June 16, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The Handmaid’s Tale “Ballet”

Season Five, Episode Two.

I have spilled so much digital ink in my Handmaid’s Tale write-ups over June’s plot armor, how things that in the early seasons would have gotten her killed are not so big a deal for her anymore.  She somehow keeps surviving.

Yeah, she’s not the only one.  She’s just the most obvious of the bunch.

See, I was under the impression that the Waterfords basically went rogue and betrayed Gilead by trying to defect to America/Canada, only to be arrested for war crimes as they should have been.  Or maybe it was treason and sedition which, again, was as it should be.  It makes no sense that Serena Joy should be able to go back to Gilead without any sort of repercussions for what she’s done, even if she is somehow pregnant with Fred’s child.

But…well, she isn’t punished.  She is arguably rewarded.  At the very least, she got everything she wanted.  Fred, despite the fact he was a big wimpy doofus who survived far longer than he probably should have, gets a fancy state funeral at Serena’s insistence.  OK, Lawrence supported it as a means of giving Gilead good PR, and he’s a bit hard to predict.  This episode does reveal he never remarried, you know because he loved his wife and all, and while he isn’t necessarily someone on the inside track, he can still sit in on meetings and put his two cents in.    Nick is there too, and I assume that’s in part because like any decent TV show, they want to make sure characters the audience knows is actually there for whatever it is they’re doing.

And even though someone points out that Fred betrayed the country and was a traitor, they still opt to give him a fancy funeral to show off how “forgiving” Gilead is.

I really wonder why people buy this outside of Gilead.  I get that Gilead is a secretive place that doesn’t really advertise what it does, but there have to be enough refugees by now that everything should be more or less out in the open.  June wasn’t the first Handmaid to escape.  Was she the first one to, like, go public about what happened to her?  Emily had been there, and she’d had her genitals mutilated for being ornery.  Moira was forced into prostitution.  Why don’t more people know about all this?

See, this is why I have a hard time believing the Waterfords had fans.  It’s one thing to say Gilead seems to have a system that works.  It’s another to go along with a group that treated women as poorly as they do.  The fact that they had supporters even after June testified says something.  While I am well aware that accusations of sexual assault are often ignored by people who don’t want to think poorly of celebrities and politicians they think highly of…did the Waterfords even deny June’s accusations?  I mean, it’s been so long since I saw those episodes thanks to the long (no doubt helped by COVID) gap between seasons that I don’t remember, but I don’t think that happened.

Speaking of…Hannah appeared in this episode as someone with a prime role in Fred’s funeral, handing Serena Joy a bouquet of followers on TV, and I did not realize who that characters was until I saw Luke and June’s reaction to the funeral on a giant TV screen in Canada.  It’s understandable there.  Hannah appears so infrequently, and it’s still the same child actor, and she’s obviously getting older since the show started, so I think it’s fair to say I didn’t realize it was her right away even though, well, who else would it be?

But this episode also brought back Janine and Aunt Lydia.  Aunt Lydia, so self-important, a true believer who thinks she’s caring for her Handmaids even if it sometimes requires tough love.  And Janine, who seems to suffer while other characters get away with things that should kill them.  Janine, by this point, figures the way to survive is to just play along, advice she’s been giving to new Handmaid and former wife Esther, but it does mean when Esther is assigned to the Putnams and Janine has a chance to see her child…it all ends when Esther decides Janine is no better than anyone else and tries to poison the two of them with poisoned chocolates.

To be fair, the scene of Putnam sizing Esther out may be one of the grossest scenes this show has put together yet.

Anyway, while Janine will (probably) live, it does seem as if all of the plot armor worn by some characters just seems to deflect suffering to others.  June won’t suffer physically for what’s going on.  She’ll get angry and maybe try to do something about it.  Serena Joy will get freakin’ rewarded.  But Janine?  Nah, she’s gonna suffer for the rest of ’em.

That ain’t right…on a few levels, actually.