Every week I wonder if the show can possibly top itself, and every week The Handmaid’s Tale surprises me. This was yet another glorious hour.
The Waterfords’ visit to Canada had me completely transfixed in Smart Power. As sublime as this show is, it hasn’t really showed us too many glimpses of the world outside of Gillead, which makes this little excursion all the more absorbing. It’s actually reassuring to see that the rest of the world is still sane, as the Canadians stare at the Waterfords like they’re on display at the zoo. Moreover, the government thankfully stops talks with Gillead when the Handmaid letters are released, and it’s one of the most satisfying moments the show has ever done (punctuated by the extremely timely line “We believe the women.“). Wow.
Speaking of the trip, that storyline is just packed with memorable moments. How great is Serena’s awkward encounter with a young girl who asks if she’s a “princess”, and a cautious mother who won’t even enter the same elevator as the Commander’s wife? And then there’s the brilliance that is Serena being pursued by Mark, an American emissary, who offers her an escape from her life and a child of her own (not to mention a book deal). Interestingly, Serena declines, which further proves just how self-destructive her behavior is (and yeah there’s also her pride since she is one of the people responsible for this apocalypse).
Although June’s storyline is not as memorable, our Handmaid gets a whole lot of development as Serena tells her that she won’t be sticking around after delivering the baby. I love that this drives June to reassess the women in her life, and who exactly can watch out for her child. She asks Rita to be her baby’s godmother in a sweet little exchange, and then subtly starts to manipulate Aunt Lydia by asking her the same thing and hinting that Waterford is abusive with his wife. Talk about cunning! The pieces are definitely in place for one heck of a blowout! Bring it on!
Bits & Fruit
– The fact that Fred expects Serena to tell the Canadians that Gillead women are not “oppressed” and “voiceless”. Just laughable!
– There’s a great moment as Serena observes Canada from the car. People look normal, a couple kisses in public, and Serena sort of smiles. Do I smell regret Madam?
– Notice how Fred never introduces Serena to the associates he meet. She remains standing behind him. On the bright side, Fred is forced to work with female decision-makers and you can just see the rage bubbling beneath Joseph Fiennes’ facade.
– Love the venom that one of the men spouts off when he tells Waterford that he’s gay.
– Genevieve gives Serena a “schedule of cultural activities”. Notice how there are no words, only pictures. Ouch.
– Serena tells Genevieve that she likes knitting. We all know that’s not true.
– Harsh moment: Isaac calling Janine an “unwoman” and smacking her with his rifle. What an ass. At least she told him to “suck her dick”. Priceless.
– Mark tells Serena that the fertility crisis is the men’s fault not the women. No surprise there.
– Luke berating the Commander in public for raping his wife was everything!
– Notice how Serena spots the picture of June’s family when Luke attacks.
– I’ve never really liked Nick much, but I love that he went to Luke and gave him an update about a now-pregnant June while also passing on the notes.
– Aunt Lydia says that she was a godmother to her sister’s child who died at four days old. She also very guiltly says it was “not her fault”. I’m still waiting for my Lydia-focused hour writers, because there’s a whole lot of baggage to unpack here.
– Is something brewing between Isaac and Eden? Ew.
– Genevieve telling Serena “I don’t know how you live with yourself” was very powerful. Of course Serena can only respond with her automated response (“Go in grace”). Yeah okay…
– Notice the spectacular cinematography with the overhead shot of the people surrounding the Gillead cars. It’s truly gratifying to see unfold.
– Yup that’s Moira holding a sign that says “My name is Moira”. She then utters “not Ruby asshole”. Damn.
– Serena throws Mark’s cigarettes into the fire. So what is it going to take exactly for Serena to leave the dark side? Any guesses?
– How heartwarming is it to see June so relieved that Luke and Moira are okay and living together?
– Nick tells June he loves her. Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s dying soon.
June: This could be an Airbnb. Not a great one. Three-star reviews, maybe. “Amazing house, tons of character, nice view of the yard. Owners are super polite, but creepy as fuck. Some ritualized rape required.”
Janine: You can’t keep people apart who smell like each other.
Serena: If you had done better research, you would know that I would never betray my country.
Mark: I thought you already did.
Moira: Fucking letters! I thought that package was gonna have like C4 in it or whatever. Something to make Gillead go boom.
June: I know I should accept the reality of you being born here, make my peace.
But fuck that.
Capably exploring new ground, Smart Power is one of my favorite hours of the season. I got goosebumps!