The Handmaid’s Tale 207 Review After – The Ashes of War

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This show has me feeling everything from intense sadness and dread to being absolutely bloody impressed at its genius! There are times when I feel like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” And others when my heart is so torn with rage and dread that this is the coming apocalypse. I was so hoping from a brief moment when I saw the handmaidens in black mourning gear that this was the march of the resistance. Burying the handmaids gave Aunt Lydia another chance to spout her homilies and empty rhetoric yet again.

(Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Ann Dowd is killing it in this role and my disbelief with her pious statements about a world without violence had me choking. The whole Gilead world is based on abduction, forced sex and conceptions and dire consequences for anyone who dares step out of that line. My mood darkened even further returning to the neighbourhood and seeing the carnage brought on by the Security Council. The trouble with societies that are so rigid and restricting is that they breed their version of terrorism. Blessed be the fruit!

(Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Serena and June visiting Fred at the hospital felt like eerie foreshadowing, with Fred being in a weakened condition, and Serena taking charge of the situation, encouraging Fred to feel this growth of his child inside June’s belly. I could see her peace with his limited movement and deeply suspected that she was quite content with the way things were.

. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Nick and June

I’m having a problem with Nick and June being able to be together and sneak those kisses in the hallway. Surely the forces that are part of Gilead’s society would be keeping a closer eye on these two in light of the recent terrorist event and Commander Waterford being in hospital.

From scenes that show the eyes of Gilead are everywhere to having Nick practically making out with June while the Commander is down the hall, I started to yell at the screen, “No!” Yes, some hot kisses surely would provide a welcome relief from the gloom, but I couldn’t support the unreality of the scenario. Since Nick wanted to leave the Waterford household, he strkies me as faithless and opportunistic.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

As soon as the vans approached the women out in the field at the Colony, I knew that they were going to scoop up those who were handmaidens before. So the hens weren’t quite played out yet, right?  Give us your damaged, your eyeless, your viable wombs yearning to be part of the state solution. It reminded me of the Nazi Joy Division units where women were put into service as prostitutes and babymakers for the Party.  My reaction was mixed. I was glad for Emily and Jeanine to be out of there, but it was trading one prison for another. I am curious to see how involved in the Resistance Emily will be.

 

The female genital mutilation done to her could dampen those fires of protest and outrage, but I hope she channels that injustice into razor sharp action. She is a gem of a character to watch. My heart leapt with joy in the latter half of the show when the old/new handmaidens joined their sisters at the market. The mood was very hushed, almost prayerful as they slowly revealed to each other their real names.

To see June and Emily connect again was joyful. I wondered if there was a spy in the midst waiting to report to high command any kind of insurgence that is happening. Is everyone as united as they seem? My gut tells me yes. Emily has proved to be a resourceful, practical woman, doing what she needs to do to get by. Survival is one of the most powerful instincts we have.

(Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

You Say You Want a Revolution

My constant observation is that Gilead is a society that is doomed to fail. I admire the writers’ insight into extremist organizations. Serena Joy is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever seen. I love you, I hate you, I despise your politics, ache for you as an “expectant” mom. She’s an architect of the Gilead society, but has watched it be corrupted under the influence of the art of war. Getting a very good read on the fact that she is truly the woman behind the man. I liked that she seemed relieved that Fred was in the hospital.

She is a woman shown constantly thinking and adjusting her power in a toxic male environment. She has proved she’s smarter than Fred, more dynamic and more adaptable. But that is the nature of being female. Thinking about the collective, community and practical solutions. How she and June will be able to work together remains to be seen, but I’m along for the ride. Yvonne Strahovski and Elizabeth Moss play their scenes together like lionesses sharing the same cage, each protective of the pride.

There Goes My Baby

As I have said, this series hits with me on many levels. I gave up a daughter for adoption many years ago. Samira Wiley played it out perfectly as the mother who watched her child be put into the arms of the adoptive family. Her anguish was perfect for the gut wrenching choice she had made. I’m lucky I was spared that view, but to see the baby slip from view had me crying. The writers never shrink from showing the hard choices that women have to make in their lives and this was one that hit the nail perfectly.

Thank God Luke is there for Moira in Ontario. She faced an enormous and devastating task in searching for her lover Odette. Book after book, page after page of murdered women, trying so hard to remain calm and focused on the task at hand.

When at last she finds Odette, her tears are even more anguished than when she gave up her baby. Luke looks after her with tenderness and simple regard for her needs. Moira isn’t a woman who relies anyone to help her out, but with food and affection, she at least knows she’s not alone. The contrast from the handmaids’ memorial to the memory garden in Ontario couldn’t be more pointed. Banners, ribbons, pictures and flowers create a heart space for the dead, while the handmaids are laid to rest amidst armed soldiers, veil-draped handmaids and Lydia coming across as cold as the snow that is falling.

(Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Women are always left to do the clean up after the men make a mess with their war mongering. Gilead is a very screwed up society right now and it needs fixing badly. Is the answer at the click of a pen? Just what kind of fresh hell or heaven awaits inside the Waterford house? I always worry when Serena looks too peaceful. The dread becomes palpable.

Her statement that, “Commander Cushing has turned our streets into a war zone” jived perfectly with my horror at the horrendous acts of murder that are on display after the funerals. Bodies hanging from trees, servants laying in the streets shot dead, it is like a scene straight out of the Bosnian conflict. This was Cushing’s idea of cleaning up any resistance. Serena is a smart woman and can see things only escalating if left in the same hands. “It’s about time things got back to normal around here.” Wow, what kind of normal is she talking about? What’s the scene that is playing out in her head? Normal is still an abomination of the rights of women.

The changes she mentions are security detail reduction and amending checkpoints. The cool assurance she exudes in delivering these details reveals a glimpse of the woman in control, in command of the situation and the mission statement. Is this Serena 2.0, enlightened by recent circumstances or a return to the vengeance she-devil we’ve seen in the past?

 

Her small, measured smile to June when asking her, “You’re an editor, aren’t you?” is an amazing moment for both characters as they take the weight and measure of each other’s amount of fight in the game and acknowledgement of June’s past pre-Gilead. Is this a true hands across the water moment, or a cunning level of brinksmanship? The implicatons on both fronts are stunning. I truly feel that Serena is operating on her own agenda and accessing was power she can use. With June nodding her head and calling Serena Mrs. Waterford, has the submissive taken conrol in a new power game? Sure plays like that to me.


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Nancy Hibberd