’s intriguing to see her and Luke attempt to build a whole other life as they help fellow Gillead escapees adjust to a whole new reality, there’s something about Moira’s storyline that just brings the episode’s momentum to a screeching halt. The most captivating moment here is Moira pleasuring a girl she meets in a bar, but not allowing her to do the same after enduring so much trauma. It’s a heartbreaking touch, and one that Samira Wiley delivers beautifully.
Bits & Handmaids
– June has been living in The Boston Globe for two months. I kind of feel like the show shouldn’t have taken such a huge time jump because I felt nothing when she left.
– I loved June standing in front of Omar who is about to escape and leave her behind. Elisabeth Moss, as always, conveys so much heartbreak and hopelessness with her eyes. Who could possibly leave her on that road?
– Predictably, Omar’s wife is not happy to see June. Moreover, she thinks June has a choice in giving up her baby. #Ignorance.
– I was actually terrified when someone rang on Omar’s bell and June hid under the bed.
– June finding the Quran and smiling as she unwraps the rug is a beautiful moment, punctuated by the realization that Omar and his family are forced to go to church although they are Muslims.
– What happened to Omar and his family? Will we ever know?
– The flashbacks to Hannah being take from June as she drops to her knees in the woods were harrowing.
– Moira tells the girl at the bar that her name is Ruby, which is what they called her at Jezebel’s, the sex club she was forced to work in. That says a whole lot about her current state.
– Notice the stunning angle from inside the plane as we see June getting dragged out of the aircraft. Wow.
– “Better never means better for everyone.” is a line we’ve heard countless times on the show since its inception. And I freakin’ adore it.
June: Who’s they?
Driver: No idea. Someone brave or stupid. Or both. There’s a lot of both.
June: So this is where the Econopeople live. It’s where I’d live if I weren’t an adulteress. If I’d gone to the right kind of church. If I’d played my cards right. If I’d known I was supposed to be playing cards.
June: No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well.
Although Moira’s subplot is a bit of a letdown, this is another powerful episode from the darkest show on TV. Incredible!