As the Mexico ambassador visits, we get a peek inside the past of Serena Joy and her part in what eventually created Gilead.
The Woman Behind The Man: Serena Joy, Fred
While it is made clear this terrorist organization overtook the government through bombing congress, the white house, and supreme court, what perhaps isn’t so clear is how it came to be? Well, part of its basis comes from Serena Joy. An author, a woman who advocated for domestic feminism, and yet here she is now. She has, at most, the duties of a first lady and is ignored when it comes to anything further. However, it wasn’t always like that. At one time, it seems Fred relied on her opinion, possibly stole them, to further their cause and begin to shape the nation we know as Gilead.
In fact, there was a time they also weren’t distant as they are now. There was a time they were intimate, seemed like a couple who weren’t in an arranged marriage [note]They were together and married before Gilead was formed[/note], and perhaps truly happy. Something we get a glimpse of after the Meixcan ambassador’s visit and this big dinner party. Though with Fred ready to end that moment before it barely begun, and Serena Joy having to push to see it through, who knows if that was just a lapse or maybe she can win back her husband. Someone who seemingly wants more intimacy out of June.
Last week I was hoping for more flashbacks and backstory into other characters since, at this point, June, Moira, and Luke feel firmly established. As for everyone else? Well, while the air of mystery helps, it also hinders.
Which perhaps is just an issue for me since I’m very dependent on character development to connect with characters and their story. So, I considered it quite a treat to see as much of Serena Joy’s past as we did. Granted, it wasn’t on the Orange Is The New Black level I was hoping for, but anything is better than nothing right?
Now, diving in, I must admit I wasn’t surprised at all that she was part of the groundwork for Gilead. She always seemed to have opinions about what to do for strategy and learning Fred likely stole her ideas explains so much about him. For, in my mind, there came a point where he realized she was smarter than him and perhaps his ego couldn’t handle it. What I mean is, as he noted her ideas more and more, and how much he saw people liked them, maybe he felt expendable? Thus maybe making him the cause for the sexism in the room? I mean, as seen by what his colleague said when Serena Joy was officially shut out, he wasn’t trying to combat these men either. Though, something about Fred has always made him seem like a coward.
Fred aside, hearing from the Mexican ambassador Mrs. Castillo (Zabryna Guevara) about Serena’s activism and her writing a book, it really leads you to wonder how she is mentally dealing with the world’s changes? The idea she perhaps gave birth to, or at least nourished, has been turned on her. She can no longer write, perhaps isn’t allowed to read, and you can tell she doesn’t get along with the other wives. They are gossipy and she perhaps wants an academic conversation.
Perhaps leading to why she chose, or agreed with Fred, to choose June. She wanted a kid who would feel or seem like her. Versus having a child by someone like Janine or the new Ofglen who maybe fertile, but has a sketchy past. Which, I’m assuming, they are aware of.
A Valuable Commodity: June
Why would Mexico associate with Gilead? The country is within a civil war, ran by terrorist, and is an oppressive nation. Well, the reason any country would associate with them is because they have fertile women. For, just according to Mrs. Castillo, her hometown, Xipica, which is about the size of Boston, hasn’t had a single child which lived past birth in 6 years. Meanwhile, Gilead has all these children, of various races and ages, pour into a banquet. So yeah, while it seems like a betrayal to her gender, and surely a pass being given to a society which doesn’t support human rights, it is a ends to a means. Mexico needs fertile women and Gilead needs resources. So maybe we should expect June to be heading down south soon.
The whole commodity thing doesn’t come as a surprise, so I find no need to address that. What I do think needs to be addressed is Janine and Aunt Lydia’s scene. For, recently in an interview with Sam Jones for Off Camera, Elisabeth Moss speaks on how excellent Dowd is at establishing that there is no absolutism when it comes to Aunt Lydia. What I mean by this is, she is not an absolute villain. She may take part in maiming, using cattle shock instruments, and stuff like that, but there is a love for the girls.
Something which is especially seen in this episode with how she handled Janine. You see, to show off their handmaids, their fertile livestock, there is a banquet. However, Serena Joy excludes any of the girls who have been maimed, scarred or are missing something. Basically, she takes out any of the bruised fruit, which Janine is part of. Now, Lydia sticks up for her girls against Serena Joy but her rank, being what it is, forces her to eventually back down.
Naturally, with Janine loving a party, being seen, and shown off, she gets upset about the exclusion. Yet, Aunt Lydia, speaking in almost a coo, so soft and gentle with Janine, calms her down. Not in some, either hush or I take the other eye out way, but very maternal. She understands Janine’s pain, isn’t happy about Serena Joy’s decision, but promises Janine a plate of dessert to make up for it.
I mean, to really hit it home, she doesn’t call Janine by her house name while trying to calm her down but by her real one. Making it seem personal for her, as whenever we have heard her use someone’s birth name in the past. To me, that is when Aunt Lydia becomes simply Lydia. A person, a woman who maybe of a different belief, but still believes in some form of fairness.
Luke? He’s Alive.: June
Either a commander or one of Mrs. Castillo’s handlers lets June know that Luke is alive and gives her the opportunity to write something to him. As you can imagine, this comes as a great shock to June and with the complication of her developing feelings for Nick, it makes things even worse. But, I should note, this man isn’t the only one who seems like an agent for an outside force. One which knows who June is and what she is capable of. One of the handmaids asks June a lot of questions about Fred’s plans and what his next moves are. She is the one who also reveals the true nature of the banquet to June. Making it seem she likely is part of the resistance movement old Ofglen (Emily) was part of.
Luke is alive but, unfortunately, during the parade of children, no signs of Hannah. Yet, as we see more and more agents who perhaps are part of the rebels, or are sympathizers, it seems clear that a breakout attempt is coming. That or a battle will take place in the area. For something just tells me we are in the calm before the storm and some of the flashbacks, like when Moira and June were protesting, were just a taste of what’s to come.
Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness.