Potential fun fact: the season one finale and the season three premier are both titled “Night”. Does that mean anything?
I don’t quite think so. This is, however, the second show I cover on Mondays in a row asking me to feel bad for an awful person.
Yes, somehow The Handmaid’s Tale wants me to feel bad for Serena Joy. This is no knock on the actress playing her because, well, she’s awesome. Instead, this is about the fact Serena Joy helped build this awful society. She didn’t put any thought into how a society that repressed all women and (let’s be blunt) most men would be bad for her as well. And those are the ones who aren’t dead. Just because she’s at the top of the ladder for women doesn’t mean she isn’t also repressed. But still, she helped make all this. Much of it was her idea. And she was totally awful to June/Offred for much of the series so far. Just because June maybe got through to her enough to send their mutual daughter to Canada and Serena now feels awful about it doesn’t mean I will feel bad for her.
Stop trying. We don’t need another Billy. I mean it. Don’t make me write more in italics.
Besides, this is The Handmaid’s Tale. Just about everyone is miserable on some level and what amounts to triumph are small, personal moments the totalitarian government can’t quite take away from anybody.
But then we have June…
I’m generally reluctant to switch names in my write-ups. Because Gilead takes women’s names away from them on top of everything else, I find it easier to just stick to one as often as possible. But by now, Offred is now June no matter where she is. And yes, the show does suggest for the barest of moments that she may be stuck with Wimpy Fred and Miserable Serena Joy again. But then something happens. The show actually changes the status quo in three ways.
First, Emily makes it to Canada with baby Nichole. Yes, that involved swimming across a cold river that almost swept her away. But the Canadians on the other side are very welcoming with offers of asylum. She’ll be OK…or as OK as this show lets anyone be. It looks like she might be staying with Luke and Moira. The show has to give them all a reason to still be here after all.
Second, Serena Joy burns her house down. Everyone gets out safe, there’s a nice shot of June wafting her hand through smoke, but the house is no more. Good. Let’s go somewhere else for a while. Where will the Waterfords go? I don’t know. I don’t much care but I am sure I will find out. For now, though, the Aunts assign June to Commander Lawrence, a man who may or may not be an ally. At the very least, he isn’t a moron. From what little we see of him here, he might help June if only to entertain himself.
And third, we know where Hannah is. The police arrested June in that house, and Hannah was the reason June stayed in Gilead. Granted, the Wife there insists June only gave birth to Hannah and she’s the girl’s mother. Hannah is confused by the whole thing obviously, but after a tense chat between June and Mrs. MacKenzie, something happens. June does get the last word in about who Hannah’s mother really is, but that comes after what almost seems like a friendly chat. They talk pets, allergies, personality quirks. Mrs. MacKenzie does seem to want what’s best for Hannah.
Of course, Mrs. MacKenzie is complicit in kidnapping Hannah. Just as much as Serena Joy is complicit in kidnapping Nichole. Having good intentions doesn’t make you good.
So, things change, but people are still miserable. Welcome back to The Handmaid’s Tale.
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