July 15, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The Handmaid’s Tale “Together”

Season Five, Episode Six.

So, I say many times that June has some incredible plot armor on this show given how many times she should have been killed and yet somehow hasn’t been.

What exactly does that mean?

OK, so, “plot armor,” for the hypothetical reader that has never seen the term before, is basically a storytelling element that allows a main character in any story to somehow survive situations and scenarios that would otherwise let that character get killed.  That could mean lots of things, and it isn’t always a bad thing.  If I am watching, say, an Avengers movie, and one of Thanos’s nameless, largely faceless goons cuts Captain America in half in the middle of a battle, that’s not good.  Cap needs to go off and face a bad guy with a name, some lines, and a personality when possible.  Sure, in a massive battle, it would be entirely possible for any of the Avengers to get themselves killed by a nameless minion, but for dramatic purposes, it wouldn’t be right.

Basically, a certain amount of plot armor is necessary.

Plot armor becomes too much when it seems as if a character is never in any real danger for one reason or another.  The Handmaid’s Tale has slipped into that territory for me.  This is a show with really top notch acting, and it does seem to work to make sure the characters are suffering, but when it comes to June, she always seems to get away from whatever is happening without too much trouble.  The universe seems to contort itself around to make sure that she will survive.

That might not be much of an issue if the first season or two made it very clear that June could very easily get herself killed if something went wrong.  She was living on a razor’s edge, unable to do much of anything.  Then we get to, say, season four and she’s outrunning a speeding train or managing not to get blown up during an aerial bombing run, to say nothing of how, while still working as a Handmaid in season three, she was basically walking around with an untouchable attitude.  Season One June would have been executed just for having Season Three June’s attitude.

Contrast that with, say, Janine.  Janine seems to exist strictly for this universe to dump on her, but never enough to kill her outright.  I get that The Handmaid’s Tale is often about, among other things, all of the characters suffering for one reason or another, and I will say this show has done some excellent casting over the years.  The weakest spot may be O-T Fagbenle as Luke, and that has less to do with his qualities as an actor and more to do with the fact that I don’t know if this show ever knew what to do with Luke as a character.

But then you have someone like Commander Putnam who, it turns out, raped new Handmaid Esther, now pregnant.  Could they have found a guy who looked more like a creepy old man than this actor?  I am inclined to think not.

By the by, Aunt Lydia’s newfound conscience is nice as she basically demands Lawrence punish Putnam for the rape, but when Lawrence points out the Handmaids are routinely raped in the ceremony, she balks, saying the ceremony was from God, and Lydia, you were so, so close.  The series made it clear the Commanders basically made up the ceremony.

Putnam gets a cap between the eyes.  His plot armor was weak.

June’s is still strong.  She and Luke were captured by Commander Wheeler’s people.  Luke will get beat up and dumped back in Canada.  He has asylum there.  June will be executed.  June, it should be noted, took the capture in stride for most of it while Luke couldn’t handle it very well.  She knew she had plot armor.

Which must be why Serena Joy, conveniently learning about June’s capture, decided to go out and see the execution herself, something the controlling Commander Wheeler only allows reluctantly.  Furthermore, she decides to demand to pull the trigger herself.  Why?  Who knows?  Is the series trying to make her sympathetic again?  It isn’t really going to work for me.  She’s responsible for Gilead in many ways, and she seems to keep deciding that thing is A-OK!  Serena’s own plot armor means she’s rarely punished for her actions all that much.

But then she shoots her bodyguard and demands June drive them off when the contractions start.

And then I remembered how much I really don’t like June’s plot armor all that much.