What a wonderfully complicated hour of television.
Sweet & Sinister
First Blood is Yvonne Strahovski’s episode and she is utterly magnificent in it. The Commander’s wife encompasses so many layers that it would be a crime to simply label Serena a “villain”. At times, she’s shockingly compassionate and heartfelt; she cares for June and tries her best to organize a (wildly unsuccessful) brunch with the fellow handmaids. However, she also transforms into a ruthless beast when June asks to see her daughter, and there’s a visible layer of regret beneath that raging facade. It’s truly marvelous work, and I so hope Yvonne is recognized in the upcoming Awards season for her nuanced portrayal.
The flashbacks are also fantastic, as they showcase Serena’s activist days as she tried to spread her message before the big takeover. Predictably, she was faced with countless boos, and a vicious assassination attempt (I’m guessing that gunshot is what ultimately made her infertile and in need of a handmaid in the present timeline). These glimpses into the past are immensely insightful, and they do a great job of further illuminating our cast of characters. Can we get some Aunt Lydia flashbacks next please?
The Creep is Back
I’ve often wondered why The Handmaid’s Tale seems to have forgotten about the June/Fred dynamic this season, and First Blood brings back that relationship in a powerful manner. The Commander it seems is still very much obsessed with June, and she plays him well (and thankfully avoids sleeping with the creep when he gets turned on by her pregnant body). The show has still kind of struggled with complexity when it comes to Fred (he comes across as nothing more than a pervert this week), but I have faith it will rectify this in coming episodes. I love watching June play her master in the kitchen (“are you mad at me?”), and then ultimately tell him they shouldn’t have sex because of the pregnancy (which we all know is not a thing anymore). It’s just extremely satisfying to see June exert some control and deploy some manipulations of her own for a change.
Garden of Eden
It’s interesting to me that Eden was such a victim last week, and now she’s morphed into an unpredictable force in the household with her “gender-traitor” suspicions about Nick. The idea that June has to beg Nick to sleep with his 15-year-old wife is oh so creepy, and that scene is question is as disturbing as it sounds (the hole in the sheet? Really?). If nothing else, The Handmaid’s Tale continues to make me so very uncomfortable week in and week out.
Boom Boom Pow
And finally there’s that mindblowing ending. I know we’ve all been waiting for the handmaids to get some revenge, but I had no idea we’d witness Ofglen sacrificing herself in one jawdropper of a suicide attack that presumably killed a whole lot of Commanders (and potentially Fred?). Everything about that final scene is impeccably constructed; my jaw was was literally left hanging in those breathless closing moments. Wow.
Bits & Fruit
– It’s a small moment, but notice how the gynecologist tells Serena it’s “her” baby in front of June. Elisabeth Moss doesn’t say a word but her face says everything.
– I had to google pregnancy pillows. They look super cool.
– Very sweet moment with June offering her belly for Serena to touch.
– It’s a powerful realization when Serena urges the handmaids to gossip only to notice Ofglen whose tongue had been cut off. Ouch.
– Notice that it’s one long take as we watch Serena cut out a piece of piece for every one of her guests. Such a classy show I tell you.
– Nick tells June he loves her. Thanks buddy, great timing,.
– The dynamics between Fred and Serena pre-Gillead are fascinating. Notice how she tells him to “be a man” in the hospital. She was definitely the one in control.
– How are we supposed to even feel a little bit of sympathy for Fred when he savagely murder the shooter’s own wife in front of him. Unlike Serena, there’s no shades of grey here. #PureEvil
– If you thought Fred gave June a picture of her daughter because he actually cared, you would be sorely mistaken.
– So cringeworthy: Fred grabbing June’s boobs. I can’t wait till she slices his throat.
– Nick goes to Commander Pryce to change his post. I don’t think this will end well because this guy surely can’t be trusted.
– How frustrating is it to watch Serena order June around to pick up that knitting tool? Love that June conveniently has a “cramp”.
– Notice how Ofglen gives her fellow handmaids a chance to escape when she raises the grenade before running.
– If you were wondering what the Rachel and Leah Center was, it’s the institution where they “process” new Handmaids. Yuck. Thank God it went boom.
– Sadly, no Eye Chatter section this week. The episode was tremendous, but there wasn’t any particularly memorable dialogue (except for the line above).
A powerful hour headlined by Yvonne Strahovski’s extraordinary performance.