July 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The Handmaid’s Tale “Unknown Caller”

Season Three, Episode Five.

It looks like much of season three is going to turn into an international custody battle.

I am not sure how I feel about that because I don’t know that I can see certain characters as parents.

In the previous episode, June identified Luke as the person holding baby Nichole.  Sure, the Watchers or whatever they call themselves already knew that.  Now comes the Waterfords’ attempts to get this child back since they keep calling the baby theirs.

And herein lies a problem for me.  Now, I do believe this whole thing was done on purpose.  The viewer should be thinking about who this child’s real parents are.  Everything about Gilead is a mess, so why shouldn’t parenthood be any different?  We’ve seen that in how the Hannah situation is going.  Nichole adds a new wrinkle because she came into the world after Gilead formed.  Who are the parents of this baby?

Serena Joy keeps saying over and over again it’s her child.  Wimpy Commander Fred seems to agree.  No one in Gilead really contradicts her, not even June.  I realize June can’t, and June is playing a long game here by making at least one of the Waterfords an ally.  And she’s worried.  She starts the episode by asking Commander Lawrence if she or Luke is in danger.  Lawrence doesn’t seem to know.  All he can say is everyone is in danger.

I don’t think truer words were ever spoken on this show.

However, given the episode also keeps referring to Luke as June’s husband, it’s clear there’s more going on here.  As such, it’s not that surprising when the Waterfords try to recruit June to talk to Luke.  June has enough weight with Serena Joy to bargain a bit.  But, in the end, she makes the call.  And major props to Elizabeth Moss.  That woman does controlled rage so well.  She doesn’t say much.  It’s all over her face in a series of close-ups.

And for all June’s plot armor seems to keep her in the thick of things, I do buy her offering kind advice to Mrs. Lawrence.  That woman needs it because her husband isn’t the good man he once was.  Granted, June uses Mrs. Lawrence’s courtship story to smuggle a message to Luke, but it was still nice.  The Lawrences are a much more complex couple than we’ve come to see in Gilead, and the series is better off for that.  Plus, there’s a distinct difference between June’s tense, overheard phone call to Luke and her sweeter, privately recorded message to him.

Now, did Serena Joy know she was giving Luke that tape?

Yes, Luke does agree to let one Warerford, Serena Joy, see the baby at the Toronto airport.  It’s very public, and Luke does something I am glad someone did:  he flat out tells Serena Joy she is not Nichole’s mother.

Granted, Serena replies that Luke isn’t this baby’s real parent either, but I am glad someone told a Gilead child thief that they are not the real parents.  We generally only see life in Gilead.  Of course everyone there says the Commanders and their Wives are the real parents of these children.  Confront these people with these facts more often.  And not just from someone like Janine that the higher up characters can dismiss as crazy.  No one is hitting Luke with a cattle prod for that.  The Commanders are stealing children to give to childless couples in the name of a religion only they believe in.  That doesn’t make them parents.

By the by, as much as I keep reminding myself that Serena Joy helped build the very society that represses her and as such I feel no sympathy for the character, Yvonne Strahovski still does a good job playing the character.  She’s suffering emotionally in a repressive society.  I just can’t bring myself to sympathize with her character’s plight.  Every other woman on the show?  Yes.  Serena Joy?  Not a chance.

But all that means Serena said goodbye to someone else’s baby she just decided was hers, right?  Because there’s no way this can go on now?  Of course not.  Fred and the Gilead government are going on the TV to put pressure on Canada to return a stolen child to her parents.  Or “parents”.  And June?  She’ll sit there with them and hold that rage in just a little longer.