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Let’s chat The Handmaid’s Tale episode 3.07 – “Under His Eye”. Proof there’s a point when you just have to ask yourself, “what the fork are we doing here?”
So I thought I was baffled by last episode. Nope – this one’s got me on a whole new level.
Listen, every criticism of The Handmaid’s Tale comes with the obligatory THIGBY (The Handmaid’s Tale Is Great But Y’know…).
But this episode. THIS episode may be even beyond THIGBY standards.
I love The Handmaid’s Tale, I really do, but what the fork are we doing here?
Yes, we just had the big major revelation last episode that the Waterfords are going to try and get Nichole back and, normally, that would track with previous seasons. The Handmaid’s Tale has made relatively predictable story structure choices in it’s first two seasons. Episode six has a big moment that changes the season, and episode seven furthers the momentum of that change. For example:
Episode 1.06: “A Woman’s Place” — we get to know Serena’s shocking backstory and then we see the big get-together where the world is basically complicit in how Gilead is treating the Handmaids because they need children to survive. Handmaids are being traded as commodities and there’s nothing anyone can or will do about it. But the other big shock is that there is a resistance and we’re told that Luke is, in fact, alive.
Episode 2.06: “First Blood” — we get another look into Serena’s backstory and how Gilead’s political foundations were cemented and then proliferated because of her politics. But we have the big bang at the end of the episode where MANY commanders are killed, Fred Waterford is badly hurt, and the Serena/June relationship is evolved into a more equal playing field.
Suffice it to say, these episodes had major events that shaped the remainder of the season and provided momentum towards the endgame of what the season was trying to accomplish. Of course, season 3 is no different .
Episode 3.06: We visit D.C., Fred is looking to be promoted by Commander Winslow, there’s a massive blowout between Serena and June, and Nichole is set firmly in Gilead’s sights.
But then something goes horribly awry for this season.
Episode 3.07: Instead of continuing the momentum from the previous episode like he has in past seasons, Bruce Miller decides to basically undo EVERYTHING that was accomplished by episode six.
Sure, the public face of Gilead may be working to get Nichole back, but internally Commander Winslow introduces the idea that keeping Nichole in Canada is more “politically expedient”. AND FRED FRAKKING AGREES!
Ok fine. I don’t like it, but I can at least make an excuse for it – Fred sucks and all he wants to do is move up the chain to become a bigger and better commander within the Gileadean(?) political structure.
But wait – there’s more!
Serena, who we all know is a zillion times smarter than Fred, elects to casually overlook the whole “cutting-her-fingers-off” aspect of their relationship for the time being. Additionally, she is going house shopping in DC with Winslow’s wife, then decides to go on a “date” with Fred, performs an extraordinarily awkward psuedo-tango with him, and simply takes his “word” that they’re going to get Nichole back.
This is a HUGE jump from a woman who couldn’t stand the very presence of her husband a few episodes ago, and was convinced by June to “wear the dress and pull the strings”.
Lest we forget for one millisecond — and I don’t think I know how to emphasize this more for dramatic effect — HE HAD HER FRAKKING FINGERS CUT OFF! WTF?!
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None, and I mean NONE, of the decisions made in this episode actually make any sense for these characters. I argued a couple of episodes ago that The Handmaid’s Tale is starting to treat their characters as pieces on a chess board instead of giving them the agency to make their own organic choices. That is to say, plot is informing the characters instead of the characters informing plot and this episode is a perfect example of such treatment.
The show needs Serena to believe Fred? Tango Time!
The show needs Fred to hurt Serena but not enough to turn her just yet? Fred turns from his epiphany – that his marriage is the most important thing to him – he had a couple of episodes ago and now he agrees it’s politically advantageous to having Nichole in Canada and has no real plans to get her back.
The show needs June to lay off the Waterfords so they can squabble between each other and not have distractions to that plot point? Ofmatthew suddenly turns pious again and rats out Hannah/Agnes’ martha.
The show needs June to be the very public leader for the Handmaids dissension, but can’t harm her because it needs her to remain the main character? June once again defies Aunt Lydia by not pulling the rope and then chokes out Ofmatthew after learning about her involvement in the martha’s persecution.
The show needs to finally highlight how disturbed Mrs. Lawrence is? June takes Mrs. Lawrence to Hannah/Agnes’ school and she loses her mind.
The show needs to put some grey back into Commander Lawrence’s character because they swung him too far into June’s corner? June takes Mrs. Lawrence and almost gets the both arrested and Commander Lawrence is going to have to answer for all of it.
These are NOT natural choices. These are PLOT REACTIONS.
What’s worse is that the whole twist from episode 6 — the twist that should have informed the remainder of the season –is essentially null and void.
EVERYTHING that happened in 3.06 is essentially undone by 3.07.
Getting Nichole will not be a main priority. The Waterfords will potentially remain in DC. June has once again lost Hannah/Agnes. The Handmaid’s rebellious nature is once again put down and June won’t be able to do anything because of her very public smackdown of Ofmatthew, and countless more things.
WHAT THE FORK ARE WE DOING HERE?!
We’re just spinning wheels, bringing things back to status quo, and waiting to get to the next plot point and it is FRUSTRATING.
THIGBY – I’m almost at the point where I think these seasons should be 10 episodes.
We’re spending too much time with Serena and June and their CONSTANT flip flops about Life in Gilead.
This is bad. No, wait, it’s good. I hate Gilead. I love Gilead. Let’s rebel! Nope, the lord brought us good weather. We’re besties! Nope, we’re mortal frakking enemies. I love my marriage! I hate my marriage. I’m leaving Gilead, nope – gotta stay to save Hannah.
Look into the camera very sternly.
Play catchy pop song.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat as necessary. UGH
Honestly, it’s exhausting.
Apropos of nothing:
- The one good part about this episode is the Canada aspect. Moira and Emily discovering each other, their friendship, and being ok with everything they had to do in Gilead to survive was refreshing.
- “We haven’t killed anyone since we left Gilead. So I think we’re good.” AWESOME.
- “Can I come?” Emily heading to some protests is where it is at. Sounds like this is setting up another meet between Moira, Emily, Fred, Serena, and maybe even June later in the season?
- I know. I know. The detente between Fred and Serena will not last and that is what will push Serena over the edge to betray Fred. But, I feel like he’s done enough to her so that we didn’t need yet ANOTHER flip-flop.
Mary & Blake Certified: C
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