This week’s episode left me in absolute awe at the power of women and the incredible strength, resilience and will we have. The courage both onscreen and off portrayed by Elisabeth Moss was stunning. She is one of the best actresses out there right now and her talent shone in every scene. With a minimum of dialogue, she ran the gamut of emotions between primal agony and maternal bliss. Lots could be debated as to the unreality of a woman experiencing a horrible rape, a reunion with her daughter and subsequent loss and a shooting of her lover in the space of a day. This is a story that exists on a plane of unimaginable horrors directed at women, so June’s super heroism can be forgiven. All I know I know is that I wouldn’t want to live inside her heart or mind for a minute.
June’s abandonment at the house makes for a very eerie, desperate time. The woods are miles from anywhere and the enormity of what may lie ahead is terrifying. With no phone or anyway to contact the outside world, she is reliant upon herself to try to find a way out. Everywhere there are symbols of her plight. The discovery of the car inside the garage is like some kind of sign from heaven, but there are locked doors everywhere that could provide access to it. June’s urgent search inside the house brings some hearbreak with it and I felt so much for her pain when she came across pictures of Hannah with her new family and her artwork. Having her daughter so recently ripped from her arms and to find these beautiful items takes a heart of a lioness to endure,. That she has..
Hungry Like the Wolf
While investigating the space in the garage, June comes across a wolf on the property and is quite fearful. I feel that the wolf becomes her spirit animal. In the spirit animal Kingdom, the wolf represents sharp intelligence, an appetite for freedom, an expression of strong instincts and feeling threatened for the safety of yourself and/or another. On the negative side, the wolf could represent a lack of trust in your own feelings or actions. All of these elements will play out in the episode. As soon as I saw the wolf, I could tell it was going to be her protector and was a positive force in the story.
Baby Please Don’t Go
Hannah has to be one of the dearest, sweetest little girls ever. The love she has for her mother is so painfully shown in her second day at school. June’s voiceover saying “I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story” is a truth that rings out loud and clear. Separation of mother and child is one of the most painful, primal aches that exists in nature. Even if the absence will only be for a few hours, there is a physical pang that both endure in order to survive it..
The scenes with June frantically searching the house for the keys to the garage and car are filled with the sense of a ticking clock. Who knows who could be coming at any time. Which begs the question again: Who was it that made the decision to leave June all alone at the house while shooting and abducting Nick? Who would want to have a pregnant woman, the symbol of Gilead hope and faith, die alone so close to her due date? June heads towards another symbol of freedom, the car. The automobile has long stood for escape, life on the road and a way out of one’s troubles.
With the keys located, it’s a renewed June, donning a coat and shedding her handmaid’s cloak and cap for a road trip she hopes will bring her and her unborn child to safety. With her new skin, she turns on the car and the radio is playing the sweet sounds of a far-off Canadian station, giving updates as to the situation with Gilead relations. The announcer is Oprah Winfrey, obviously a fan of the show! The next sound is that great American artist belting out “Hungry Heart”, Bruce Springsteen. Bruce has been called the Jack Kerouac of American contemporary music, singing of open road adventures and the dissolution of the American dream. “Stars and Stripes Forever, Baby Indeed!”
Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll
All hell breaks loose when the Waterfords show up. Fred and Serena are like ravenous wolves in search of their precious pup, and the bitch who bred her. We have long felt that Fred and Serena’s relationship has been on shaky ground for quite some time. Without the prying eyes of anyone associated with Gilead around, the gloves comes off in a furious exchange and all bets are off. “I’m not leaving here without my baby!” cries Serena. You see the rage and desperation she feels at being so close to having a babe in her arms, only to have that dewy prospect taken away. She stalks the house like a creature hunting fresh game and smelling blood on the tracks. When she comes across June’s dress and cap, the she-wolf explodes. Only she doesn’t realize that June is in the upper hallway, with a clear view to Fred and Serena’s argument.
“How could you be so stupid?” “Kindness? You raped her yesterday.” “I did this to fix your mess” and “When did you become such a bitch?” ring out in the empty house. The mama bear in June becomes the huntress, the assassin in the clock tower, aiming her weapon, bent beyond all reason and understanding towards these two. Serena’s final self-pitying statement that “I have nothing!” signals their departure. The Waterfords will never know how close they were to having their lives ended in that house!
Mama Love Part 2
How interesting and wonderful to find out that June’s mother is a midwife. Cherry Jones’ performance was filled with maternal wisdom and care. Fascinating that when shown a beautiful natural childbirth facility, June’s reaction is to go for a hospital setting, with drugs and doctors and the promise of a pain-free delivery. A history of broken promises comes to light, with Mom promising that when the time comes, she’ll be there. The statement “Don’t make promises you can’t keep” will come back to haunt June.
Baby You Can Drive My Car
And now it’s off to the car to get out of Dodge! June’s indomitable will screeches to a halt, as one by one, her powerlessness is laid bare to her. There is no electricity in the garage and the doors are locked and frozen by ice. Even her best attempt at being some super woman action movie heroine busting down the doors and making the triumphant getaway with screeching tires die on the floor of the garage. Out of options, June collapses, with the wolf looking at her, and then baying at the sky, echoing June’s pain. With blood on the snow, it’s time to make peace and make the den to bear her baby.
Only Women Bleed
The scenes that unfold next are incredible, excruciating and primitive. Elisabeth Moss portrays all the agonies of giving birth unaided with unmatched animal instinct. She must have had a sore throat for a week after all those howls and grunts! The flashbacks to June giving birth to Hannah are a stark contrast in the perspective of pain and what is unendurable. All manner of soothing music, water and supportive loved ones are gone, and June is left to her own devices and kicks it old school. Sending off the flares is a resignation to her fate. “Here I am, come get me.”
“I know I promised you, but it’s going to be ok” are her words to her baby and you know that this child will be a child of Gilead. Survival trumps heartbreak and the subsequent montage featuring birthing scenes and coaching at various points in June’s life. Her breathing and pushing attempts are a crescendo of a force of will and instinct to see this baby’s safe arrival into the world.
It’s a girl! Only is that happy news in Gilead? How does June feel that her daughters are going to be brought up in this society, in a rich family, raised to be wives who may one day have handmaids? The future is not so bright, and with another child she will not be able to nurse, bathe and see grow up, June takes the extraordinary step to have some skin-on-skin contact with her newborn. With the sad awareness that there is now a car outside, its headlights shining into the room, June names her daughter Holly, after her mother. Whatever fate will befall June in the next episode, it is sure not to be a kind one. But knowing her girl is healthy, and that she got a chance to love her for a few moments will be some sustenance in the days to follow. And what of Nick, Fred, Serena, Eden and Isaac? Lives and futures are in the balance and there is no merciful heart at Gilead’s core. Darkness falls again.
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