Let’s chat The Handmaid’s Tale episode 2.04 – “Other Women.” We see which of June’s identity wins, and we finally get some well needed consequences…
Thank you Bruce Miller and everyone involved in crafting this terrific television show. Seriously. Thank you.
You finally acknowledged the biggest elephant in the room: June can’t suffer real consequences because of her pregnancy.
It takes a lot of guts to cop to a conceit that, in pretty much any other show, would either go ignored or unnoticed. But, credit where credit is due, you just went ahead and put it all out there on the table – but also make it work for your story. It’s not there just as an acknowledgement, but rather it’s a tool to torture June and all of the Handmaids. June’s rebellious ways are being used to turn the tables on her insurrection and, by all accounts, it’s working.
Mayday has gone silent, her walking partners won’t talk to her, and the rest of the Handmaids seem to cower in Offred’s presence. Best yet, instead of hurting June because she’s pregnant, we get a scene where all the other Handmaids are mutilated, punished, and degraded. All the while, June happily and defiantly eats her soup. I’m not going to lie, all I could think of was this scene in Full Metal Jacket:
Now, most of us know how that turned out for good ol’ Private Pyle, and, well, if not
This is why “Other Women” is the best episode of season 2 so far. It takes everything away from June. It breaks her down, churns her up, and spits her out as a mindless automaton who only acknowledges that they’ve been sent good weather today. To make matters worse for her, June could very well end up like our resident jelly donut thief; out of friends, out of alliances, and resented throughout her entire existence until it drives her mad. That being said, if this is the route they’re choosing, I would be surprised, but this would be a great start.
Regardless of Miller’s macro plans, I am happy to report THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES for all the crap June did in season 1, and how she tried to escape in season 2.
Sure, we get a nice little scene between June and Serena where Serena tries to choke the very life out of June’s throat threatening that no more insolence would be tolerated, but that’s still relatively worthless. Like how Batman tries to beat the bag out of the Joker in the interrogation room in The Dark Knight. Like Batman, there is nothing that Serena could do to June’s Joker with any of her might or anger. No amount of physical violence matters because it would only risk the birth of the baby, so, practically and narratively, that could only go so far.
Ah, but this is Gilead we’re talking about here. There’s a lot more bananaland torture and depravity here than meets the eye.
What are June’s best qualities? Her resilience, sheer will, and compassion. And like any good antagonist, Aunt Lydia takes June’s strength, and makes it her weakness.
Remember Omar and Heather? Yep – dead. Because of June. Who knows what happens to the little girl?! She’s off somewhere with another family, ripped away from her family because of June. How about those Handmaid’s she thought she was turning into an army? Well, they’re all going to get punished because of June. Oh, June thinks her body is hers and she’s special because only she can feel the pregnancy and Serena can’t? No problem, let’s just treat her like a commodity – no privacy in the bathtub, eat this, go there, and her body is no longer hers. Serena can kneel down and speak directly to her baby, “mumma loves you”, or Aunt Lydia can poke and prod at her leisure. Plus, if June even has a glint in her eye about inciting any more nonsense, Aunt Lydia can make sure she ends up like this other rando Handmaid chained to gothic bed in isolation.
But that’s not the worst of it.
June’s greatest strength is her identity – something we talked about last article. She’s been free, enslaved, freed, and now held in captivity once again. Aunt Lydia doesn’t just force consequences on June because of her actions, she turns her multiple identities against each other. Thus, turning June’s GREATEST quality into her worst enemy. June is June’s enemy. All the terrible consequences that happened? Those are June’s fault. Not Offred’s. Omar dead? June. Handmaids violated? June. Waterford’s ire? June. June can be isolated and then killed after birth. Losing Rita’s friendship and getting back the notes from Gilead? June.
Offred, though? She can live her life, give birth in a cozy home, and be a good girl.
So when June is consistently reciting, “my fault” in a closet on the floor where the “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” carving is gone, that’s June letting go and giving way to Offred. It’s Offred taking over. It IS June’s fault. The Other Woman. Not Offred.
Drama is the force of change. And, boy, has the change started. June is literally erased, and no only Offred remains. Now I don’t think the rest of the show will be like this – that would be boring as hell. So there will be an incident that probably clicks June back into place. But, for now, the show has brought us back down to bare bones and back in the clutches of the Waterfords. So I’m in. Let’s frakking go.
Mary & Blake certified: A
Click here for all of our coverage of The Handmaid’s Tale