Well, before I go too much further on this episode, I will just note that Elizabeth Moss directed it. I don’t know if she’s directed anything before, but this was her first episode at least for this particular show.
She did a good job. But direction and acting have never been a problem for The Handmaid’s Tale.
No, the problem with The Handmaid’s Tale is always more on the side of the writing. There’s a bit of that here, but for the most part, it isn’t even a badly written episode. The overall problem is more the overarching plot of the series as a whole at this point. June got arrested. She had a setback. This series does that quite a bit. My issue is less that and more June’s overall plot armor at this point. If she was caught, will she stay that way? Probably not. Even I wasn’t so quick to assume that June was going to be killed because Handmaids are going to be kept alive for breeding stock no matter what they do. That’s been established.
No, the problem here is that June’s captivity lasted all of one episode, that she escaped rather easily, she got to make out with Nick in full view of others (eh, probably) despite the fact that we also saw Luke (you know, June’s husband), and while most of the Handmaids with June were killed (including Alma, who we’ve known since season one), June gets to escape. Again.
OK, Janine did too. But Janine isn’t the one who gets to walk around like she’s untouchable.
However, overall, this was a good episode because of what it did by bringing back the most interesting character on the show: Aunt Lydia. Aunt Lydia always brings the goods. Is she a sadist or a true believer? Or both? Hard to say. She can be sympathetic to the Handmaids (except June), but she also carries and uses a taser. Her first scene here with June has her open up the conversation with a slap across the face.
And then the torture guy comes in. You know he’s the torture guy because he comes in smiling and stays in a good mood the entire time, and this show doesn’t have a lot of cheerful people in it to begin with. Also he says things like June can end the torture any time she wants, making it look like the torture is her choice. So, after the waterboarding (with a cloth with a cross on it) and almost pulling out June’s fingernails, after murdering Commander Lawrence’s Marthas in front of June, and all that sort of thing, June does get some good hits in. Sort of.
Mostly it amounts to hitting Aunt Lydia with a Truth Bomb. It’s a good moment for June, finally saying the things to Aunt Lydia that need to be said.
That Lydia seems to sort of brush it off is also totally appropriate. Really, Lydia is a true believer. She thinks it was terrible taking away those children from their “families”.
Commander Lawrence tries too. He says they’ll threaten Hannah, the daughter June stayed in Gilead to save. June doesn’t believe that because it’s about the children. Lawrence, knowing better, knows it’s about power.
So, when they do threaten Hannah, and Hannah looks more afraid of June than the Gilead people, that’s when June breaks and the Handmaids are recaptured.
Then they manage to escape their car when the one armed guy on board gets off to take a,leak while waiting for a train to pass and June can easily overpower Lydia. The Handmaids run. Some get shot. Some get hit by a train. And June and Janine manage to escape.
But that plot armor had me sitting there, reflecting that somehow June, who got off the van last, was able to get out in front and get across the tracks pretty easily.