Today we’re discussing The Handmaid’s Tale: The Other Side – Episode 1.07. We get a clear look into another world, but it seems to fall a little flat because I’m not sure why we should care…
So…Luke’s alive. Yay?
I am unhappy to report that this was the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale is a living, breathing, tactile embodiment of the shoulder shrug emoji for me. The best I can say about this episode is that it was competently shot, and it retains a structure that I appreciate. To be honest, I’m a sucker for any show that employs flashbacks thanks to my undying love of LOST.
But, as showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse quickly learned on LOST, there better be a point to what we’re watching when we are in those flashbacks (see: Stranger In A Strange Land). That is not to say there isn’t a point to “The Other Side”, but I can’t say that it informed the character of Luke any more than what I already knew. Everything that the episode explores – his love of June, his daughter Hannah, and the willingness to do anything to protect them, are traits that I already understood from episode one.
Given how episode one begins, we should have known an episode like “The Other Side” was coming. As I said in a previous article, if you don’t see a body, then that person ain’t dead on TV. I suppose we can use “The Other Side” as a tool for the overall good of the series in terms of world building. We get our first taste of the world outside of Gilead, and that is somewhat refreshing.
It’s easy to get stuck in the mire of Gilead and forget that not only is it modern time, but the rest of the world just keeps spinning on with the rest of their lives. What’s more is that the world is still a pretty normal place (as it’s being addressed within the current construct of The Handmaid’s Tale) and it seems like a place that is still kind of shocked about what happened to America. I truly love the idea of Canada being a place for American refugees, and seeing “Little America” with a Canadian skyline.
This dichotomy of Canada being a place of refuge for Americans is probably the most compelling part to this mini story because of how foreign, yet oddly familiar, it feels to me as an American citizen. Yes, the U.S. has long been a home of the tired, poor, and “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and I, for one, couldn’t be more proud of that. This country was built by immigrants of all kinds and we are only as strong as our melting pot. So, it’s awkward to see Americans fleeing like East Germans from the Soviet Union.
Given our current political state, though, I can feel for the people who hate to see the direction our country is going. Everything political is so far skewed in one direction or the other that it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s actually real, or just a bunch of crap being spewed by the far right, or the far left. Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, you have to admit that our political discourse is either all or nothing at this moment.
Look, not to get into a huge political debate here, my feeling on why America works is because our system is based on conversation. It may not always be a fun conversation, it may be hard, it may even be hurtful at times, but the spine of ALL American government is conversation in some form or another. While I DO NOT think we are headed down the path of The Handmaid’s Tale and Gilead, I can see how it COULD happen and it’s all based on the idea of the people’s voice being muted. So that’s why people fleeing to Canada is oddly familiar to me because it seems like the conversation of American politics today appears to being extinguished before our very eyes and people are sick and tired of the rhetoric.
That world building, however, is probably where this episode should begin and end. The group of people with whom Luke found himself were interesting (?) but, I wasn’t blown away. In fact, this episode gives me strong vibes of the infamous Stranger Things season 2 experiment “The Lost Sister“, where it just seems like a little side project that provides nothing more than context. As a result, it all just feels like…filler. So if it feels like filler, and all the characters are just there to be an exercise in propelling Luke to Canada, why should we care?
Yup, there are some great shots – the crash scene in which Luke and the camera were fixed and everything else tumbled, or even the sobering moment between random girl #1 warns Luke that if he goes back to Boston he will die and we see all the bodies hanging from the rafters. Tack on the wall of memories and missing people within the halls of the Canadian refugee center that evoke real feelings of loss and melancholy reminiscent of 9/11 – hooo boy. Great shots.
I will also mention that seeing June’s note to Luke was emotionally visceral. Seeing her writing, and the message it brings feels like a real watershed moment between the two. It’s a Rubicon moment for them because now it’s an acknowledgement that their lives as they knew it are truly over. Now it’s just about saving Hannah. But does this moment warrant an ENTIRE hour dedicated to Luke? I’m not so sure.
Which brings me back to my original point, if you’re going to give me flashbacks, or tell a story that brings me up to speed with characters we haven’t seen in a very long time, there better be a real purpose to it. I’m just not sure “The Other Side” found that purpose, or got to it in the best manner.
Mary & Blake certified: B
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