This much is obvious after watching “Under His Eye:” June (Elisabeth Moss) and the handmaids are on a train hurtling from Bad to Worse. In addition to participating in rape rituals and wearing sadistic lip rings that prevent speech, they must now add the task of executioner to their list of state-sanctioned duties.
Gilead’s gallows are designed so that no one person is a murderer. Multiple handmaids pull three ropes simultaneously to lower the platform (Aunt Lydia’s enthusiastic “heaves” are not necessary to the operation, though they add mood). The gallows are an apt encapsulation of Gilead’s inherent hypocrisy. The state, so obsessed with spiritual purity, nonetheless requires people to sin: Commit assault, commit murder. It’s not religion runs on. It’s the order that religion provides.
Clearly, Gilead turns people into murderers – just like Moira (Samira Wiley) and Emily (Alexis Bledel) remark in their conversation in a coffee shop in Canada. In Canada, American refugees can put mileage between who they are and who Gilead forced them to become. But there’s a very good chance that distance will collapse again, and sooner than expected.
The third season of The Handmaid’s Tale is laying out the groundwork for an awful new plot progression: The claw of Gilead sweeping up north and grabbing all its former citizens back. Also known as an extradition, baby.
We’ll have Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), master meddlers, to thank for an extradition treaty. At this point, Fred and Serena are so atrocious that I’m tired of following them. Think about it: First, they designed and helped instate Gilead. Now, with the crusade for Baby Nichole, they’re getting rid of the possibility of escape.
The connection between Nichole and a more comprehensive extradition policy isn’t entirely clear. Will Nichole’s return set the legal precedent for Gilead determining which of its citizens can stay and which must return? Are world powers really so reliant on Gilead’s resources (and scared of its armies’ might) that they’ll cooperate with Gilead’s demands?
Background logic aside, such a treaty would mean no one in Canada — including June’s brood of loved ones — would be safe. Especially people like Emily (Alexis Bledel), who committed “crimes” in order to cross the border. Emily admits her track record while speaking to that Swiss lady from last week’s episode, who pretends to be neutral, but is actually just evil. Each clack of her keyboard adds to the case against Emily.
A brief overview of Emily’s time in Gilead. Stealing a car? Check. Running over a guard with that car? Yes, and it felt so good. Stabbing Aunt Lydia in the back? The lady deserved it! During the interrogation, Sylvia (Clea Duvall) stares at her wife like she’s a completely different woman.
What Emily and Moira choose to do next probably won’t help Emily’s standing, though it’s definitely admirable. After years spent severely restricted, Emily can feel the freedom of democracy coursing through her. She can hug her wife. She can protest now. So she and Moira set out to harangue a Canadian border security official lenient on Gilead — but even in Canada, a “free” country, there are limits. They’re thrown in jail. Emily and Moira treat the arrest as a joke — and compared to the horrors of the Colonies, a small City Hall jail cell is a joke. But this could be an on-ramp back to their southwardly hell.
Unfortunately, unleashing chaos on people’s lives in Gilead and in Canada is practically an exfoliant for the Waterfords. Serena and Fred have never looked better than they do in D.C., surrounded by the elites of the elites — the “winners” of Gilead. Their relationship is flourishing. But the high will be short lived. Fred, professional snake, has brokered a deal with Commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni). Baby Nichole is going to stay in Canada for as long as she can be used as political leverage, though Fred tells Serea otherwise. Serena is the only person who wants this baby back.
Further, Washington D.C. may not be the conservative paradise Serena has always dreamed of. While standing with a few Wives at a party, Serena comes off as a painfully awkward transfer student out of her league with the cool girls at the lunch table. They speak about their husbands with playful derision and openly ogle the guards. Serena’s shocked. Does the Wives’ privilege protect them enough to run around with the guards? Now that would be a twist I could get behind.
Ultimately, it’s probably best that June, back in Cambridge, remains unaware of what her former “family” is up to in D.C. This devastating knowledge might knock the fight out of her, and she’s still ferociously fighting — as usual. The only difference? She’s not getting away with it as much.
This episode, June takes down two other people in her quest to see her daughter, Hannah. Earlier this season, Serena clued June in to where her Hannah likely goes to school. June craves the adrenaline and purpose of a mission — otherwise, life in Gilead is unbearable, because it’s motionless. She decides to make going to Brookline School her next mission.
Step one: Gather information. While at the grocery story, June extracts information about Hannah’s school from Mackenzie family’s Martha. Step two: Set forth. June recruits the fragile Mrs. Lawrence (Julie Dretzin) on an adventure over the river and across the woods to Brookline. At first, the outside world is actually good for Mrs. Lawrence, whose bipolar disorder has worsened without access to medical care. She’s lucid enough to express how grateful she is that she and Lawrence couldn’t have a baby — that her baby wouldn’t be twisted by this society, the same way Hannah and her classmates probably already are. But when the trip to the school goes awry after clashing with suspicious Eyes, she reverts back into her quivering state. Joseph is not happy.
There are even worse repercussions for Frances (Ordena Stephens), the Martha who supplied June with information. She’s on the gallows at the next Salvaging. Turns out June’s pious walking partner, OfMatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop), had ratted the Martha out after watching her and June chat at Bread and Loaves.
OfMatthew thinks she’s doing a kind thing by removing temptation from June’s life. “I saved you,” she says. Here, OfMatthew shows a shocking naivety. June has never wanted to save herself — she’s only ever wanted to save her daughters. Now that the McKenzie family has left Cambridge and taken Hannah with them, June’s mission will be even more impossible than it was before. And it was pretty much already impossible.