Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Handmaid’s Tale episode “Sacrifice.”
Handmad's Tale leading lady June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) has always had a murderous glint in her eye. It’s a sensible reaction to her life in Gilead, a religio-fascist nation state built on sexual abuse and human trafficking. However, June’s bloodlust was only truly satiated during last week’s “Liars,” following yet another harrowing near-rape scene. Rather than let another man commit sexual violence against her, June kills him. Goodbye commander Winslow (Christopher Meloni).
With one very excusable kill behind her, June comes to Wednesday’s “Sacrifice” a new woman. She causes a death yet again — only this time, the fatality makes very little sense, especially with the season 3 finale, “Mayday,” looming next week. Considering all the pieces Handmaid’s Tale has put in front of us, it appears the latest Gilead tragedy has put June's master plan in jeopardy when she thought she was saving it.
“Sacrifice’s” victim is Eleanor Lawrence (Julie Dretzin), the mentally ill wife of June’s latest commander, Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). Although June doesn’t personally murder Mrs. Lawrence, she purposefully manipulates the events following Eleanor’s attempted death by suicide to ensure her actions are fatal. It is especially cruel to watch June guarantee a mentally ill person without medication dies.
The reason for June’s disturbing actions? Mrs. Lawrence, unwell due to her lack of medication, nearly reveals June’s plan to smuggle over 50 children from Gilead to Canada. Over the last few episodes, June has gotten commander Lawrence to agree to the scheme, secured a black market cargo ship, and gotten approval from the powerful Martha network. The key to the plan is Lawrence, who wants to get his wife out of out of Gilead. After “Unfit’s” forced rape — and without medication due to Gilead laws — Mrs. Lawrence is quickly deteriorating.
But, as we saw with Fred Waterford’s (Joseph Fiennes) arrest, commanders will be arrested the moment they enter Canada for a litany of offenses, including war crimes and human trafficking. So, the answer for Lawrence is bringing Canada, and the vestiges of the American government, all of the children June is smuggling through the cargo plane.
The only problem is, over the first half of “Sacrifice,” Eleanor almost spills the beans twice, Lawrence wasn’t even supposed to tell his wife about the trip. First, she references the plan to Olivia Winslow (Elizabeth Reaser), the wife of the man June killed last week. Olivia is so wrapped up in her own grief, she doesn’t realize how suspicious Eleanor’s words about “taking” all the children are.
Then after Olivia leaves, Eleanor attempts to leave the Lawrence home to tell various Gilead families about the escape plan. She appears to be in a manic episode. In Eleanor’s mind, she’s helping save even more children. But, in reality, she’s threatening to put the plan at risk by tipping off the wrong people. June yells at Eleanor and shoves her into a wall, leaving her emotionally terrified.
In her fragile state, Eleanor goes upstairs and overdoses on the last pills in the Lawrence home. Considering the entire reason commander Lawrence wants to get out of Gilead is due to a lack of medication, this detail in itself makes little sense. But, that is what happens. When June finds an unresponsive, but alive, Eleanor, she initially tries to wake her up and rushes for help. Then, June realizes the death of Eleanor may be a good thing for her aims. So she kisses Eleanor goodbye, quietly opens the woman’s bedroom door to leave undetected, and moves her food tray from inside the room to right outside the door. This way, when Eleanor’s body is found, it will look like June had no idea Mrs. Lawrence purposely overdosed in her private bedroom.
June is a killer.
Hypothetically, June made sure Eleanor died to protect her escape plan. However, the death of Eleanor is the precise event that could hurt June's highly sensitive plot. Again, commander Lawrence — with his insider status — is the anchor of the scheme. He’s keeping the border open to secure the escape. He’s June’s personal ride anywhere she wants to go.
The death of Lawrence's wife could push him to any desperate point. That means revealing June’s smuggling plan to the authorities to regain his previous high status in Gilead — something he has lost in the half-half of the season — is a real possibility now. He is a man without anything to lose, and that's when someone is most dangerous. That means any grief-stricken catastrophe could be ahead in the season 3 finale.
June may think she's winning her Gilead battles, but could she lose the war?
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).