June and Janine managed to get away. Big surprise on June’s part. But I have spilled a lot of digital ink on June’s plot armor so far this season.
This episode made me think more of two supporting characters.
See, there’s a lot I have said about June and to a lesser extent Serena Joy and Wienie Fred. But then there’s Janine and Rita. The seemingly broken Handmaid and the onetime Martha.
Rita is in Canada, free for the first time since Gilead started. You wouldn’t know it to watch the Waterfords, each of whom approach her like she’s some long lost friend and try to win her over to do them favors. It’s fake. Then again, I prefer for the Waterfords to not be treated as sympathetic figures, so having Rita basically say they can both go hang is nice, especially since it was mostly about Serena Joy trying to keep that baby she’s carrying away from Fred, and Fred has some right to that child as the father, way more than the baby Serena Joy says is her daughter that was the biological product of a fling between June and Nick.
However, I was really struck more by Janine this time around. She and June escape in a milk tanker on a train and are eventually found by a rebel group that not only hasn’t heard about the Martha rebel group Mayday but also their leader wants sexual favors from at least one of the two Handmaids. June almost does it until the dude realizes that this is rape, but Janine seems more wlling.
This seems a lot like Janine. Since Aunt Lydia took the girl’s eye, she’s been a damaged, broken thing. She comes across as dumb at times, the one who seems closest to Lydia despite what Lydia did to her. She was willing to do more with one commander than she was supposed to do under Gilead’s sexual rules. She was really attached to the baby she gave birth to, enough to banish her away as quickly as possible.
Yes, I am aware that Janine was right to be attached to the baby that was stolen from her. Point is, Janine seems damaged and a bit dumb most of the time since the sass got surgically removed from her during Handmaid training.
This episode actually deals with Janine’s backstory. She wasn’t just some mouthy young woman. We’ve heard so much about June’s quest to get Hannah back, but has Janine ever mentioned the fact she had a son before everything fell, working as a single mom (as a Denny’s waitress apparently), and that she got an abortion for a second pregnancy?
No, she hasn’t.
She may very well be a more economically disadvantaged version of June.
By the by, the fact she went to a pregnancy crisis center first, where the woman told her a lot of stuff about how men step up and abortion always ruins lives, really made me think for a minute that the flashback was still set in Gilead. I mean, I’ve heard about these things, how they’re mostly there to talk/scare women out of getting abortions, but the way this show is set up, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this wasn’t like some preliminary step like some of the season one flashbacks that showed June and her friends gradually losing their rights, but no. That was the before times.
So…what happened to Janine’s son? She’s never mentioned him. Was he given away the same way Hannah was? Why has Janine never mentioned him before? Is her sort of happy-go-lucky attitude some sort of coping mechanism given how tough her life was in many ways even before GIlead started? Her pre-Gilead apartment wasn’t all that big, and even though she clearly loved her son, raising a boy as a single mom in a tiny apartment on a waitress’s income can’t have been easy.
So, really, I’d like to know more about Janine right now. That’s good writing for this show.
My general belief that we aren’t going to get more of her backstory, if true, is the opposite of that.