Due in part, I am sure, to the pandemic, The Handmaid’s Tale is back after being gone for over a year. When season three aired, I felt like Elizabeth Moss’s June/Offred had reached a really high level of plot armor that allowed her to get away with all kinds of things that would have seen her severely punished if not outright executed before. Even though the season ended with her being shot after smuggling 80 or so kids out of Gillead to Canada, she still felt like the show made her unstoppable.
Does that change now with a new season?
That is…hard to assess at first glance. True, June spends much of this episode in some sort of haze as she recovers from being shot, hidden out at a farm run by an older Commander whose 14 year old Wife Mrs. Keyes keeps him too drugged to know his young bride is part of a resistance group.
But then the episode goes on. We see the aftermath as Gillead may be looking to declare war on Canada as a result of this event, something that we only hear about because none of the characters who make those decisions are the ones we know and The Handmaid’s Tale is, above all else, a very intimate show that only really follows a handful of characters who aren’t the ones making decisions for everyone else.
Mostly. More on that in a minute.
So, we see Wimpy Fred and Serena Joy in custody in Canada awaiting trial by what’s left of the United States government, both of whom seem to wish June well (we don’t need sympathy from those two losers).
We see Aunt Lydia, released from interrogation, asking the men of the group ruling over her to be allowed to get her hands on June when the time comes.
We see Commander Lawrence, a character I had hopes for as a good foil for June before her plot armor increased, eventually being released from punishment for his role in the escape because they need his advice. I’m all for more Bradley Whitford, so that works for me, but I did stop to think they were gonna slit his throat when they took him to a barber’s chair to get cleaned up before returning to whatever duty they want him for.
And we see June finding some sympathy by and from the angry Mrs. Keyes, someone who slaughtered the pig Janine had bonded with to serve the rebels dinner, but then later seems to need June’s suggestion to do the same to one of the men who gang raped her before she ended up on that farm.
Now, given the episode title and the manner in which both the pig and the rapist are murdered, there’s obviously a connection between the two–in many ways, The Handmaid’s Tale is not a subtle show–but is this June’s plot armor at work again? How much of The Handmaid’s Tale is about one rebel leading a massive overthrow of a tyrannical regime that, going by the last chapter of the original novel, is doomed to be short-lived, and how much is it just one woman’s struggle?
And which version do I want to see?
Now, Moss is a fantastic actress, and she knows how to show a wide range of emotions, and I certainly have no objection to June becoming a heroic figure within the Gilead resistance. But that seems to be a far cry from what the show was in the beginning when the series largely followed the source material. But the show ran out of source material a while ago, and as much as June was hit was setbacks, she never really seems to be in danger, even in her own mind. I know as protagonist that she is relatively safe from whatever happens, but I would largely prefer to see her act as if she didn’t know that. There was still a hint of that here as she seemed to boss around the other resistance types, to say nothing of giving Mrs. Keyes “permission” to enact revenge on her attacker.
Regardless, let’s see where they go from here then.