The Handmaid’s Tale “Progress”

OK, so, this is two episodes in a row where it looks like the series is putting a good spotlight on characters who aren’t June.

I can get behind that.

Now, it isn’t that June has nothing to do here.  She spends most of the episode working on finding out where in Gilead Hannah is.  She also ends the episode shouting abuse at the American government guy for giving Wienie Fred amnesty.

Something like that makes a lot of sense.  The US government would cut a deal with a heinous individual to get more dirt on people higher up the food chain, but at the same time, it would make a lot of sense for June, angry as she is and rightfully so, to condemn the man for doing just that.  Fred hurt her personally, and she has been a fountain of rage ever since.  She was just, at the start of the series, really good about tamping it down.

So, again, I would rather not discuss June this time around.  Instead, let’s look at other characters:  Fred, Serena Joy, Luke, and Janine.

For Fred and Serena, the reason for their change of heart is obvious:  Gilead won’t come to save them.  The Putnams both visit.  Commander Putnam tells Fred there will be no prisoner exchange because that would just encourage kidnapping Commanders, and that would never do.  Mrs. Putnam very selflessly offers to raise Serena’s baby for her under the assumption Serena Joy is going to jail.

I can’t feel bad for these characters, but seeing how these things go, it is nice letting them see what it’s like when the brutal government they both planned and put into place turns on the both of them.  I can really get behind that.  It also explains why Fred would be so quick to change his mind.

As for Luke, well, Luke has largely been a very superfluous character almost since the beginning, but this episode gave me a bit more of an explanation for what Luke has been doing:  tracking where his missing wife and daughter were.  It’s actually Luke’s idea for June to contact people she knows inside Gilead to get some more information on Hannah. The first choice, with Tuello the American listening in, is Lawrence, but Lawrence isn’t being very helpful right now.  Luke even calls him an asshole.

Then Luke suggests Nick, and that June take Nichole along.  What made this a great scene was simply how Luke made the suggestion:  very slowly, tenderly, and with tears in his eyes.  He knows his wife screwed around with this man.  He must at least suspect there are some feelings going between the two.  Hell, the two share a kiss when they meet up in a no-man’s land safehouse, but it does get June (and Luke) more information on Hannah.  The girl is in Colorado now.  And the performance by Luke made it all worthwhile.

And then there’s Janine.  The former Wife-turned-Handmaid Mrs. Keyes is having a hunger strike, and Aunt Lydia’s usual methods aren’t working.  Lydia has a sort spot for Janine, so Janine offers to talk to the girl.  And here we see why Janine has lasted as long as she did:  she realized that the Aunts can cause a lot of punishment, but they will never let a Handmaid die if they can help it.

That actually works.  The Former Mrs. Keyes will play along now.  It’s easier to play along than not to.

Janine is not as dumb as she appears to be.

Really, as much as I was frustrated by how this show was going towards the end of the previous season and the start of this one, getting June to Canada was a smart move as it finally allowed a lot of characters to have a point to continue to be on the show.  I can get behind that.  June is still the main protagonist, and the way the show is setting her up now is a good way to show she isn’t some all-knowing good guy.  She’s got some major issues, and she isn’t willing to confront them.  Heck, she’s reveling in them.  But from a narrative perspective, we got a couple episodes in a row that actually reminded me why many of these other characters have a lot of potential.

Now try to do something with Nick, Handmaid’s Tale.

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