The Handmaid’s Tale “Useful”

OK, cards on the table time.  I find The Handmaid’s Tale incredibly frustrating at times, and not for a good reason.  It’s one thing to have the characters essentially make little if any progress in their actions.  That’s the nature of the show.  For every moment of personal triumph, something happens that drags the characters back down again.  They’re fighting against the monolith that is Gilead.  That’s to be expected.

That is not what I am talking about.

Instead, I’m talking about the general plotting and writing of the show as it exists.  There’s a lot of good going on with The Handmaid’s Tale.  The acting, even for characters I don’t like, is top notch.  Heck, it is because the acting is so top notch that I dislike characters like Serena Joy, Commander Waterford, and especially Aunt Lydia so much.  And right now, we have Elizabeth Moss facing off against Bradley Whitford.  What’s not to like there?

In fact, the various interactions between June and Commander Lawrence are obvious highlights to the series right now.  The two argue.  June learns very quickly the tricks she used on the Waterfords won’t work on Lawrence.  He even correctly states that’s what she’s doing.  And he is more than capable of humiliating her when he wants to as he does during a big meeting of various Commanders in his house.

June, meanwhile, just asks people she knows about Lawrence.  Neither Fred Waterford nor Nick (soon to be transferred to the front lines in Chicago) know much of anything about the man.

What we do know appears to amount to a man who set up this society, somewhat believes in it, but not as a true fanatic.  Lawrence believes Gilead was necessary to allow people to still have a place to live, grow, and create.  He likewise helped Emily escape because he saw she was intelligent and had a lot to offer the world, moreso than she did from her former position as a handmaid.

He does not see that in June.  At least, not yet.  Maybe by the season finale.  So far, he’s unimpressed.

It’s hard to say what he sees in June.  He’s fully aware there’s a Martha resistance cell in his house.  He doesn’t care.  He sees them as a minor distraction, nothing more.  Lawrence is also aware of June’s entire personal history.

And then, perhaps to show June just how tough his job is, he gives her an unauthorized assignment.  Gilead managed to capture 65 women from Chicago.  Lawrence arranged to make five of them Marthas.  The others will go on to die in the Colonies.  He wants June to pick the five.

She doesn’t want to, of course.  How do you pick those people out?  Lawrence basically tells her that it was five or none.  So, perhaps he’s rescuing who he can.  Lawrence is a hard character to read.  That’s to the show’s credit.

June, by the by, eventually selects five women who almost sound like a D&D party:  a lawyer, an IT specialist, an engineer, a journalist, and a thief.  Really?  A thief?  Regardless, June figures they’ll work well in the resistance.

So yeah, that stuff is good.  It’s the rest of the show that doesn’t work so well.  I do not care if Serena Joy finds peace because she was complicit in what this world is.  And when her own mother points our Serena only has her position because of who her husband is, it’s back to Fred she goes after a pep talk from June.  Why would June give someone who caused her so much pain any sort of helpful advice?

I see Serena Joy going the same route as most of the characters in Canada.  The series remembers they are there, but they don’t really add up to much.  And Serena is still more interesting than her husband.  I’m just not buying this redemption tour stuff the show is trying to do with either of the Waterfords.

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