This article contains spoilers.
Reflecting on last week’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I have little notes. Perhaps because I enjoyed it better than Baggage. June is back with the Waterford’s, which means glorious shots that look like Vermeer paintings and lies compounded on lies to keep face.
Baggage’s biggest lie, outside of the lie of Gilead being Utopia, is that June was kidnapped. If she ran away, she’d have to have the baby in isolation, Gilead would hang one of their fertile wombs, and a commander of Gilead would look unfit running the country if he can’t command order in his own home. But if we’ve learned one thing from season 1, it’s that the home is where women still hold power. However, Serena Joy wasn’t in control this week. It was Aunt Lydia, practically moving into their home and orchestrating the lies of Gilead so effectively. When Rita shoved the package of letters into June’s hands and said she was scared of her, never did I think she meant Serena. Aunt Lydia is terrifying.
Another lie of the episode is the one June tells herself to make it through each moment. Her defiance to the Waterford’s. The crazed look of menace in her eye. It feels like a act she’s performing to show Serena Joy, Fred, and Aunt Lydia that they can’t break her. This isn’t pre-Gilead June taking a stand. This is a new creation, Offred June, walking a dangerous line.
The baby shower scene is the moment that has stuck with me this week as I ponder what’s to come for June. Her two moments of quiet rebellion, as she sat apart from the festivities yet present, was announcing the quickening and reminding everyone that there was a time before Gilead where she had her own shower for Hannah.
June announcing she already felt the baby move was so awkward and uncomfortable that part of me felt pity for Serena. I imagine anyone who has struggled with pregnancy would relate as well to the personal pain of hearing someone else’s celebration. For me, this was Offred June, not pre-Gilead June, speaking. A little play-acting of the villain for Elisabeth Moss’ character. Her defiance and manipulation isn’t what she was; it’s who she’s become.
When Offred June openly remembers her own shower, there’s a mix of intentional rebellion as well as desire to share her own memories as women do with each other.
After Aunt Lydia walks with Offred June down to the river and shows her Omar, the gentleman who took her in from Mayday, hanging from a rope, the final lie of the episode paths the way for next week. Aunt Lydia says it was June who killed him and separated his wife from his son. June is to blame. Not Offred. So, who is lies down on the floor of the closet repeating “My fault. My fault.”? June or Offred or Offred June?
And “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” is sanded away. For me, this felt like a visible sign of the production reinforcing they are off book. Margaret Atwood has left the building. Because I’m pretty sure if Atwood was in that closet she would carve it back deeper.
June doesn’t wake up the next morning. Offred wakes up, walks outside, and with dead eyes repeats, “We’ve been sent good weather.”
Margaret, where do we go from here?
Watch The Handmaid’s Tale Wednesdays on Hulu.
Photos courtesy of Hulu.