Let’s chat The Handmaid’s Tale episode 2.12 – “Postpartum”. In which we realize a good beer can change just about anything…
Postpartum is a shocking episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. No, not because of the horrible deaths suffered by Eden and something named Isaac, or even the lengths that Serena will go to take care of “her” baby. Rather, I am genuinely shocked by the sheer guts it must take to introduce a brand new, series altering, character in the vein of Joseph Lawrence in the penultimate episode of a season which has more way more plot lines to tie up than it has time to actually do so.
I’ve always been a big Bradley Whitford guy – whether it was The West Wing (obviously), his roles in random movies like Kate & Leopold and Billy Madison, or even his criminally underrated efforts in Revenge Of The Nerds II. But his latest choices such as Get Out, The Cabin In The Woods, or even The Handmaid’s Tale is showing a different side of him that I really appreciate. But Joseph Lawrence (as played by Whitford) is a potential game changer for the The Handmaid’s Tale and it’s all thanks to Whitford’s nuance.
There is a possibility that Lawrence is a one-off character that is meant to carry us through the end of season 2, but something tells me we are going to get a lot more of him in future seasons because he is just so good at being warm, creepy, and generally off-putting.
The real shock, however, comes from how DIFFERENT Lawrence seems to be from most every other male character on this show. Better yet, Lawrence is different from anyone within Gilead that we have met as of this moment in the show. The Handmaid’s Tale has found comfort in good vs. bad. Waterford’s = bad. June = good. Canada = good. Gilead = bad. And, the colonies, well – the colonies are just plain shitty altogether.
But Lawrence is a disruption the likes of which we have not witnessed on The Handmaids Tale. I genuinely cannot tell if I am supposed to like him, hate him, feel bad for him, or if I should straight up terrified of him. In a show not known for it’s subtly and grey area, Lawrence lurks like fog on a cold dreary day in Boston. This man is apparently the main architect of the Gileadean(?) economy, helped establish the colonies, and is looked upon with great respect within his community. Yet, his Martha busts his balls, abstract painting adorn his walls, he clearly has a different kind of relationship with his “unwell” wife than any other Gilead commanders, and he shares a beer with Emily.
In fact, the beer scene might be one of my favorites The Handmaid’s Tale has ever produced. Let’s catch up for reference:
Is this supposed to be a threat? Is he supposed to be dangerous? Is he a traitor sizing Emily up to see how trustworthy she can actually be? These are all questions that we’re asking ourselves as viewers – nevermind what Emily is asking herself. All the while, we are getting direct and impactful insight into Lawrence as a character, and what he could potentially mean to the remainder of the story.
So, back to the beginning of this article – the balls it must have taken to bring this character into the fold THIS LATE in the game must have been big, brawny, and brass. This throws a massive wrench into an already jam-packed plot with well established dynamics and I AM HERE FOR IT. Give me all the weird. Every bit of it.
It’s at this point, unfortunately, that I have to get off the Whitford train and venture into the more familiar (and, frankly, less interesting) aspects of the show. Nick pleads for Eden to lie, but she doesn’t and dies. We saw that coming. Along with her, Isaac goes too, and this could not have come any sooner. I’m firmly of the opinion the show has absolutely no idea what do with Nick, (maybe because Max Minghella’s super punchable face is capable of emitting only precious few expressions ranging from befuddled to awkwardly neutral.)
Introducing Eden, and the aforementioned Isaac was a desperate attempt to give us something, anything, to root for for Nick but it was a journey into nothing. Watching them die in a kangaroo court Dr. Jonathan – Scarecrow – Krane himself would be proud of was interesting, sickening, and, yes, even a tad heartbreaking. But given how whiny Eden was, and how actual little we knew about Isaac, I really didn’t care about either. So the affect just wasn’t there for me.
Yet, a real affect that could be felt in this episode is the emotional transition we witness from the person who has evolved into the most intriguing character on the show: Serena Joy. Luckily we are the recipients of a much needed time jump and we discover that not only has June found her way back to the Waterfords, but an entire story has been concocted around her reappearance to legitimize her presence not only in the Waterford household but Gilead itself. Serena has clearly played a role in this transition for June, but, understandably, wants nothing to do with her. So the episode begins with June being sequestered into her room, only to be called upon when needed.
“Postpartum” begins with Serena sitting trying to take care of her crying baby. As stressful as it may be to have a child who won’t be satiated by anything you can do, there is something peaceful, and I daresay, serene about this opening. Yet, after being emotionally beaten, physically exhausted, and a failed attempt at breastfeeding, Serena willingly allows June back into her world when she requests June breastfeed baby Nichole. So we end as we begin – bathed light, breastfeeding a baby, but there’s a renewed mini partnership between Serena and June.
I’ll admit that I am growing a tad fatigued at the dynamic between June and Serena, and all the mechanics that go along with it. June hates it, tries to escape, get sucked back in, then there is a close up of June’s frustrated face and the episode ends. Throw in a little awkward Fred Waterford in there, and you’ve got yourself a good old fashioned episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
While it has grown a little frustrating, the Handmaid’s Tale is certainly proving to find new ground with Commander Lawrence, and it’s a well needed injection of Gray into the firmly established world of Gilead. Who knew that a beer could totally transform a television show like that?!
Mary & Blake certified: B
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